Two years ago, Paveena and I travelled to Snow Hill in the Weddell Sea in Antarctica to photograph a large Emperor Penguin rookery. It turned out to be the best trip that either of us had ever been on. The allure of the dramatic icescapes and highly photogenic Penguins was such that I knew it would not be long before I was pulled back to this spectacular region.
Selfishly leaving Paveena at home with Amaya, our 14 month old baby, I have recently completed an amazing, almost month long trip to the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic region. Travelling by ship with 80 other passengers including a number of legendary nature photographers, we spent three days in the Falkland Islands, a week in South Georgia, a day in the South Orkney Islands and a week on the western side of the Antarctica Peninsula.
My journey to Ushuaia in Tierra Del Fuego at the bottom of South America, the embarkation point for the trip, involved a 12 hour flight from Hong Kong to London, a six hour layover at Heathrow airport, a 14 hour flight to Buenos Aires and a three hour flight to Ushuaia, broken only by a brief overnight stay in Buenos Aires. To say that my body clock was in disarray by the time I reached Ushuaia would be an understatement!
After a surprisingly benign, 2.5 day ocean crossing, during which the ship was trailed by a constant stream of Cape Petrels, Southern Giant Petrels and Black-Browed Albatrosses, we arrived at the extreme western point of the Falklands Island.
Late in the afternoon, I made my way down to a nearby beach where we had good opportunities with male and female Kelp Geese, Upland Geese and Oyster Catchers.
The next morning we awoke to another day of bright sunshine at nearby West Point Island. Before breakfast, a number of Commerson Dolphins swam languidly around the ship for more than an hour. With the sea conditions surprisingly glassy, I wanted to capture both the Dolphin and the liquid mercury-like ripples on the sea surface.
A little later we made a zodiac landing on a nearby beach. To reach the island’s Black-Browed Albatross colony, nestled in the tussock grass and along the steep cliffs, involved a 30-40 minute uphill hike across windswept moorland. Weighed down by 600mm, 70-200mm and 16-36mm lenses, three camera bodies, a flash and various accessories stuffed into my antiquated 15-year old backpack (note to self: really must update), together with a heavy duty tripod and gimbal head, turned what should have been a pleasant excursion into a fairly arduous one. However, once on the cliffs, any discomfort faded quickly as we were greeted with spectacular views of the Albatrosses, intermixed with Rockhopper Penguins in the tall grass.
After returning to the ship for lunch, we made a brief sail to Grave Cove on West Falkland Island, home to a rookery of over 6,000 Gentoo Penguins. By now the weather had returned to type – a howling gale accompanied by horizontal rain. After hiking across the peninsula, I settled down on a sodden beach as waves of Gentoo Penguins porpoised in through the crashing surf. With the rain beating down, many of my fellow travellers chose to leave their expensive camera equipment unpacked but to do so was to miss out on some truly spectacular action as these following images demonstrate. A large lens hood proved scant protection from the wind-blown rain and a shammy cloth proved an essential piece of equipment as it was necessary to wipe the lens constantly.
As I trudged back to the ship in the cold rain knowing that a hot shower awaited me, I thought about the Gentoos, fully exposed to the elements and with no hope of shelter. But of course Penguins are ideally built for these conditions with the densest feather arrangement of any bird species – around 70 per square inch, to keep them warm. Indeed, a Penguin’s biggest problem is not the cold – but rather overheating. Heat can only escape from the bare areas on their feet, the base of their bills and from the underside of their flippers.
Usually when the weather turns for the worse in these latitudes, it is here to stay for a few days but surprisingly the next day dawned fine and bright as our ship pulled into the bay adjacent to the fabled “Neck” at Saunders Island. And what a tremendous day it turned out to be! The mile long stretch of golden sand on the other side of the neck plays host to large numbers of Gentoo, Rockhopper and Magellanic Penguins. A steep trek up the overlooking cliffs finds large numbers of Imperial Shags and Black-Browed Albatrosses. In the morning, I mainly concentrated on the Gentoo Penguins in and around the surf line.
At midday I laboured up the hill to an area at the very edge of the cliffs. From this vantage point, a constant stream of Imperial Shags flew by at close distance, many carrying nesting material in their bills. My 70-200mm lens was easily enough focal length while a little fill flash helped to bring out the shadows on the underside of the bird’s wings.
