David Doubilet and Jennifer S. Hayes were interviewed by the Watertown Daily Times about their recent Elysium expedition to Antarctica. The aim of the 57-member trip was to follow and document the route taken by Ernest Shackeleton’s 1914 Endurance expedition. Elysium members included filmmakers, scientists, historians, artists, photographers and even musicians. The results of their efforts will be a documentary film and book, due for release on the 100th anniversary of Shackleton’s trip in 2013.
The photographers reported challenging photographic conditions, with water temperatures reaching a low of minus 3 Celsius, and difficulties adjusting to cold surface temperatures.
“But the comfort level goes to hell in a handbasket in 20 minutes,” Ms. Hayes said. “The smallest tasks have evaporated for you, such as pushing buttons on your suit and camera settings. Your hands become blobs of frozen plasma at the end of your arms.”
Underwater visibility was a problem at times too with the run off from South Georgia so thick, that the team:
”gave up trying to take pictures and went body surfing in big waves with a crowd of fur seals.”
David found the variety and volume of Antarctic wildlife a surprise, with many close encounters with leopard and fur seals, and vast numbers of penguins.
“It’s one of the great masses of life on the planet,” he said. “We saw 350,000 penguins all in one spot. You think, at first, that life is so generous. But then you realize that it’s nearly all the penguins in the world concentrated in one spot.”
Team members also spent some time around the iceberg “graveyard” at Pleneau Bay. Diving on them was a scary experience, as they were unsure whether the ‘bergs were stable or not.
The expedition’s vessel, the 228 foot Finnish-built and Russian-registered Arctic exploration vessel, Professor Molchanov covered a total of 3,277 nautical miles over 19 days. Goran Ehlme of Waterproof Expeditions organized the expedition’s logistics.
During their return, the boat ran into a hurricane with 74 mph winds and 45 to 48 foot waves. This resulted in damage to the vessel, and to the teams diving equipment when the “pod” in which it was stored was holed. In fact, adverse weather further delayed docking by two days on the boats return to Ushuaia, Argentina. You can read more details of the trip, and the full interview in the Watertown Daily Times.