Antarctica Workshop Expedition – February 15-21, 2020
An Excellent Trip Just Before Chaos Ensued
This Article Contains Four Videos and A PDF Download
The world has changed over the last few months. Lucky for us, we were able to make one of the last trips to Antarctica before everything changed. I’d like to share with you a little about this trip along with several videos made by photoPXL’s own Michael Durr.
This year, there were 31 of us on the trip. This included Art Wolfe, Michael Durr, and myself as guides and instructors along with 28 attendees. We traveled on the new Magellan Explorer on its 15th voyage. This incredible new ship was 90.7 meters in length and built for polar exploration. It is one of the finest small ships I have ever sailed on, and it made this voyage particularly nice.
Our voyages started in Punta Arenas, Chile. Many of the attendees for the workshop arrived early and joined me for a day of photography prior to our departure where we visited the Punta Arenas Cemetery. I did a previous article on this with an accompanying video.
Prior to the trip Michael Durr and I did an article with a video about the gear we took on this trip. If you are curious you can read it; Antarctica Here We Come.
The day before departure, we all met for a briefing as well as boot fitting. During the briefing, we learned about how to board a Zodiac (which was a ribber Ponton boat) used for landing and trips to the ship. In addition, we were briefed on what to expect weather-wise as well as general safety during the voyage. This was following by a COVID-19 screening and then a wonderful welcome dinner. I should point out that while COVID-19 was not yet considered a pandemic, it was widely known that it was heading that way. Thus, Antarctica 21, the cruise company that was running this voyage, banned anyone with a Chinese or Hong Kong passport. This thinned the ranks of passengers by about five people and gave some people a chance to have a whole cabin to themselves. Michael Durr was one of the lucky ones. Art Wolfe and I roomed together as we had on many previous workshops.
The Trip Begins
On February 16, we caught an early flight to fly over the dreaded Drake Passage. This two-hour flight avoided two-plus days at sea, traversing some of the most treacherous seas on the planet. I have always considered it a rite of passage to sail the Drake, but I know many who have traveled it with me that would strangle me for saying that. The trip on the Drake can be painful for anyone who suffers from seasickness.
We landed with all our gear at around 11 a.m. at Frei Station on King George Island. From there, we did a half-hour walk to the beach where we would be transported to the ship aboard Zodiac. The ride out to the ship was a good christening for us as it was quite windy with some serious white caps and chop. Once aboard the ship, we were welcomed by the friendly crew, shown to our cabins, and given a bit of time to settle in before the mandatory lifeboat drill. We enjoyed lunch and soon were on our way.
Stay Tuned for details on our upcoming November 9 – 29th, 2020 trip to the Falklands, South Georgia Island and Antarctica. The ULTIMATE Antarctica Adventure.
I have included as a download the log from this trip that included a detail of each of our landings and events from the trip if you are so inclined to follow along in more detail. In addition, Michael and I hosted a live event slightly under two hours in which we went through a lot of the details for this trip and shared our own memories. You can find this, “An Evening In Antarctica,” on our YouTube channel. https://youtu.be/IdLr4OQuERA. This presentation shows the first version of videos included with this article along with commentary about our adventures.
The videos in this article can be shared so you can download them and share with your friends. Michael Durr went above and beyond to bring you such great videos that will give you what it was like to be on this adventure. His other videos zero in on some other aspects of the trip. The last video here will give you a firsthand experience of what a wild Zodiac ride can be like. Michael even takes you for the famous Polar Plunge. It’s nice to see the young guys doing this plunge. I have done a few plunges on my trips, and they can be quite shocking and involve major shrinkage.
Antarctica The Trip Videos
This is the first of four videos in this article. I have seen this video a number of times and it brings chills to me with each viewing. Michael Durr went above the call of duty in the production of these videos. They put you in the heart of what this trip was all about. I hope you enjoy these videos and experience a bit of the adventure. More than anything else I hope you join us on one of our annual trips to this amazing place.
The Trip Video – A Rockhopper Workshop
Join us as we highlight our 2020 trip in this beautiful video produced by PXL’s Micahel Durr.
Antarctica 2020 – Environmental Change (6:09)
We discuss some of the changes in the environment, specifically climate change and how it is affecting Antarctica and its wildlife.
A Polar Plunge
Take a virtual polar plunge with Micahel Durr. It’s a short plunge but you’ll feel the cold as Michael Durr takes a dip in Antarctica waters. =I wonder if he’d do it again?
A Zodiac Ride
Want to feel like a Polar explorer? Then enjoy this virtual Zodiac ride into shore.
On our first full day, we visited Brown Bluff and Fridtjof Sound. During the transits between our different destinations, we were able to enjoy many of the aspects of the ship, including a sauna, decks for each cabin, as well as numerous lectures from the Expedition Team.