In the afternoon I moved down to the far side of the beach to an area where numerous Rockhopper Penguins were active. I first followed them from the sea as they porpoised with great speed and agility in through the surf to the beach. Photographing this type of activity is extremely difficult as they travel with great speed underwater and usually in an erratic fashion meaning that you have to try and guess where they will surface. This is a fairly thankless task and the following image owes more to luck than anything else.
Once in the shallows, I noticed that some of the Penguins would, initially upon standing, shake their wet feathers. I aligned myself into position so that I had the dark cliff face as my background. The following image is one of my favourites from the trip.
Rockhoppers moving in the other direction – from the cliffs down to the surf – would on occasion stop to bath vigorously in a beach side rock pool.
As I was leaving the beach at the end of the day, I noticed a Striated Caracara feeding on a Gentoo Penguin carcass. Lying flat on the sand I was able to capture this moment just as the Caracara began to take flight.
From the Falklands, we headed south east into the normally storm ravaged seas of the “screaming 60’s”. However, our luck continued to hold and we again enjoyed very modest sea conditions during the nearly 3-day, 900 mile crossing to South Georgia.
Arriving at Right Whale Bay on the north end of South Georgia, we were greeted by cold, rainy, low visibility weather. Somehow this seemed fitting for this remotest of wildlife outposts. With the beach landing by zodiacs taking place at 5pm, this was a brief two hour excursion and helped give us our first proper viewings of large numbers of King Penguins (a handful were visible at Saunders Island in the Falkland Islands) as well as the truly ginormous male Elephant Seals. It also gave us our first brush with the hyper aggressive male Fur Seals. Our visit coincided with the breeding season and most of the beaches in South Georgia are populated with large numbers of male and female Fur Seals. Wide in girth after a winter of ocean feeding, the males are in a state of heightened aggression and that includes their behaviour towards human interlopers. By the time we had arrived, many of the males had established breeding territories which they defend with vigour against encroaching male Seals or humans of either sex. They maintain these territories in order to have exclusive breeding access to the females that settle in them. Males that do not hold territories seldom mate. However, holding onto a territory is difficult, with only the largest and fittest fighters accomplishing the task.
Even the seasoned South Georgia visitors among the tour leaders were surprised by the extent of the aggression displayed by the males on our landings. When one charged our Scottish geologist/naturalist from a good 30-40m away, he was unprepared for the speed and the uncompromising nature of the attack. Loud barking and rock banging had zero effect and the next moment he was on his back with a considerable set of canine like teeth impaled into his right knee.
Several stitches later and doused with antibiotics, he good humouredly admitted that the worst part of the whole incident was not the pain of the inflicted wound but the reeking, fish-infused breath of the Seal in his face.
From then on, it was pretty much mandatory that one always carried a tripod to help fend off attacks and that you never turned your back for too long lest you be surprised by a sneak assault.
The next morning we awoke offshore from one of South Georgia’s landmark bays – Salisbury Plain, home to thousands of King Penguins and hundreds of Elephant Seals. Although all visitor landings on South Georgia are on the more sheltered eastern side, “sheltered” needs to be used loosely as many of the bays are wide and open and in fact offer relatively little shelter. Some of the more open bays have beaches that emerge from deep water just a few meters offshore meaning that they are subject to wave conditions on all but the calmest of days. Today was not one of those calm days. Instead there were cloudy skies, intermittent heavy rain and a strong wind.
As we boarded our zodiac for the beach we were warned that landing conditions would be “difficult”. All looked to be going well but as the zodiac reached the shore and with the outboard engine switched to idling, the zodiac turned parallel to the beach, just in time for a wave to crash over the sides. Although I was wearing thigh high neoprene waders and waterproof trousers and jacket, some of the icy water managed to penetrate to my lower back, legs and feet.
And so I sloshed onto the beach, surrounded by King Penguins and aggressive Fur Seals. Because of the latter and because of the likelihood of an early departure due to mounting winds, it was decided to limit the area in which our party could venture. As it turned out, I never ventured more than about 30m from where we landed. While the Fur Seals were a major obstacle, there was also plenty going on in our immediate vicinity to keep me occupied and I mainly focused on the King Penguins entering and exiting the surf as well as close-up, abstract images of the King Penguins’ head, neck and breast colourations.
Late in the morning, the wind suddenly began to strengthen. It quickly became clear that this was the onset of the famed katabatic winds. These are localised, hurricane force winds that blow down from South Georgia’s glaciers. Technically they are drainage winds – a wind that carries high density air from higher elevations down a slope under the force of gravity. In short, they are not to be taken lightly. Once they gain full strength, they can last for several hours making any sort of zodiac travel impossibly dangerous (i.e. the winds are of such force that they can easily flip a small boat).
