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All Aboard! (ANTARCTIC CIRCLE QUEST - Feb '11)

Wed, 09/22/2010 - 22:28


Just thought I'd start a thread off to (hopefully) say "Hi!" to those travelling on the Akademik Ioffe for the Photographic Special. This is our first, and probably last, crazy trip and we're already counting down the days :)

We're also hoping to make it to London on 28th October for the Exodus presentation by Paul, so we can get a better idea of what to expect.

Chris & Jane

My latest posts

Mon, 10/11/2010 - 15:21

Hi Chris and Jane
I'm on this trip and will be at the Polar presentation too! I can't wait either.


Tue, 10/26/2010 - 11:49

Hi everyone, I'm on this trip as well, although can't make the Polar presentation. I can't wait either, but I'm going to Lapland with Exodus over New that one will be REALLY cold!! Denise

Tue, 11/09/2010 - 21:41

 We're on the trip too - had an exciting day on Saturday buying clothes for the trip.  Brought it home that it is real!   We didn't go to the presentation on 28 October - was it good?  Looking forward to meeting everyone, Mokey and Roger.

Fri, 11/12/2010 - 12:33

We managed to make the presentation in London and it was fantastic! 1hr was on the Antarctic and the other 1hr on the Arcitc - definately got us excited.

I also managed to have a quick chat with Paul about camera equipment - lenses in particular. Apparently 100-400mm is worth having, and they can be hired from a number of places such as;

I'm also be planning on taking a 10-20mm UWA lens which I hope to pick up in the US in January, failing that will probably hire this too. Now we just need to start buying clothes.... :)

Mon, 11/22/2010 - 13:40

Well I am going to the 6th December 2010 presentation with a friend after the 2 November one got cancelled due to the tube strike. This will be my third polar trip - one to each the north and south, but both those were on the Akademik Sergey Vavilov so it will be interesting to travel on the sister ship the Akademik Ioffe. It's going to be interesting how having the bar on deck 3 rather than deck 6 works! Or having a gin palace on the deck 6. 

It will also be great as I'm now shooting with a Canon 7D with a Sigma 150-500mm OS lens rather than my 350D with Canon 70-300mm IS.

As far as clothes go you don't need anything fancy, just layers, both top and bottom. SealSkinz waterproof socks and gloves are great and worked for me. Oh and buy some silk gloves. They are great as a liner or make a fantastic difference just by themselves. I've just treated myself to a new pair as the last ones have finally given up the ghost after two years.

One other tip for those of you who like a tipple in your cabin. It's far cheaper to buy your gin etc in the supermarkets in Ushuaia than buy and lug it from Heathrow. 


Thu, 12/30/2010 - 15:05

Hi Wanderlustg
Thanks for the info on clothes and tipples :) A few other questions if you don't mind, as it appears you've a fair bit of experience...

Clothes - I preusme there are laundry facilities on the Akademik Ioffe, meaning we don't have to come with 2 weeks worth of warm clothing?
Walking - Do you recommend bringing walking poles?
Camera - Any tips... Polar filter, Petal hood, etc?

In the meantime I'm off to make the most of the Rohan sale;

Thanks again!

Mon, 01/03/2011 - 18:30

Yes there is a paid laundry service if you want it. I'm surprised we haven't had the usual Quark booklet yet. Personally for the two other polar trips I've been on I wash my thermals / underwear as I go along in the shower. Three pairs of thermals: wear one, dry one, one packed away. Also the same with the base layers. 

Head to the fieldandtrek online sale. I've just treated myself to another pair of lined trousers (my others are craghoppers, but so far I am prefering these karrimor ones

Also  Campri Thermals are on sale

I personally wouldn't take walking poles. I have some and yes I used them for two weeks in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, and yes use them for Kina Balu in Borneo, but no for this trip. For the Spitsbergen trips I could see them being of more use. If one doubles up as a monopod then it would be useful!

I  always use a full lens hood on my zoom lenses. Apart from stopping me bash the uv filter on the end it cuts down on the amount of snow, sleet and rain if there is any.

