Coke Smith Photography & Travelogue

Expedition to Antarctica!

Spectacular Lemaire Channel (I have never been past this point yet)


Way back in 1991, before I had been to many eco-destinations at all, one of Lien's teacher colleagues passed out a bunch of flyers advertising a trip to Antarctica for about $2500, including air from LA!  I could not believe it!  I had to go!  I immediately began begging Lien to go and experience the world's southern most continent.  Needless to say, she would have no part of it. There was no way I was going to get this tropical girl to such a frigid destination.  But she gave me the all-clear to head down myself.  The next thing I knew, I was on a plane heading to Argentina to catch my boat for a 19-day expedition to Antarctica!  This is a place I never dreamt I would visit.  And now, I have been there several times! Initially as a tourist and then as a naturalist-escort for La Selva Expeditions with a group in 1997.

Most of the programs I participated in involved stops at the normal places, such as the Lemaire Channel, Anvers Island, Arctowski Polish Research Station, Danco Island, Deception Island, Neko Harbor, Port Lockroy, and many more locations.  I have to admit, I have forgotten the names of many of our stops. 

When people ask me (and they invariably do) why anyone would want to travel to Antarctica, I have to chuckle.  If they have no interest in spectacular scenery, true wilderness, plentiful wildlife, adventure travel, or extreme conditions, they would not understand my reply.  To me Antarctica is all of those things and much, much more. 


Visit our Antarctic Image Gallery

Be sure to visit our other Photo Galleries for more spectacular images of our travels! (Pbase Galleries)


Here are a few of the images I have taken on this amazing continent and its surrounding islands (Antarctica is sadly another destination in my past where serious photography was not a to get back yet again...):




Me!  Hanging with the Gentoo Penguins on Danko Island.  What a blast!



"Una's Tits!"  These famous mountains are covered in clouds this morning while making our way to the Lemaire Channel.



We passed numerous continental ice shelves during our journeys in Antarctica.



The seas around the Antarctic Peninsula are an endless parade of fast moving icebergs, some as big as 10+ kilometers!




I caught this Weddell Seal scratching himself on Anvers Island during one of our landings there.  He sure looked satisfied in the below image after the good scratch!




Sadly , the only decent images I took of Crabeater Seals were in a roll of film that fell in to the Antarctic Sea!!!



A young Southern Elephant Seal warming in the sun on Danvers Island.



A couple young bull Southern Elephant Seals sparring near the Arctowski Polish Research Center.  I was amazed that these massive beasts and their friends below were subadults!  One of these days I must get here in late January and February to see the "big boys"!



This pin-up girl was in one of the provisions huts we explored on an unplanned stop during my first expedition to Antarctica.  Not touched since it was pinned on the wall in 1958, this poster was in a room filled will tins and crackers from the same year.  The crackers were as fresh as the day they were bought, nearly 40 years earlier!


This zodiac nearly flipped costing me and Nat Geo Photographer Gerry Ellis dearly!  We were quickly getting all the zodiacs on board so we could slip in to Deception Island caldera to weather a serious cyclone coming our way.  This took two full days!




The Gentoo Penguin Rookery at Danko Island.  Here and elsewhere, I loved to hang with the Gentoos.  I enjoyed watching them build their rock nests by stealing rocks from their neighbors' nests.  This sometimes got ugly!



One of the highpoints of my first trip there was watching this Gentoo chick break out of its shell, with gentle help from its mother.  I sat next to this emerging chick for the better part of two hours (the crew finally had to come searching for me...they were a bit irritated).  I finally left after witnessing and documenting this amazing critter get its FIRST meal ever.


This Gentoo is singing his lovely opera!




On one of my landings, I was sitting among the Gentoo Penguins.  After they became habituated to my presence, I started to "steal" rocks from the nests of my neighbors.  Just a couple for laughs...  They pecked at me and snorted like they did to their penguin kin.  They probably thought I was just a big, dorky, ugly version of them...  And the look on the face of this one (the image to the right) was hilarious as he just didn't quite know what to do when I simply handed him a rock and put right in his beak. He gave me a look of utter astonishment.



Antarctic Skua were common and suprisingly huge!



These penguins bolted right past our zodiac and lept up on to this iceberg.  We weren't sure why until we saw the Leopard Seal streaming in after them.  The one in mid air in the image was not heading up, to safety; he we falling back IN to the jaws of the waiting Leopard Seal!  During another incident, we watched a Leopard Seal violently shake a Chinstrap Penguin's still-alive body out of its skin and plumage before devouring it whole!  What a sight.



These two Chinstrap Penguins appear to be giving the passing Gentoos the cold shoulder and a dirty look respectively!  "Damn Gentoo Scum..."



A proud and plump Chinstrap Penguin near Arctowski.



A snapped this image of these climbing Adelie Penguins seconds before the lead penguin tumbled backward taking them all out!  These buggers were a laugh to watch.



This Adelie was trying to fly, I know it!



I enjoyed watching these Imperial Shag (Phalacrocorax atriceps) parents feed their three chicks while on Jougla Point near Port Lockroy.



The Imperial Shag is also known as the Blue-eyed Shag.  Based on this image, the latter seems like the better name.  This one approached me directly at Jougla Point.



While crossing the Drake's Passage, we encountered numerous Albatross species, including many Wandering Albatross like this one seen near the Antarctic Convergence.  This was one damn big bird!



Me posing next to some whale remains in Arctowski Research station, which was once a whaling base.

Be sure to visit our other Photo Galleries for more spectacular images of our travels! (Pbase Galleries)