Our excellent excursion leaders quickly rounded up everyone and had us all back on board our ship within 20 minutes, just before the full force of the winds began to take effect.With no let up during the afternoon, we were forced to sit it out in a nearby slightly more sheltered bay. However, late in the afternoon, while the winds remained unrelenting, the clouds parted and the effect of the wind-induced sea spray produced rainbows of varying intensity. As with all rainbow images, it is imperative to use a circular polarizer filter to bring out the true colours.
One of the things that you quickly learn in this part of the world is that the weather is incredibly changeable. And so after the sunshine of the previous afternoon, the following morning proved to be truly miserable with low cloud, heavy rain and wind. However, our chosen landing sight, Prion Island, was relatively sheltered, so zodiac landings were possible.
Prion Island contains a special protected area which is home to breeding Wandering Albatrosses, the largest of all the Albatross species. In previous years, the excursion to the Albatrosses has involved an arduous hike up a rocky stream. However, once there, it was possible to get quite close to the Albatrosses and take often dramatic wide-angle images of the birds against the ocean and distant snow covered mountains. Alas no more, as a wooden boardwalk has since been constructed and while this makes the walk to the birds much easier, the rules now state that all visitors must remain on the boardwalk.
All the birds that we encountered were some distance from the boardwalk, necessitating the use of our longest lenses. And with the pouring rain, it ended up being a visit hardly worth undertaking. Indeed to take the four images that I made that morning proved more troublesome than rewarding with my equipment receiving a thorough soaking. Fortunately today’s pro body cameras and lenses are incredibly resilient and emerged none the worse for wear.
The rain continued to fall throughout the afternoon and while there was a brief landing undertaken late in the afternoon, I elected to stay on board.
In typical South Georgia fashion, the next day dawned fine with the ship having made its way during the night to Fortuna Bay. We made our beach landing in surprisingly tranquil conditions to find decent numbers of King Penguins, Elephant Seals and the obligatory belligerent Fur Seals. However, for me the highlight was a small pool where a group of Elephant Seal youngsters were frolicking.
As midday approached, the wind again began to rise, signalling the onset of more katabatic winds. Again, there was a scramble by the expedition leaders to round up all the participants and get everyone back to the ship before the winds became unmanageable. This was duly achieved but not before the winds flipped one of the zodiacs, propelling the driver (fortunately there were no guests on board) into the icy waters where he endured an extremely uncomfortable few minutes before he was rescued.
In the afternoon, we made our way to King Edward Cove. At the landward end are the remains of the old whaling station of Grytviken and on the seaward side are the buildings of the British Antarctic Survey research base. The visit gave us a chance to undertake some non-wildlife photography among the dilapidated and rusting remains of the old whale processing machinery.
The first image shows the rusting hull of an ancient whaling ship with its harpoon gun clearly visible on the bow. To capture all the tonalities of the ship, sky, sea, mountains etc, I took five images at different exposures and blended them together using HDR software.
Hidden away amongst to rusting whale blubber vats, I discovered a pile of rusting screws. I again took multiple images at different exposures with the aim of blending them together using HDR software. However, I found that the best results were obtained using a single image but applying Nik’s total contrast filter in Colour Efex Pro 3 (note that I have used version 3. The tonal contrast is actually superior in version 3 vs the newer version 4).
The area was not completely devoid of wildlife and as the sun began to set, I found a small group of King Penguins in a pond created by a glacier melt water. The light was fantastic – the only time on the whole trip that we had really sweet light with wildlife photographic opportunities – allowing me to focus on the beautiful colours of the Penguins’ heads and necks. The first image shows one of my favourite techniques, which is to juxtapose two animals of the same species against each other – typically one in focus, one out of focus.
At the exact moment that I pressed the shutter for the next image, a moment of serendipity occurred when one of my fellow passengers, wearing an orange jacket passed by opposite to where I was positioned. The reflection of his jacket on the deep blue water resulted in an orange tinge to the water which in my view really helps to make the image.
November 18th. Three words – oh my god. For years I had dreamed of visiting St.Andrews Bay, the undisputed wildlife Mecca of the sub-Antarctic region. I finally got my wish and with the weather gods on our side we were able to spend a full day at this truly remarkable site. As a wildlife spectacle, it has to be way, way up there with anything the entire natural world has to offer. From my own personal experience, it probably exceeded the Emperor Penguin rookery at Snow Hill in the Weddell Sea and I would say that only the Grouper aggregation and spawning in French Polynesia that I have witnessed in two of the last three years betters it.
