Antarctica is picture perfect notes Aussie photographer

"It’s like a giant sensory deprivation chamber."

That is how National Geographic photographer Jason Edwards sums up the white continent – a place he has been many times and where he expects to return at least two or three times in the next 18 months.

Edwards, who is also one of National Geographic’s most well-known and best-loved presenters and adventure hosts says his Antarctic trips have had a deep emotional impact.

National Geographic photographer Jason Edwards standing on a mountain summit overlooking the Ross Ice Shelf.
Credit: Jason Edwards, National Geographic

“There is nowhere else like it on Earth. When the wind stops the silence is like being in a vacuum. You can hear the ringing in your ears it’s so quiet,” he says.

Enormous icebergs grounded on the floor of the Ross Sea become trapped for the long winter when sea ice forms around them. Credit: Jason Edwards, National Geographic

“If there are no animals around or a pod of whales nearby, there is not even the trace of a smell - except for the scent of ice, which can be quite distinctive. However, at times the ice is odourless and in the absence of sound the world around you becomes sublimely still and quite surreal.

“It’s like a giant sensory deprivation chamber. But at the same time you are acutely aware of everything around you.”

Seals dwarfed by enormous chunks of ice along the fracture zone of a glacier in Antarctica, use the floating platforms to rest.Credit: Jason Edwards, National Geographic

It’s been a long journey for Edwards - from his first job after leaving high school as zookeeper at Royal Melbourne Zoo, to one of the world’s leading photographers. A 30-plus year odyssey of many millions of miles crisscrossing the globe to every continent including the large white one at the bottom of the planet.

For Edwards – whose credits include being two-time winner of the Eureka Prize for Science Photography, three-time winner of Communication Arts Photography Annual, two-time winner of the ProMax Golden Muse, and winner of the Australian Geographic Society's Pursuit of Excellence Award – visiting Scott’s Hut is one of the highlights of his Antarctic adventures. (Watch 'Go Inside World Famous Antarctica Hut')

Scotts Hut lies dormant on the barren Antarctic shoreline, a treasure trove history and a reminder of the tragic loss of life from that Expedition.Credit: Jason Edwards, National Geographic

“David Attenborough described Scott’s Hut as a ‘time warp without parallel’ and Edwards believes it is one of the world’s greatest museums.

There are thousands of artefacts, from scientific equipment, foodstuffs, preserved penguins, boots and sleds, even an exposure chart from an expedition photographer. If some of the guys walked in with their shaggy beards shaking snow off their boots you wouldn’t be particularly surprised,” he says.

Caption: The photographic journal of an Antarctic Expedition photographer discovered at Scotts Hut in Antarctica.
Credit: Jason Edwards, National Geographic

Caption: Scientific equipment used for Antarctic Expedition experiments in Scotts Hut.
Credit: Jason Edwards, National Geographic

There was also a makeshift darkroom, which took the explorer back to his own childhood.
“My dad and I used to kick my brothers out of bed and turn their bedroom into a darkroom to develop my photographs. Seeing the darkroom at Scott’s Hut dragged me straight back to my own childhood,” he says.

Caption: Expedition photographer Herbert Ponting’s darkroom in Scotts Hut replete with chemistry and tools for developing images.Credit: Jason Edwards, National Geographic

The challenges include flying for hours in a US Air Force uninsulated, noisy Hercules to land on sea ice and training for survival in a place where “man did not evolve to live”.

Caption: Scientists and maintenance crew take the long journey south to Antarctica in the belly of a USAF C31 Hercules.
Credit: Jason Edwards, National Geographic

“Fauna has evolved to fill every available niche, whales, birds, mammals, marine invertebrates. There are Weddell Seals that winter in Antarctica, the only species of mammal to spend the entire year on the ice. (Watch: 'Antarctica: Weddell Seals')

Caption: A Minke Whale surfaces through a hole in the sea ice, sending a blow into the chill air under a midnight sun.
Credit: Jason Edwards, National Geographic

“It’s magnificently and terrifyingly inhospitable, but it’s also a shooter’s paradise, with an active volcano smoking away above you as you work to capture nature in a way no other photographer has. I can’t wait to get back.”

Caption: Steam rises from the caldera of Mount Erebus the most southerly active volcano on Earth, perpetually blanketed in snow and ice. Credit: Jason Edwards, National Geographic

Caption: A Gentoo Penguin chick covered in downy feathers waits in a rookery for its parents to return from fishing at sea.
Credit: Jason Edwards, National Geographic

Follow Jason on Instagram and Facebook @jasonedwardsng 


Lead Image: National Geographic photographer Jason Edwards descending into a crevasse on the slopes of an active volcano. Credit: Jason Edwards, National Geographic


GO WITH NAT GEO: Nat Geo Expeditions offers several itineraries to Antarctica aboard luxury cruise ships, including 21-day “The Antarctic Odyssey", the most comprehensive of our cruises to this polar region.”

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