It’s been awhile but I am finally headed back to Antarctica in December 2015, one of my favorite places to photograph. I am going with the Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris group. We will travel to Buenos Aires then onto Ushuaia Argentina to meet the ship named “Ushuaia”.
A 15-night photo cruise dedicated entirely to the needs and interests of photographers with 10 shooting days in Antarctica—the longest and most comprehensive peninsula trip offered by any company in 2015.
Extended shore landings with photographer/naturalist leaders on hand to assist with your photography.
Photograph nesting Adélie, Chinstrap and Centoo penguins, as well as a variety of seals, whales and seabirds.
Unparalleled landscape photo opportunities among icebergs, glaciers and soaring coastal mountains.
Formal and informal photography and natural history presentations throughout the cruise.
For nature photographers, Antarctica is the gold standard against which all other destinations are measured. On this voyage you visit the small islands of the Antarctic Archipelago, as well as set foot on the frozen continent. The sparkling krill-rich water teems with life, which in turn brings whales and seals that forage along the ice floe edge. Colonies of penguins dwell here in almost uncountable numbers and hunt in these same waters. These represent some of the most spectacular seabird colonies found anywhere on Earth.
In the Weddell Sea, just off the northern tip of the peninsula, lies Paulet Island, a conical volcano with a massive Adélie penguin colony that, in some areas, rises several hundred feet from the island’s periphery to its lower slopes. Here, you find many penguin-covered icebergs and areas where some of the penguins roost on a picturesque jumble of crystalline ice on shore. Now, birds are incubating eggs and the first of the fuzzy gray chicks are hatching and are carefully brooded by their parents. The colony is still relatively clean (and photogenic) as the newly-hatched chicks are not large enough to broadcast guano on their parents and neighbors!
If the wildlife isn’t enough, the scenery will bowl you over. The sheer walls of towering icebergs burn chill blue and the slanting “evening” polar light infuses everything in rich pastel tints, sharpening the etchings in the ice. Subtle polychrome “sunsets” last for hours in December, and the moody gray outlines of the serrate maritime peaks can give rise to a spectacular “dawn” that elicits an almost mystical fervor in those who gaze upon them.
Cruising the beautiful Lemaire Channel provides yet another exceptional Antarctic experience. This narrow channel is one of the most visually impressive areas of the peninsula and embodies the quintessential Antarctic landscape in the photographer’s mind’s eye. At the end of the channel lies Pleneau Island. Here a stunning labyrinth of grounded icebergs offers extraordinary Zodiac cruising. Glistening white, statuesque and architecturally spectacular bergs stand as sentinels against a clear blue sky, while crabeater, Weddell and leopard seals allow close approach.
About the Ship Ushaia:
The Antarctic expedition ship Ushuaia was originally commissioned as the R/V Researcher for the US National Oceanographic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In 1995, while in the service of the US government, the ship was the first NOAA vessel to circumnavigate the globe on a scientific voyage carrying out baseline studies to gather data critical for later comparison on the ocean’s role in global climate change, the Antarctic ozone hole, and the El Niño phenomenon, among other projects. MV Ushuaia, our 278-foot-long ship, was converted for passenger travel and refurbished as a privately-owned expedition vessel to accommodate a maximum of 86 passengers and expedition staff in 43 comfortable twin cabins and suites.
Day 1 Depart from home.
Day 2 (Dec 3) Arrive in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and continue to Ushuaia. Check into our Ushuaia hotel.
Day 3 The morning is free to explore the southernmost city in the world with a bus tour of Tierra del Fuego National Park In late afternoon (approximately 4 PM) we board our ship and get settled in our cabins for embarkation. As you sail eastward down the Beagle Channel we photograph landscapes from the deck and observe many birds and other wildlife associated with the channel.
Days 4–5 We head south across the famous Drake Passage named for Sir Francis Drake, 16th-century English mariner and privateer. We travel 600 miles from the tip of South America toward the Antarctic Peninsula—a distant extension of the Andes Mountains separated by continental movement over the past 150 million years. Once offshore, the marine environment in “the Drake” is as rich as anywhere on Earth and thousands of seabirds, including many black-browed and wandering albatrosses, and several species of whales and dolphins are possible. We cross the Antarctic Convergence. The region marks the area where warmer northern waters collide with colder Antarctic currents. During a short transition, the water temperature plummets, the air gets colder and the species composition of ship-following birds becomes noticeably different. Icebergs become a familiar sight. With favorable conditions in the Drake Passage we make our first landing on Day 5. When not on deck, we prepare for our Antarctic landings during a series of photography and natural and human history lectures during this time.
Days 6–16 The Antarctic Peninsula and South Shetland Islands offer activities that pack these exciting 10 days. We select landings at wildlife and scenic areas only, avoiding national research bases and historic sites that have meager wildlife populations or limited landscape photo potential. We plan to visit Paulet Island with its massive Adélie colonies, cruise the Neumayer and Lemaire Channels—the quintessential Antarctic scenery locations—where we linger as long as possible if light conditions are incredibly photogenic! Humpback whales have made a strong recovery from whaling in this area. Other areas we plan to visit include spectacular scenic Paradise Bay, Cuverville or Ronge Island for gentoo and chinstrap penguins. Additional landing sites may include Half Moon Island, Hannah Point on Livingston Island, Deception Island, Port Lockroy, or other locations depending on weather and ice conditions. No landing site can be guaranteed. Our leaders use their experience to select the best areas to optimize our wildlife observation and ensure our safety. We start our northward journey during the afternoon of Day 16.
Day 17 Join our expedition staff on deck as we photograph ship-following seabirds, watch for whales and dolphins, and enjoy some final photo lectures, critiques and passenger “slide shows.” The fabled headland of Cape Horn looms on the horizon and we sense the peaty aroma of land wafting from the distant shore. This evening we head back down the Beagle Channel, reacquaint ourselves with a green environment, and enjoy a final scenic cruise on our return trip to Ushuaia.
Day 18 (Dec 19) Arriving in Ushuaia in the morning, we disembark the ship after breakfast and transfer to the airport to depart for home.
Day 19 Arrive home.