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Insider Info: Travelling to Antarctica with Gary Arndt

We sit down with Gary Arndt to chat about his trip to Antarctica

by Attit Patel Posted on 23 November 2012

Antarctica is the adventure of a lifetime. Massive, magnificent and unforgiving, Antarctica is a continent of superlatives that will leave your mind searching for words to describe it. Each day presents a new discovery, whether you’re cruising through ice-choked waterways, trekking through chattering penguin rookeries, or catching minkes and humpbacks breaching in the pristine waters. The few travellers who are fortunate enough to explore Antarctica’s vast expanses return home forever changed by an experience so awe-inspiring that it reaches to their very core.

Today, we sit down with one of those travellers. Gary Arndt from chats with us about travelling to Antarctica.

Iceberg in the icy waters of Antarctica

You’ve photographed all over the world — what made Antarctica so unique from every other place on earth you've visited?

The remoteness, the desolation and the isolation of the place. Save for a few scientific teams, no one lives in Antarctica. No one has ever lived there. No one can live there. You can't get visit Antarctica during a layover between destinations. You have to make a serious commitment to go to there. It isn't something you can just do on a whim. There are very few places left on Earth which require a real effort to visit.

What lens were you shooting those close-up shots with?

I rented a 500mm fixed lens just for this trip. I've never used a lens this large before, but I was extremely pleased with the results. I also brought a second body with me that I had my 18-200mm lens on for taking medium or wide angle shots. Traveling with a 500mm lens is an experience in itself. I felt like I was carrying a tool box with me the entire trip.

Penguin leaping into the water

Was Antarctica the toughest place you've worked from?

It really wasn't that bad. The only difficult part was carrying around my 500mm lens and the tripod. I had to take some care when I got on and off the zodiac, but other than that it wasn't that challenging.

Would you return to Antarctica? Or do you feel like it is more of a "one and done" type of destination for travellers.

I would go again in a heartbeat. I suppose you could just go if you wanted to cross something off on your list, but there are an infinite number of variations on weather conditions and wildlife you'll see, it could be a different place every time. There were several people on the ship with me who had been to Antarctica before and one couple that signed up for the very next trip on the MS Expedition! The only real issue is balancing going back with visiting other places in the world.

Penguins walking along the shore with the MS Expedition in the Background

Was there a favorite experience along the way that stood out from your adventure in Antarctica?

My favorite experience wasn't in Antarctica per se, it was on South Georgia Island. South Georgia is really one of the hidden wonders of the world. It is even more difficult to reach than Antarctica because most Antarctica ships only visit once per season, if at all. When we landed on the beach for the first time it was just amazing. Over 100,000 king penguins for as far as the eye could see with many other seabirds and seals up and down the beach. It was really an incredible experience.

Do the penguins really come that close to you?

Yes. While there is a 3m rule about approaching the penguins, there is nothing stopping them from approaching you. Because there are so few predators, they have no fear of humans. I literally had some king penguin chicks pecking at the legs of my tripod.

Baby penguin getting up close and personal.

How difficult was the Drake Passage really?

The trip I was on only had one Drake Passage because we sailed to Antarctica from South Georgia. We only had to cross it once going back to Ushuaia. Our crossings went really easy. The crew said it was the best crossing they had seen in a year. However, when we sailed from Ushuaia to the Falkland Islands, it was really rough. I broke my glasses the first morning I woke up and was in bed for 2 days because of sea sickness. Next time I'm on a ship, I'm going to use the ear patches sooner. They really worked.

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Getting There

G Adventures runs a number of departures encompassing a wide range of departure dates and activities to cater to different tastes. We’re thrilled at the prospect of showing you this big blue planet of ours — check out our small group trips here.