Antarctica. Immense. White. Magnitude. Ice. Blue.
Having just returned from an incredible 12 days cruising the Antarctica Peninsula traveling with One Ocean Expeditions these are the sentiments that continue resonate now I am back in the lush green and relatively mild winter of British Columbia. Antarctica proved to be a place that I couldn't ever have truly imagined without seeing it first hand. The first thing that struck me upon reaching the icy waters south of 60 ˚ is the immensity of the place. The peninsula and surrounding islands are ripped with mountains. Mountains and glaciers that climb from the waters edge into the clouds, only for those clouds to momentarily part to reveal yet more altitude towering above. I think in hindsight I expected pockets of mountains inter-spaced with flat, icy plateaus. This is certainly not the case. Geology is alive and well on the peninsula, piercing the ocean to climb high and model folded and rumbling glaciers.
The color palette of the Antarctica is largely white. It is a spectrum of white that shifts from the purity of the falling snow to the steely greys of the the clouds and pushed towards warmer hues of pink and orange in the twilight at this time of year. But everything is white.
The magnitude of the landscape and geology came when we ventured off our Russian research vessel, the Akedemik Ioffe. Only once you glide underneath a 200ft serac wall or begin to climb on skis up towards higher altitudes do you really get a sense of the enormity of the place. And after 7 days sailing the peninsula does one comprehend the ongoing vastness of it all.
To say Antarctica is cold and icy is both true and too simple. At least on the peninsula, the temperatures were relatively mild. At times it was possible to hike ashore in a baselayer. But through witnessing such an incomprehensible amount of ice, you come to understand that Antarctica is always cold. Always. Winter is simply a colder version of summer, which dare I say it, is still cold. And this makes way for ice like no other place on earth. From glaciers to icebergs. Ice reigns supreme.
What this ice hides deep in its depths are blues that really have to been see to be comprehended. Electric blues, tropical blues emanate out of the ice and hypnotize. Put simply I hadn't seen blue until I went to Antarctica.
These are just a few initial musings on a place that has captivated the collective imagination since its discovery in the early 1800's and now my own. What made much of this trip unique for myself beyond the obvious is that I was able to take in the landscape and atmosphere without the regular commitments that come with working on a shoot--no pressure, no deliverables, no commitments. The trip was a prize that STAND won for Best Film at the Vancouver Festival of Oceans Films and as such a vacation. Not accustomed to large, tour company operated expeditions, I didn't quite know what to expect, but One Ocean sure put on a great show. The number of incredibly passionate and knowledgeable staff, from ornithologists to geologists, artists and photographers to Antarctic veterans, made the trip so much richer. The trip was a unique package (Off the Beaten Track) that offered sea kayaking, snow shoeing, skiing and photography workshops, with the opportunity to spend a night camped ashore. It was a great trip spent with a diverse and interesting group of people and whet the appetite for returning sometime soon to the Antarctica.
A huge thank you to Aaron Lawton and the entire One Oceans staff for an incredible trip.