A few weeks at home have come and gone fast enough to make my head spin and at crack of 4am tomorrow morning I am going to make my way back to Melbourne airport for the flight to Sydney and then long haul onto Santiago and then down to Punta Arenas at the bottom of Chile. From there I will have a few days to relax while my group waits for a weather window to fly down to Union Glacier deep in Antarctica where we will be based while we wait for a second weather window to take a twin-otter out to the sea ice at Gould Bay. Once there we will be camping on the sea ice with the Emperor Penguins for the duration of our expedition.
As I have written before, there are many species of wildlife that are harder to find than Emperor Penguins, but I know of none other that is as hard to get to or requires so many flights (perhaps only the White Wolves of Ellesmere Island). From my home base in Australia it will be five flights before I arrive on location on the sea ice. It has been four years since I was last camping with the Emperor Penguins and I am extremely excited to be heading back to photograph these miraculous birds with a small group of passionate photographers. See you in Antarctica!
Edit – If you wanted to know what equipment I have packed for this expedition be sure to check out Podcast #53 Packing for Antarctica and the Emperor Penguins. This podcast also includes a fairly significant rant on the recent requirement for Australian citizens (as of 2020) to have a special Visa to enter Chile. In brief, you now require an official authorized letter of introduction that states your purpose and reason for travel, your travel itinerary, your accomodation booking, three months bank statements (minimum) or a recent tax return (to show you can support yourself), and a full national Australian police check! You then make an online submission for the Visa. The entire process is going to cost you over $200 ($188 for the Visa and approx. $40 for the police check). The process takes not less than ten business days and is inordinately painful. Unfortunately, the entire requirement for this Visa appears to be little more than tit for tat; since the Australian government requires an equal level of documentation and bureaucratic red tape for Chileans to visit Australia. Travel in 2022 is a lot harder than it was pre-pandemic….