Over The Past Four Years, I’ve Had The Privilege To Work As An Expedition Paddling Guide Year-Round By Working On Board Expedition Cruise Ships In Polar Regions

Working with Quark Expeditions last winter on board the Ocean Endeavor, I spent three months sailing multiple times between the end of the earth—fin del mund—in Ushuaia, Argentina and the Antarctic Peninsula.

Once the group makes the two-day, 550-mile crossing of the notoriously rough Drake Passage, we spend our days sailing along the coast of the frozen continent nearby the penguin and seal colonies of the Gerlache Strait. When not sailing, we take excursions on land, where we walk amongst thousands of penguins, or on water, where we cruise with icebergs and marine life.

I Was Initially A Bit Skeptical Of Paddleboarding In Antarctica

It was introduced as a new activity last year, and I knew more than half the guests I took out would be trying SUP for the very first time. What I could never have predicted was how tranquil the experience could be. In comparison to kayaking, the paddleboard’s higher vantage point allows for a superb view of the marine life cruising just below.

In Addition To Seals And Whales, Penguins Are One Of The Animals We Encounter Most Often In Antarctica

They’re curious and often interact, darting underneath boards or porpoising alongside. They swim behind the paddleboards—the board’s disturbance in the water stirs up plankton which attracts krill which the penguins feed on.

Majestic is the only way to describe the underwater glide of these flightless birds. The chinstrap penguin, seen here, is a surprisingly speedy creature, able to swim 20 miles an hour. For comparison, American Olympian Michael Phelps can swim six miles an hour on a good day.

This Photo Was Captured During A Paddling Excursion At The Mouth Of Mikkelsen Harbor

I was working as a support guide in a Zodiac inflatable, acting as the paddleboarders’ personal paparazzi. While on the lookout for curious wildlife and monitoring shifting ice conditions from wind and tide, I had the opportunity to position myself for taking fun photos away from the hustle and bustle of the other passengers.

To Get Low For This Shot, I Hung Off The Side Tubes Of The Zodiac And Had The Lens Just Above The Water Level To Get A View Of Penguins Cruising Around The Paddleboarders

I took this with a Nikon D500. Having a 80-400mm zoom lens allowed me to capture the action while keeping out of the way. While no photo can truly do justice to Antarctica’s grandiosity and beauty, capturing this moment offers a glimpse.

Jimmy MacDonald is a canoe and kayak guide, as well as a swiftwater and ice rescue instructor. Find more of his photos at www.pawistik.ca.

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