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2020 Emperor Penguins of Antarctica

Key Information

Date: Tuesday, November 10, 2020
Duration: 9
Cost: $48,250 (£34,220, €39,228) Punta Arenas/Punta Arenas
Places: 6

This booking will be made through a third party website and will open a new tab when you press Book Now


Mark Beaman has long wanted to take a Wild Images group to experience the wonders of the colony of Emperor Penguins at Gould Bay on Antarctica’s Weddell Sea.

In November 2020, Mark Beaman and Inger Vandyke are going to be visiting the Emperor Penguins. Why not join him? You won’t have to pay a penny more than the standard expedition price just because we are part of the group, so the tuition/photographic help will all be free. Mark and Inger are going to the Emperors regardless of numbers, so we will be looking after our group even if it consists of only 1-2 people!

Yes, it is astoundingly expensive, but you get an amazing adventure in return for a small fortune (actually a pretty large one).

We fly from Punta Arenas in southernmost Chile to the Union Glacier airstrip deep in the heart of the Antarctic Peninsula and spend two nights there, so there is time to explore the awesome landforms in the surrounding area. An onward flight by smaller aircraft takes us to another ice strip at Gould Bay, where we spend four nights close to a large colony of Emperor Penguins!

You can visit the Emperor Penguins at all times of day (there is no true night), ensuring lots of low light photography, images in snow or whatever. Of course, all those adorable Emperor Penguin chicks will be there, playing around, huddled together or interacting with each other and the adults. Emperor Penguins and their young are widely lauded as one of the world’s top wildlife spectacles, but very, very few wildlife photographers ever get the chance to see this wonder of nature.

It is going to be awesome!

After a wonderful stay with the Emperor Penguins we head back to Union Glacier for two nights and then take a return flight to Punta Arenas.

As this is Antarctica we are taking about, there needs to be some flexibility, so you need to arrive in Punta Arenas ahead of the scheduled departure day and have no plans to leave soon after the return flight, in case of weather issues.

There will be the opportunity to take one of our upcoming Wild Images Puma photography tours in southern Chile prior to the Antarctic expedition, should you wish to extend your stay.

Come and join me for this marvellous adventure!

(Please note that there are only 10 spaces available on these Emperor Penguin expeditions and demand is so great for this unique experience that there will be no chance of getting a place after spring 2019 at the very latest! Very early booking is strongly recommended.)

ACCOMMODATION

Union Glacier Camp is the only facility of its kind in Antarctica. This full-service private camp operates during the Antarctic summer (November through January) and is dismantled at the end of each season. The camp not only provides accommodations to guests on guided expeditions, but also serves as a logistics hub, supporting private expeditions etc. The camp is located in the spectacular and remote southern Ellsworth Mountains, on the broad expanse of Union Glacier. It is only accessible by air and all of the guests take their first steps in Antarctica here, on a naturally occurring blue-ice runway. The camp is 3,010 kilometres (1,870 miles) from the southern tip of Chile and a short flight from Mount Vinson, the highest peak in Antarctica. The South Pole is just over 1000 km (600 miles) away.

The camp can house up to 70 guests in dual occupancy Clam Tents. These double-walled sleeping tents are designed to withstand Antarctic conditions with a high-tech nylon covering and durable aluminium frame that opens up like a clam shell. They are also incredibly comfortable to live in with large doors and a tall interior that allows you to stand upright and move around easily (5m x 2.4m or 16ft x 8ft). Tents are naturally heated by the 24-hour sunlight up to 15°-21°C (60°-70°F) but also have a wooden floor underneath to provide insulation from the snow and solid footing. Each guest is provided with a cot, mattress, pillow, linens, towels, and wash basin.

The dining tent is the heart of the camp and serves as a gathering place for all guests. You will have the opportunity to meet people from all over the world embarking on everything from the Emperor Penguins colony expedition to a Mount Vinson summit attempt or a South Pole ski expedition. You will get to mingle with the staff, who speak 15 different languages, and may have the chance to talk to scientists working on a variety of research projects.

The talented chefs utilize a fully equipped kitchen to create fresh-cooked meals, baked goods and fantastic desserts. You will be surprised at the range of fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, and cheese we are able to fly in regularly from Chile. We offer a variety of hot beverages, soft drinks, juices, and water. Chilean beer and wine are served in limited quantities with dinner.

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served at set times. In between meals, self-serve snacks and beverages are always available. All meals are served buffet style and vegetarian options are available upon request. If you have made special dietary requests, please introduce yourself to the kitchen staff when you arrive in camp. Due to the remote location of the camp and distance from advanced medical care, the camp is unable to cater to those with severe food allergies.