St.Andrews Bay is the largest King Penguin rookery in South Georgia. There are 60,000 pairs of birds and when the “woolly” chicks are included, the total number of birds rises to 160,000, although at any one time some of course will be at sea. The shore line is thick with Elephant Seals which blanket the beach in such dense numbers as to make passage through them difficult.
Chick rearing for the King Penguins takes longer than for any other Penguin species with about 14 months between egg-laying and the chick becoming independent. As a result a breeding pair can raise a maximum of two chicks in three years. This unusual cycle means that, unlike other Penguins, a colony of Kings is not synchronised in its breeding. Hence on our visit, there were some Penguins incubating, some brooding small chicks and others with very large chicks nearing fledging.
As a photographer, it is very easy to be overwhelmed by St. Andrews Bay. While common sense dictates that the best images will come from slowing down and remaining for long periods in a few chosen spots, the temptation to rush around and try to capture as much as possible of the Bay’s broad expanse is almost impossible to resist unless one has visited the site a number of times before or one can somehow remain extremely disciplined.
Not me I’m afraid, so off I charged. And charge and charge I did for the next ten hours. I covered a lot of ground when in hindsight I would have been better off just remaining in 3-4 places. I took a lot of slow shutter speed images but even with the camera fully locked up, the lens hood removed, mirror lock activated, and IS turned off, the strength of the wind made it extremely difficult to avoid camera shake, resulting in nearly all the images going straight to delete. I made many other mistakes. I missed many opportunities. But I still made out OK and I will surely do much better when I next return.
The next morning dawned fine as we found ourselves in Royal Bay, a four mile wide, five mile deep bay. At the head of the bay lies the spectacular Ross Glacier. We were able to take zodiac rides to photograph the glacier and the Salvesen and Allardyce mountain ranges which ring the bay.
During lunch we continued our journey south down the east coast of the island, pulling into Cooper Bay in the afternoon. Here we again undertook zodiac excursions, this time to photograph a colony of Macaroni Penguins. During the cruise, a Leopard Seal appeared regularly in close proximity to the zodiacs. A few of the zodiacs had the good fortune of seeing this apex Antarctic predator with a recent Penguin kill in its jaws.
Our final day in South Georgia saw us pull into the picturesque Drygalski Fjord at the south-eastern end of South Georgia, flanked by the jagged peaks of the Salvesen Range. The plan had been to explore the Fjord by ship and possibly undertake some zodiac cruises but the latter activity was quickly ruled out as a new round of katabatic winds descended on the fjord. I have lived through some pretty powerful typhoons in Hong Kong over the last 40 years but I can honestly say that these winds matched or even exceeded the most powerful winds that I have experienced via cyclonic activity. In fact it was not surprising when an announcement was made over the ship’s intercom system that no-one was to venture outside onto the outer decks under any circumstances due to the genuine risk of being blown overboard. The following image was taken from the ship’s bridge.
By early evening the winds had dropped a little, allowing some of us to tentatively venture out onto the few sheltered areas of the decks. By now the skies had largely cleared and as the sun set, spectacular pink and orange clouds floated atop the mountain peaks. A little later, beautiful lenticular clouds formed on the other side of the fjord.
At midnight, we set sail for the South Orkney Islands, en route to the Antarctic Peninsula. Again, we enjoyed good fortune with the weather during the two day crossing of the Scotia Sea. The ship continued to be trailed by a variety of sea birds. This image shows an Antarctic petrel gliding among the wave crest spray. Unlike Albatrosses and the larger Petrel species, the smaller Petrels fly in extremely erratic patterns making them a challenge to photograph.
On the afternoon of the second day we began to see our first icebergs. The South Orkneys lie in the path of the Weddell Sea gyre which sweeps vast quantities of ice past the islands into the Southern Ocean. It is hard not to be moved by the beauty of the icebergs, ice floes, ice sheets and ice shelves. I know that I could spend all day photographing them. Icebergs in particular are so incredibly diverse in size, shape and colour that I never get tired of them.
The South Orkneys are home to some of the continent’s most impressive icebergs, with the added attraction that many play host to Chinstrap, Adelie and Gentoo Penguins. The aim this afternoon was for the ship to cruise by some of these icebergs, reducing speed if necessary, in order for us to photograph them.
