Ben Osborne’s Antarctica Report

The sense of anticipation was palpable. A hundred passengers on board and it was their first ever landing in Antarctica. The biting wind and drifts of sleet and snow the previous night had changed the atmosphere on board from “cruise” to “expedition”. Having spent over three years in the Antarctic, working for the British Antarctic Survey, National Geographic and the BBC, I was slightly bemused to find myself on one of the many small expedition ships that visit Antarctica in the summer months. However, the invitation to join the “Sea Explorer” as voyage photographer for Polar Latitudes was one that I was grateful to receive and one that, after a 21 year absence, finally got me back “South”. And, to be honest, the excitement felt by the passengers was definitely catching. BenOsborne-Antartica_03As a member of staff, I had to wear one of the ship’s bulky, uncomfortable, but readily-identifiable “float-coats” for the short boat trip ashore. However, once we landed I soon jettisoned this cumbersome item. Thinking ahead, I was already wearing a set of Páramo cold weather clothing below the “float-coat”. Crucially, a pair of Aspira Salopettes provided waterproof protection and warmth from my midriff to my ankles. Wearing salopettes instead of trousers minimises the risk of cold gaps between upper and lower body. The Aspiras are phenomenally robust and coped perfectly with a lot of scrambling around rocky terrain on my hands and knees to achieve low camera angles while photographing penguins. And a quick wash in Nikwax Tech Wash when I returned home removed all traces of the ubiquitous penguin poop. An Aspira Jacket completed the outer layer. The smock design is hugely comfortable with great articulation, it is extremely tough, it has excellent ventilation control, it has an amazingly useful chest pocket and the hood is brilliant. With a really functional top layer I didn’t need more than a grid base layer to maintain a comfortable temperature while walking with my fstop camera bag. However, I always kept a set of Torres Sleeves and a Torres Gilet in the camera bag. These additional insulation layers are light and they pack very small. The Gilet is excellent at maintaining core temperature when your activity levels drop and the Sleeves are equally good for keeping extremities warm. Great kit for photographers! My only mistake was to enthuse about the “sleeves” to one of the zodiac drivers who suffered from cold hands during long spells driving inflatables in cold, wet conditions. Looks like I’m not going to see that pair again!

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