While at Union Glacier Camp, you will have access to communal showers and toilet facilities. In keeping with the organizers’ mission to set the highest possible environmental standards, we must try to minimize the amount of residue (grey) water we generate as well as the fuel we use to melt snow in Antarctica. Disinfectant hand gel is provided in the dining tent and in all toilets and guests are asked to limit shower use to every 2-3 days to conserve water. Towels are provided in your tent and body wash is available in all shower stalls, but you should bring any other toiletries with you. We also provide wash basins if you do not want to take a full shower. Many guests bring pre-moistened towelettes such as Wet Wipes to use in between showers. There is no laundry service.

All human waste is removed from Union Glacier Camp, which requires keeping urine separate from faeces for ease of transport. For men, a stand-up urinal is provided in addition to a sit down toilet for faeces and toilet paper. For women, two sit-down toilets are provided, one for urine and one for faeces and toilet paper. During the night, some guests prefer to use a ‘pee bottle’ in their tent. Our staff will show you the container where you empty your pee bottle behind the toilet facility. Keep in mind there are no toilets accessible during excursions outside of camp and you may want to bring your pee bottle with you in case you need it!

Limited charging facilities are available in the Dining Tent. Two types of outlets are available: USB and 120V A/C (North American Type A or B plugs).

Our Gould Bay Camp is located in the southern Weddell Sea. The camp is on frozen sea ice, just in front of the Ronne Ice Shelf, roughly 420 miles (676 km) from the main base at Union Glacier, making it one of the most remote camps in the world and the only Antarctic tourist camp on sea ice!

The Gould Bay Camp provides a simple, yet comfortable ‘nest’ from which to explore the nearby colony of Emperor Penguins. Gould Bay Camp is run each year just for the Emperor Penguin viewing and photography season. The site is very carefully chosen to avoid disturbing the penguins in any way. Tents are set up at least 1.6 kilometres (1 mile) away from the colony and, where possible, screened from the penguins’ view by an iceberg or other natural feature. A flagged route marks the path between the colony and our camp. At the end of the viewing season, the camp is taken down and everything, including human waste, removed.

Gould Bay guests have the option of staying in either single occupancy 4-season mountain tents or dual occupancy tents like those used by ski expedition teams. The sleeping tents are low to the ground and unheated, but you will stay nice and warm with your insulated sleeping mat and polar-rated sleeping bag.

Meals are prepared by one of our highly skilled chefs and can include breakfasts of pancakes, bacon, and oatmeal, lunches of warm soups and cold meats and cheeses, afternoon snacks, and fantastic evening meals. Beverages include hot drinks, juice, beer, and wine. Meal times are flexible so you can photograph and explore when the lighting and mood are just right.

The skilful camp staff construct field toilets which are surprisingly comfortable and private. They are cleaned regularly and hand sanitizer is provided in each. All waste is returned to Union Glacier Camp for proper disposal. When at the colony, you will need to use pee bottles and toilet bags to collect your waste as nothing can be left behind.

There are no showers at Gould Bay Camp. I recommend bringing Wet Wipes or one of the staff can show you how to take a ‘Snow Shower’, if you are feeling brave. Limited charging facilities are available in the main tent.

WALKING

The walking effort required during our Emperor Penguins of Antarctica wildlife photography tour is moderate. You must be able to walk 1.6-3 kms (or 1-2 miles) over level ground between the camp and the colony.

CLIMATE

The interior of Antarctica has a cold, dry, windy climate. Average temperatures at Union Glacier base camp range from -12C to -4C (10F to 25F), but it can get a lot colder in bad weather. On a sunny windless day it can feel quite warm but, when the wind blows, you will be glad of warm layers and a wind jacket. Weather at the Emperor Penguin rookery is highly variable and influenced by coastal systems. Temperatures range from near 0C (32F) to below -30 (-22F), with both sunny and overcast skies and even the possibility of heavy snowstorms.

PHOTOGRAPHIC EQUIPMENT

If you are using a full-frame DSLR or mirror-less equivalent for wildlife photography you will need prime telephotos, with or without converters, that cover the range 200-500mm.(If your budget does not run to prime lenses, a high quality 100-400mm or similar zoom, with or without a 1.4 converter, can be a great alternative.)

Alternatively, you can get wonderful photography results with a high quality digital bridge camera with an 18-20x or higher optical zoom. If you have questions about what equipment you ought to bring, please contact me.

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