Monday, January 11, 2010

Preparing to Go South to Antarctica

Brian Skerry, Antarctica Expedition

Exactly one year ago, I was traveling south to Florida to begin a magazine assignment to photograph manatees. I spent just about a month swimming with these wonderful creatures and photographing them underwater and from the air (in the Goodyear Blimp). [Note: A book of photos from this expedition is available here.] Today I am once again heading south, but this time I'm traveling a bit further in that direction--all the way to Antarctica. The purpose of my journey is to serve as National Geographic staff on board a ship called the National Geographic Explorer operated by Lindblad Expeditions. About 140 guests would be on this 10-day trip to the frozen continent and my job entails lecturing on the ship about my work as a photojournalist and assisting people with their own photography. The other guest lecturer on this trip is astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon.

Sea lions hauled out on the rocks in the Beagle Channel off Ushuaia, Argentina (Photo: Brian Skerry)

My route took me from the Providence airport to Atlanta to Santiago, Chile where I arrived on the morning of the 8th. The next morning I was up at 5:30 a.m. and off to the airport for a charter flight to Ushuaia, Argentina, the southern most city in the world. Before boarding the ship, I joined the passengers on board a catamaran cruise of the Beagle Channel. This channel is a brackish water system that contains waters from both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and animals such as cormorants and sea lions can be easily seen. [Note: Penguin biologist Caitlin Hume was the last Aquarium explorer to visit the Beagle Channel, and she almost had her glove stolen by a skua. See the video in her expedition post.]

Tierra del Fuego National Park in Argentina (Photo: Brian Skerry)

Around 5:00 p.m., we boarded the Explorer and soon after began our steam down the Beagle Channel, reaching the Drake Passage around midnight. The Drake Passage has the reputation as being one of the roughest bodies of water in the world and making the passage across to Antarctica can often be unpleasant. As I write this post, we are about 350 miles south of Cape Horn and the conditions are relatively calm. If all continues well, we will reach Deception Island by tomorrow afternoon.

This will be my first trip to Antarctica and I truly cannot wait to arrive. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to travel here and to make pictures on the ice and beneath the water. My work over the last thirty years however, has always taken me to other locations but finally; I am on my way and getting very close. My plan is to be here for two trips, about three weeks in total and my hope is to photograph as much as possible, from penguins to seals to spectacular frozen landscapes--and to photograph underwater. So, in the days ahead I will be posting as often as possible and as much as satellite internet service permits and sharing with you my observations and explorations.


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