I recently traveled to Antarctica spending about 10 days aboard the Ocean Nova, a Danish-built vessel with an ice-strengthened hull. The journey took us across the Drake Passage and along a segment of the Antarctic Peninsula. There’s so much to share about the Seventh Continent that I’ll break the content into a couple blog posts. This one covers the big picture in photos. The next couple posts will cover some of the portraits I made of expedition staff and things you should know when visiting Antarctica, especially with photo gear.
I’ll preface this post by saying I have more photos from this trip than any trip I’ve ever taken, and these images only scratch the surface of what I experienced.
Two special thanks: First, the crew and expedition team of the Ocean Nova and Antarctica XXI. They kept us safe, well-fed, educated, and exploring. Most importantly though, a special thanks to Lina for dreaming big with this trip and making it a reality.
“Why Antarctica?”, most people ask. Going into the trip I didn’t really have a clear answer. In some ways I still don’t — At least not in words. Articulating an experience with language is not my strong suit, but more importantly words don’t do the Seventh Continent justice — For that matter, neither do photos.
Looking back on my trip (which took place in the last two weeks of November this year), I tend to remember the experience as a series visuals and feelings that are difficult to translate. It’s hard to describe a place with language when it’s so vastly different from anything else that I (and most people) have experienced. Most places are comparable to somewhere else in the world — Antarctica is not.
When I try to talk about Antarctica, it mostly comes out as a unsorted list of my experiences, facts, and feelings. There are too many things to cover, and all of them feel so important — I feel like I’m always leaving something out. Nothing I saw is more important than anything else and I have no specific “favorites” from the trip because everything stood out. Everything was so different and impactful.
Antarctica is more than just a place to visit, it’s a self contained experience. Visiting is like entering a different world, much like an extraterrestrial visiting earth only for a short time, knowing that you cannot interact with its inhabitants and you cannot leave any evidence of your own existence.
It’s an entire ecosystem of animals, land, sea, and ice joined together by the serenity of a frozen paradise undisturbed by man — An homage to what the planet once was before we made our presence felt. Words don’t do it justice, and neither do photos from a single trip.
I did my best to curate a selection of photos that convey how vast and impressive the land and ice is, and how much fascinating wildlife there is to see. Here are just a few of the images that I captured:
Penguins: They are everywhere. They come up to greet you with curiosity when you land on shore. Though absolutely adorable, their colonies are smelly and most of the penguins are covered in communal excrement. They are fascinating to watch — Their colonies feel like a complex civilization with social constructs, partnerships, and subgroups. I don’t know enough about penguins to say for sure what’s going on in any of the moments I captured with the camera, but it is very easy to personify them and imagine up back stories for their actions.
Whales: They appear without notice and leave just as quickly. As beautiful as they are spontaneous, they are difficult to photograph and exciting to watch.
Orcas: Followed the ship just to figure out what it is. We spotted a group of rare “Type D” Orcas (shown below) that have only been spotted in nature 13 times since they were discovered in 1955.
The Continent: When no person is moving and the snow stops crunching under your feet, there is the most deafening silence you’ll ever know. The landscapes are vast and dramatic. The weather changes from clear to stormy within minutes.
Icebergs and Sea Ice: The ice is dynamic and moves quickly. Icebergs glow like emeralds below the water. They play an important part in Antarctica’s ecosystem, from the microorganisms and krill in the water all the way up the food chain.
Seals, Sea Birds, and Other Critters: They go about their business as if humans aren’t even a factor. Something I’ve never witnessed before in the wild.