The meals on this ship were quite excellent. The dining room has a giant floor to ceiling windows, and it is quite surreal to be dining and watching the Antarctic landscape go by. It wasn’t unusual during this trip that several times we saw something during a meal, we all ran to get our cameras to shoot magnificent scenes and wildlife. In Antarctica, things just keep coming at you. There is always something to photograph, and you never know what to expect.
As we proceeded with the trip, our next crusade was the Gerlache Strait, and then we landed on Neko Harbour in the afternoon. Neko Harbour is a very special location for me as it was the beach I got married on five years ago. You’ll see a bit of that in the video.
Our next day, we visited one of my all-time favorite places: Pleneau Bay. This bay is right at the mouth of the Lemaire Channel. Cruising the Lemaire is one of the highlights of any trip to Antarctica. This time it was foggy and raining, but we all banged to get some nice images. The weather cleared a bit, and we had a great afternoon visiting the iceberg graveyard, Pleneau Bay. They call it the graveyard because it is so shallow and the currents push icebergs into this bay. They then become grounded and erode through ocean currents, winds, and melting. These are usually the most incredible icebergs with holes and smooth sides and eroded sides. I could spend days at each place shooting as each hour and each day offers up incredible images.
Upon leaving Pleneau Bay, we cruised back through the Lemaire channel and enjoyed a great outdoor barbecue on a specially designed picnic area of the ship. It was just spectacular as the sun was lowering in the sky. We passed a very active pod of orcas, many icebergs and we were blessed with positively dramatic skies. It was truly an evening that will linger in my memory for a very long time.
We were up early the next morning for an always special entrance to Deception Island. We traveled through a small pass with tricky navigation called Neptune Bellows that opens into Deception Island and a place known as Whalers Bay. This bay where we did a landing is one of the busiest whaling stations in the region. The waters were turned red by the slaughter of whales. These days, whaling is not permitted, but at one time, it was a booming business here. This area was decimated by volcanic eruptions, which leveled much of the area. The island is still active, and the latest eruptions took place from 1967-70. We enjoyed exploring the ruins and old whale oil tanks as well as the cookers. Quite an interesting time trying to imagine what this area used to be like.
Upon leaving Deception Island, we headed to Half Moon Island for our last landing. This has always been a favorite place to visit, but this time, it was very different.
While we witnessed a lot of things that could be attributed to global warming, none of them stood out as much as Half Moon Island. I have visited this location dozens of times and never have seen it like this, as it was snow-free. The beach and the walks are normally snow-covered, and on this visit, there was absolutely no snow. This haunted me for some time, and as I look back, I saw something similar at Neko Harbour.
Later that day, we had a lecture that was very well done explaining how climate change is affecting Antarctica faster than any other part of the world. It’s really quite a shock to see, and I can only hope that we as humans can do something about this before it is too late.
Finally, it was time to head back to King George Island for a departure the next day. As we ended this trip, we had a great evening of lectures, a slideshow, and the captain’s farewell cocktail hour and dinner.
It’s always sad to say goodbye to Antarctica. Every trip has spectacular moments, and I consider myself a blessed and fortunate person to have traveled to this magnificent place as many times as I have. I have made some incredible friends and seen some of the most amazing sights.
I want to thank Art Wolfe, who has accompanied me here several times, for being such a great friend and also an excellent instructor and lecturer. There is no one that shares his wealth information and knowledge so freely as Art. Michael Durr is our video producer as well as a great teacher. He’s young with such positive energy and motivates many to see things differently. I hope you will agree that the videos he has produced for this trip were exceptional. I look forward to sharing more trips in the future with Michael.
Also, a big thanks to all the attendees who have traveled with me on this trip and past trips. I know they would all agree that Antarctica holds a special place in their hearts. Last but not least, a big thank you to you, our readers and viewers who have been helping photoPXL grow and become better each day.
Please stay healthy and safe, and if you can, maybe you can travel on one of our upcoming adventures.
The following galleries are by a few of the attendees on this trip. Please enjoy them.
George Schnatter, Germany
Bob Towery. Seattle, WA
Colleen Parker, Bainbridge Island, WA
Laura Richards, Canada
Thank you for being part of the photoPXL family. Stay Safe.
Photography is my passion and has been for 47 plus years. My career in photography has allowed me to travel the world, meet some of the most interesting people on the planet and see things I could never have dreamed of. My goal is to share the passion of pictures taking through photographs and teaching with as many people as I can hoping it brings them as much joy and happiness as it has me. I do this through photoPXL.com, this site as well as Rockhopper Workshops and other projects as well as teaching at my Gallery in Indianapolis.