Antarctica Photography Expedition
It doesn’t get more remote than this. Explore Antarctica by yacht with the VSE crew.
Vertical Shot Expeditions is planning a photography expedition you aren’t going to want to miss. It’s probably enough just to say it’s a four-weeks sailing expedition to Antarctica and leave it at that, but don't worry, we will elaborate a bit. After all, this expedition represents the culmination of everything we have done so far and we are excited to tell more about it.
The expedition kicks off in the remote Argentinean town, Ushuaia (54.814090 S, 68.306410 W), where we will provision the yacht with everything we need including delicious Argentinean beef, fresh vegetables and great wine. From Ushuaia we will set sail East through the Beagle Channel, turning South at Isla Picton, before heading towards Cape Horn.
After the Horn, the only thing standing between Antarctica, and us, is the most infamous body of water on Earth, the Drake Passage. Depending on wind and weather, the crossing will take approximately three to five days. Although we will do our best to make it as smooth and fast as possible, all participants will need to stomach these four to five days on the high seas until we reach Antarctica. But if Shackleton could manage the trip in an open lifeboat, we should be fine in our sturdy expedition yacht.
The next land we see will be the Northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula or one of the nearby islands. Once there, we will begin the exploration of the West coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. We aim to reach as far as Vernadsky Research Base (65°14′44′′S 64°15′29′′W).
The exploration stage will take 14-16 days and throughout this period we will take our time to photograph and explore dozens of bays dotted with massive icebergs, visit penguin colonies and climb snow-covered mountains
Afterwards we will head back North, cross the Drake Passage for the second time, and get back in Ushuaia approximately 26-28 days after setting out.
Our expedition vessel is a 68 ft steel ketch (20,28 m) called the Selma. She currently holds the world record for sailing to the southernmost point of the Earth in human history, so there’s no question as to her reliability. Equipped with two masts, the Selma and sails with a combined area of 162 square meters (1743 square ft).
Recruited for our exploratory Patagonian trip in 2016, we put Selma through her paces rounding Cape Horn and exploring the Beagle Channel. She sails beautifully even into waves the size of small buildings and her crew has weathered the worst conditions a sailor can imagine, in all seasons. Needless to say, we are confident that with this boat and the crew are perfectly equipped to execute this Antarctic summer adventure.
The Selma is built for crossing the Southern Ocean. Steel- hulled for icy conditions, her narrow frame enables her to gently cut through waves, while the sealed pilot house makes it easier to navigate in harsh conditions. The yacht is equipped with all modern tech: radar, sonar, GPS, chart/map plotters, and a diesel generator.
For shore landings, the yacht carries two Lodestar inflatable boats with outboard engines. In case of emergency, the yacht is equipped with: 12 immersion suits, Solas Liferaft, EPIRB and SART.
You are part of the crew
We count on you being a member of the crew. The yacht is big, the ocean is rough, and we are on our own for the duration of the journey.
The crew will be made up of five experienced sailors and six participants/photographers. Out of the five VSE crewmembers, four are certified captains with sailing experience in polar regions, and one is a photographer leading sailing expeditions (see below). Between us, we have multiple expeditions to Antarctica, Greenland, Alaska, Nanavut, and a couple of crossings of the infamous Northwest Passage.
At the beginning of the expedition we will be divided into teams and keep watches. Each team will consist of one officer and two or three crew members. The watches are usually shorter during the day and longer in the night and late evening.
When sailing, the crew members will be asked to:
• man the helm (steer the yacht)
• be on the lookout for ice in all sorts of forms: pack ice, growlers, icebergs
• verify bearings
• adjust the sails
• help with mooring and anchoring
The yacht is constantly in motion. Thus, we have to keep watch on deck at all times. Participants will be required to take night shifts (which is usually everyone's favourite memory after the end of the expedition). Every 3 days or so we will ask you to take a shift in the galley and help prepare meals for the ravenous sailors that have been facing the elements on the deck.
The Antarctic Exploration
Once in Antarctica, we can finally begin exploring! Using the inflatable boats, we will explore numerous bays and visit islands where hardly anyone has set foot before. We will also explore abandoned whaling stations, see breathtaking icebergs, and check-out the extraordinary wildlife which inhabits those remote lands. Most of all, we will immerse ourselves into perfectly wild landscapes, ideal unbroken silence and the sheer majesty of Nature's last untouched outpost.