You will note that sometimes the icebergs have distinct patches of blue/turquoise coloured ice. Ice itself is actually blue but it will seldom look that way unless you are looking at a large piece of glacier ice. Our eyes are not particularly sensitive and we need a large chunk of ice to reflect back enough blue light for us to recognise it as blue. Glacial ice is usually big enough. Small pieces of ice are not. Some large icebergs look white and that is because we are seeing more than just ice; we are also seeing air bubbles. When light shines through ice that has a lot of air in it, the ice reflects back all the colours of the spectrum which we perceive as white. In the presence of a lot of ice reflecting its true blue and a little bit of air reflecting its true white, the white prevails. The bluest ice often comes from the bottom of the glacier because that is where the oldest ice sits. The older the ice, the greater the pressure and the fewer the air bubbles.
The next morning we arrived at the north end of Antarctic Peninsula. Turning south east, we sailed through the Antarctic sound. Ice build-up prevented our scheduled shore landings but it was still a thrill to cruise through the myriad of often epic proportioned icebergs. In the early afternoon, we were able to sail through a large area of pancake ice. Later, we had a chance for some zodiac cruising among the icebergs. When we chanced upon a small but deep blue ice hole at the bottom of one of the icebergs, nature photographic luminary, Joe Macdonald, who was guiding our zodiac, mentioned that he wished he had a fish-eye lens. I had totally forgotten that I was carrying one, buried within an inside pocket of my thick, down jacket. Attaching it to my camera, I lowered the camera and lens into the hole and shooting blindly (the hole was almost at the water’s edge), I fired off several images. After downloading, I was delighted with this uncropped image. I had no idea there was an opening at the other end; or that the opening would reveal both blue sky and white ice.
The following day saw us anchored next to the tell-tale conical shape of volcanic Paulet Island in the northern Weddell Sea. However, the island’s geology are of minor interest to visitors when the scale of the enormous Adelie Penguin rookery is appreciated with more than 100,000 pairs nesting here.
In the afternoon we headed to Brown Bluff, our first landing on continental Antarctic itself. Here against dramatic, 800m high, lichen-covered cliffs, we were able to photograph Gentoo and Adelie Penguins making their way onto the beach with many pausing to stop on the ice floes that lay just offshore. I also took this interesting image of a Kelp Gull peering out from behind a rock with the attractively coloured cliffs forming the blurred background. Kelp Gulls are one of the most widespread gulls worldwide but are the only species of gull that occur in Antarctica. Common they maybe, but it’s hard to ignore the beautiful colouration on their bills and I for one never tire of photographing them.
In the evening, after the sun had set and the sky had taken on a slight pink hue, I spent more than an hour in the bitter cold on deck photographing the numerous icebergs that the ship passed as we sailed towards our next destination. While concentrating on the patterns on one of the icebergs, I was fortunate when this Kelp Gull came into land.
Overnight we left the Antarctic Sound and travelled south from the Bransfield Strait into Croker Passage and the Gerlache Strait. Our morning destination was Hydrurga Rocks, a small island group with a Chinstrap Penguin colony. Landing on the narrow beach under a leaden sky, we encountered deep snow drifts which restricted our movements to a relatively small area. In the end I settled down in one spot where Chinstrap Penguins were periodically traversing a snow covered slope. From the same vantage point I was able to capture this image of two Kelp Gulls, nicely offset by the sloping snow field in the background.
As I photographed, I was regularly surrounded by one or two Snowy Sheathbills. Shy is not a word associated with these birds, whose rapid movements on foot are reminiscent of Pigeons, and they regularly approached within a few feet of me. They are a pretty bird as this portrait indicates.
In the afternoon we undertook a landing on the northern shore of dome-shaped Cuverville Island which supports a large colony of Gentoo Penguins. Our zodiacs had to negotiate through a thick covering of brash and growler ice (the latter being the name for ice less than 1m in height). My first thought on landing was to wade into this ice (up to my upper thighs) to take some images of the ice in the foreground and the Penguin colony and snow covered mountains in the background. Like so many icescapes where the colours are already largely monochromatic, such images typically work better in a black & white format.
October and November is the mating season for Adelie, Gentoo and Chinstrap Penguins, and I was again lucky to be in the right place for this copulating pair of Gentoos. This was very much a “grab” shot as I literally saw something out of the corner of my eye, swung the camera around and fired off several shots without changing any settings. The whole event lasted no more than ten seconds. In the flat, unchanging light, having the camera set up in manual exposure and already set up for the whites of the Penguin, ensured pretty much a perfect exposure – i.e. the whites pushed well into the fifth box on the right of the histogram. I find myself working in manual more and more although for all those that think that manual mode is the answer for all situations – it is not (don’t get me started on this one).
