Field Notes

Wild Ice

Technical Details: Film Provia; Nikon 70-200mm VR F2.8 Nikon F80 1/60
Location: Elephant Island, The Southern Ocean 61:06S 54:52W













Our vessel, MV Molchonov, had slipped her moorings and under the cover of darkness rounded Cape Horn entering the southern ocean. Now forty eight hours later we were enveloped by the grey moribund fog of the Antarctic convergence, the huge swells of the southern ocean a rapidly receding memory. Suddenly and without notice, Elephant Island with its forbidding vertical cliffs was literally towering above us and word was passed for an immediate Zodiac departure and landing at Point Wild. Dressed like Michelin men to combat the cold we patiently waited on the starboard side for our Zodiac ride. The scout boat returned reporting that the landing was abandoned, for the huge swell with a bay full of growlers and brash ice (boulders of ice) made for perilously dangerous conditions. Instead, Zodiac cruises at close quarters with the island were the new orders. I stepped out of line and ran to my cabin to switch photographic gear for a set up more in tune for a wet and wild zodiac ride. When I returned my team had already left. Rather than jump the line I realized that there would be time at the back of the line so I returned to the bow and was immediately rewarded with the sight of an immense blue berg covered in chin strap penguins on the port side. Just as I got my camera primed the blue berg became unstable and swamped by the inexorable swell it started to capsize. I got just one sharp shot as the berg flipped and cast its crew of scrambling chinstraps into the churning ocean.