If the weather permits, we will attempt day- hikes to unnamed mountains. Some of those may involve trekking on ice. We aim to pay a visit to the remote Vernadsky Research Base, where we will be warmly welcomed by its terrific Ukrainian hosts.
Taking from Amundsen's lessons, we know that well prepared food is important. Sailing in the polar areas can be arduous and small delicacies can make a real difference to the attitude and wellbeing of the crew. In our experience a hungry sailor is an angry sailor. The yacht's galley will be well stocked with fresh vegetables, fruits and amazing beef meat from free-grazing Argentinian cows. Even the best places in London and New York cannot outdo a piece of steak cooked in the Antarctic. Think this is a joke? Not at all! The yacht is sufficiently big to store a lot of food, so much so, that the last time we sailed on this yacht everyone gained weight despite all the long treks and watches.
That being said, due to the rough conditions of the Drake Passage, you probably won't be able to enjoy these delicious meals until we reach the sheltered calmer waters of Antarctic. However, we are prepared also for such conditions, with loads of freeze-dried meals and other quick solutions for eating on the go in rough weather.
Each cabin on board has two berths. Private space is limited. And while condensation inside the yacht is low, participants will need to be prepared for it and cold temperatures. During the crossing we will be unable to run the heater. This means relatively cold temperatures onboard until we're safely at anchor.
The yacht comes equipped with a shower. However, limited drinking water, which is over-riding importance, means that showers may not be available until late in the expedition. Expect grubbiness. It is an expedition though, so we won't expect you to wear a white-collar shirt for the gala closing.
Photographing the Antarctic wilderness
As you are aware, all our expeditions are designed for photographers. This means we go to bed late, get up early, drag tripods up pretty steep slopes, and eat at odd times so we can get the shot. This expedition is no exception, but our previous experience has showed that sailing in remote areas requires flexibility. Although the Drake Passage will provide opportunities for some great sailing shots, it is debatable if many people on board will feel like shooting. And contrary to conventional photographic wisdom, in Antarctica, oftentimes the best time of the day to photograph is at mid-day where a thick, cloud cover acts like a large soft-box.
Our photography tutor will be the adventure photographer Vlad Donkov, co-founder of VSE. Over the past decade Vlad has worked across the Arctic, Himalayas, Greenland, Tierra del Fuego and other remote areas for clients such as Hasselblad, Outdoor Photography magazine, Berghaus, The Royal Norwegian Embassy, Black & White Photography magazine, the Royal Geographical Society in London and many others. What Vlad wants on every expeditions is to get you out shooting and facing the elements, going places to get the best images on you can make. He will be there to help and suggest ways to improve your images.
Dates and price
We will run this expedition between mid-January and mid-February 2018, the final dates will be announced in January 2017.
For now you can pencil the dates 15/01/2018 - 15/02/2018.
The fee for participation includes a berth in a two-berths cabin, all food and non-alcoholic drinks on board, the services of the crew and one-to-one consultations during the preparation process.
Price: 11 900 EUR
Deposit: 4 000 EUR
Fitness level and experience
You must be a relatively tough nut to join this expedition. You need previous sailing experience in rough weather (this will help you be mentally prepared if we encounter very high seas) and you need winter hiking experience. We will have a chat with you about your experience and current physical shape before confirming the reservation of your berth. There is also a strict “no whinging” policy on board. Everyone will be required to pull their weight and pitch-in whenever necessary. And if you can handle all of this with enthusiasm and optimism – then welcome on board!
Each member of the crew has different talents and skills, comes from a different background, and knows songs you never heard of - and that is part of the beauty of having a diverse crew from all over the world. And that is what you need to have a good time in a place so remote that (almost) everything depends on the crew.
This is a real expedition. One of the few left on Earth. There is no rescue if something goes wrong. There is no promise that we will see everything listed here. There is no wi-fi, and no comfort of a stabilized icebreaker. This expedition is about endeavour, the beauty of untouched wilderness, and the men and women that make up the crew. Well, maybe some whales too.