Our journey continued south with the ship reaching the entrance of the famed, Lemaire Channel by mid-morning the next day. This narrow channel is seven miles long running along a fault line between precipitous peaks rising 3,000ft from the water’s edge. On one side lies the Antarctic continent, on the other, Booth Island. Although we were able to traverse some of the way down the channel, we found our passage ultimately blocked by pack ice, forcing us to turn around. Still, the spectacular peaks begged to be photographed, captured again in black & white.
The Lemaire channel proved to be the southernmost point of our expedition and we now headed in a northerly direction towards our next destination, Paradise Harbour. With a name like Paradise, a place has to be really spectacular to meet expectations. Paradise Harbour manages this feat even on a cloudy day. When the sun is shining, as it was upon our arrival, it is absolutely gorgeous.
Lying between the Antarctic mainland and Bryde and Lemaire Islands, the bay was named by early twentieth-century whalers who were not immune to its charms. Whales continue to visit and we managed several fleeting glimpses of both Minke and Orca Whales.
Landing at a spot occupied by an abandoned Argentinian research station, I quickly made my way up a nearby hill. The upper reaches of this hill felt more like the summit ridge of a major Himalayan peak as I broke trail with deep snow and overhanging cornices on both sides. Bathed in sweat, I finally reached the “summit” to be greeted by breathtaking views of the bay. Both of the following images are hand-held, five-frame stitched panoramas captured at 35mm.
Later I was able to take a zodiac cruise around the bay with just one other person. It really is an amazing experience to get right up close to the icebergs. The use of either polarised sunglasses or a circular polariser attached to one’s camera lens makes it possible to see the extent to which the icebergs extend beneath the surface as well as the astonishing clarity of the turquoise colours.
We also came across an incredible small black/grey iceberg with out-of-this-world, golf ball like patterns. This image shows these patterns underneath the water.
This next image is a bit more “artsy”. The base image comprises the reflections of a lichen covered cliff face in the water. Post processing, the saturation, contrast and structure have been pumped up to produce this Monet like image.
In the evening as we sailed out of the bay, bathed in soft, yellowish light, I spent a good hour alone at the very front of the ship making images of the brash ice in the now dark waters in the foreground and the snowy mountains in the distance.
We were now beginning our journey home. Sailing north overnight, we had time for one more landing, this time at Half Moon Island in the South Shetland Islands. This picturesque spot is home to a colony of Chinstrap Penguins as well as breeding Kelp Gulls and Antarctic Terns. I spent most of the morning in two locations, primarily photographing the Chinstrap Penguins as they laboured up a snow covered slope towards their rookery after returning from fishing trips out at sea. The main attraction for me was to include the beautiful lichen and moss-covered cliffs in the images.
I also spent time photographing the Kelp Gulls (now something of an addition) as well as these squabbling Antarctic Terns.
And so we bade a sad farewell to the land of snow and ice and its treasure trove of wildlife. As on all my trips, I kept no journal or diary (perhaps I should) but find that I can relive and recall the various locations and experiences that I enjoyed through the images that I make. We had hoped for one more landing but our trusty captain, eager to beat an impending storm had us depart for the notorious Drake Passage, slightly earlier than scheduled. For the first 24 hours sea conditions remained reasonable but then deteriorated steadily as we felt the full force of the oncoming storm. In the 9m swells, waves crashed over the ship’s bow with the spray lashing the bridge and the ship pitched and rolled violently at times.
Fortunately the captain’s foresight spared us a prolonged battering and within 12 hours we had reached the shelter of the Beagle Channel from where we made our way the next morning to the port of Ushuaia.
All in all it had been an amazing expedition, but one which has again whetted my appetite for more. Already I have plans to return, this time with a focus on the Falkland Islands and South Georgia which for me were the two highlights of the trip. A big word of thanks should go the expedition leaders, many of whom are nature photographers of international repute but who always put the considerations of the passengers before theirs and more often than not sacrificed their own image taking to tend to the needs of the expeditioners. Lastly, I would like to extend a big greeting to my new Mexican and Spanish friends from the trip, many of whom are highly talented photographers. On this note, I would like to mention a young Spanish photographer and videographer, writer and conservationist, Jaime Rojo. Not only did his images from the trip outshine those of his fellow passengers, but he also eclipsed those from the seasoned professionals on board. Remember his name as you will surely be hearing more from him in the future.