It's what exploring Antarctica is all about: a Zodiac excursion around the pristine shores one of the many spectacular islands in the region. Taking your seat, you nod to the skipper and pull away from the expedition vessel, headed for up close interactions with rare Antarctic land and marine wildlife.
The skies are blue and the day is calm. The color of the shore ice changes with the light as you move past. Cliff walls soar 100s of feet above your head as you travel into a canyon, the walls so close you could almost touch them… if they were real!
You've just experienced Antarctica in an immersive 360° video, the newest way for polar explorers to plan their expeditions!
Antarctica through Many Lenses
A film crew from Specialist Holidays Group, a Quark sister company, recently took part in a Crossing the Circle expedition. While on board, they filmed a series of spectacular 360° movies which will soon be available on the Quark Expeditions YouTube Channel.
Unlike a traditional camera with its single lens, the crew's camera rig had seven cameras set up to shoot a full 360°. Smartphone viewers can explore the Antarctic landscape front and back, icy tundra floor to stunning clear skies, in what is a truly immersive experience.
The first challenge facing the crew was the harsh environment; none of them had ever tested the equipment in a Polar Region.
“Our first true experience of the Antarctic chill was actually when we crossed the Circle,” says Hugo King-Fretts of Specialist Holidays. “But, actually just taking the cameras on a Zodiac, how do you film on a Zodiac? I mean, we had no prior experience. How would we position cameras around passengers and staff when we needed to film? All sorts of things had to be dealt with there on the spot.”
Filming in Antarctica
The first challenge was stretching the battery power of the GoPro cameras - they were being used to the absolute limit.
“It was quite cold and literally within 15 to 20 minutes, one of our camera rigs just packed up, you know, power gone. I was literally in disbelief, because I had read an awful lot about GoPros performance in cold weather, up in mountains, in the Alps, and things like that. But nowhere had I heard 20 minutes. Everything I read indicated we would have about an hour, an hour and a half of battery power.”
Their solution was to put a hat on the camera when they weren't shooting to keep the cameras warm.
“We heard a lot of humorous comments from passengers and crew,” King-Fretts says. “It looked like we were trooping around the deck with a mannequin head on a tripod.”
“Another big challenge we had was water,” King-Fretts remembers. “We were called for our Zodiac cruise and it was to Spurt Island. No one had mentioned Spurt Island to me before. I hadn't the foggiest idea of what it was about; that is one of the beautiful things that you get. It was totally unexpected.”
By the time the team embarked, inclement weather had set. It caused a momentary panic with the camera crew, when they realized they might miss out on some of the most stunning scenery they'd seen yet.
“It was almost as if you were in a cathedral. These huge, huge walls were coming up and you're in these small corridors where you would get surges of waves coming through. The geology, the scale of it, was just phenomenal.”
The day was saved by a bathroom flannel King-Fretts had tucked into his kit, to clear the lens of his still camera.
“I suddenly thought, wow, you know, we could use this on the water housings. We could actually film, and when the rain covered the housings too much we would just give them a wipe. Now, I have never done this before, but it worked.”
Antarctica Experience of a Lifetime
The new immersive 360° movies shot by King-Fretts and his crew will be available for online viewing in the very near future. He says the amazing footage they were able to capture on their Antarctic trip reflects what was a truly amazing experience.
“I cannot think of a day since that I have not thought about our expedition. I do not think there has been a holiday experience that has lived with me for so long. Umm… many friends have asked me what it is like, but it's difficult to describe the experience. You know, the language just isn't there.”
Fortunately, he has pictures that convey some of the experiences you'll have on an Antarctic cruise. To start planning your trip contact one of our experienced Polar Travel Advisers.