The real spell of Antarctica

When I first saw the White Continent, I understood why Antarctica is unique. It is absolute purity ! So far, I have done three expeditions there, two in the French base of Dumont d’Urville and one in McMurdo.

But when I went there in 2009, McMurdo was not the final destination. I was working on the Frozen Planet series and 5 of us have been dropped off by a Twin Otter on the pack ice at Cape Washington which is located at about 400 kms North of the US Polar Station.

The trip is phenomenal with the sea ice under us and the Erebus vulcano at the back.

In the C17

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En route to Cape Washington. The Erebus.

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“I was working on the Frozen Planet series for the BBC and we have been dropped off by a Twin Otter on the pack ice at Cape Washington, 400 kms north of the US Polar Station…”

But before going there, you need to follow a course to live in the field. You learn to deal with the cold and if there is one word to resume it, it will be « survival ».

You quickly realize that boiling water becomes a hard job ! And cooking pasta the Italian way, is even more difficult…  « Al dente » doesn’t belong to the local vocabulary… The pasta always come in a solid block…

In the deep field.

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The most southern pasta!

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“You quickly realize that boiling water becomes a hard job ! « Al dente » doesn’t belong to the local vocabulary…”

We landed a few days later on the sea ice, not far from the emperor colony, the second largest in Antarctica. Our camp was made of a few tents, one dedicated to the cameras and computers Picture Office work. One tent was used as the kitchen. The charm of the camp, was the constant presence of 50 to 60 Emperors around us.

The penguin colony and Didier Noirot.

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Office work.

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Penguins at the camp.

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The compressor, probably the most important piece of equipement for this trip, stayed always outside and never failed.

The penguins didn’t have to walk to far this year to reach the sea. Probably 4 or 5 kms to find openings on the ice. We found a nice one with quite a lot of birds around and this is where we filmed most of our time.

The team at work.

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The Long March.

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Underwater, the spectacle is just astonishing. The penguins swimming all together in ice and bubbles reveals a unique portrait of this world.

Total confusion.

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Last breath of air.

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On the way down.

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Then they all disappear in the deep blue of the ocean for a few minutes. They reach 300 ft or more to feed on krill. Then comes the time to wait. I lie on the ice and keep looking down until I can see the first penguins reappearing in the sun rays.

On the way back.

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Back to the surface.

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But at night especially, the magic happens…

My right ear was lesterning to the penguins singing not even a meter from me and my left ear could hear the vocalizations of the Weddell seals through the sea ice, a few hundreds meters below my sleeping bag…

“And all this is the real spell of Antarctica !”