Yes, a polarizing filter is always useful, which reminds me to find where I put mine, it wasn't in my bag last time I used it!

Wed, 01/05/2011 - 17:53

Hi Wanderlustg

I can't believe how organised people are. That is great :) This is also my 3rd Polar trip and I will likely be in a last minute hurry as I tend to always be, that is get ready one week prior to departure re-alising the Photographic gear lacks in practically everything... Regardless the experience is always breathtaking. Chris, you will LOVE it. With or without layers, with or without photographic gear. There is so much for the eye and ear, Wanderlust and I met on the Antarctica "Island Hopping" version (hope Paul is not reading this!!) but ANY trip is superb out there. No matter how little or how much you see. It is going to be a great trip. Because the Blue Planet is truly amazing at its extreme axes... (getting too lyrical)


That's a must! It can be quite rough crossing (as it was on the way out in Nov08) and as flat as a pancake (as on our way back). But preventing being rough is paramount. I started the last Antarctica trip worn out, highly stressed with no anti sea sickness gear as not prone to this being a regular sailor but I was NOT great on the way out. I enjoyed the 'rodeo' viewing deck experience once but then it was bed time for me! Wanderlust was as merry as a King Penguin though shooting away with his lenses like a paparazzi! So plenty of sleep prior to the trip itself and the crossing will be enjoyable - no matter how rough the seas.

Wed, 01/05/2011 - 18:58

I will freely admit that I missed one afternoon's presentations while sailing the Drake's passage on the way out. It came on over lunch and I could tell by the way I started to push my food around the plate rather than eat it that it was getting to me. I then took the drugs and spent the afternoon horizontal on my bunk and was fine by dinner. I had the tablets last time as they were non-prescription but quite a few people had the prescription patches. You can now get the prescription patches online at

You do an online consultation/questionnaire and then if everything checks out you get mailed the drugs. The website is legitimate. After checking them out, down to the GMC registration of the doctor, who'd actually typoed his GMC number on the website, I used them for my source of mefloquine (Larium) for my trip to Namibia a couple of months ago. They were fast, efficient, good value and thanked me for pointing out their typo! Of course if you have the type of relationship with your GP where by they do not charge you a private prescription charge for this non NHS consultation then that can work out cheaper. I've become somewhat of an expert on what travel vaccinations etc you can get on the NHS and what is not covered. But as I said it always comes down to your GP in the end, and whether they pay attention to the NHS guidelines handed out by PCTs. I suppose it will all change again when the PCTs are scrapped and the GPs start commissioning everything themselves. (no I am not a doctor!)

Thu, 01/20/2011 - 12:19

Hi wanderlustg, you seem to be the font of all knowledge!!  Just wondered if you thought if it was a good idea to take a tripod, and if so, what kind would be best??

Didn't manage to take many pics on my Lapland trip...due to it being an activity holiday, and I spent a good part of the time climbing out of the snowdrifts where my friend decided to throw me out of the dog sled/snow mobile etc!! Was great fun though!! I'm sure it will be warmer than the -34 that we experienced on several ocassions.  I'm really looking forward to meeting everyone.  I think these forum's are great :)

Sun, 01/23/2011 - 17:36

Hi Denise,

I think Tripods are a personal choice. When I took a tripod two years ago I ended up only using it for the camcorder, and the same on a few other trips. Now I have the Canon 7D I leave the camcorder behind as I can video on that but I'm still haven't made up my mind whether to take mine. I think it depends on you as a photographer. I am quite happy hand holding my camera and lens which can be 2 to 3kg and relying on the image stabilization, a fast shutter and my ability to hold it (relatively) still. I also like the ability to move quickly so the tripod slows me down a bit. I've toyed with a monopod but whilst I don't feel I need one I will probably still hand hold for photography. If you take a lot of landscapes then you might feel otherwise. A lot of people do take tripds and use them up on deck and even carry them on land, but it does make getting on and off the zodiacs more fun. I will be carrying my Lowepro Vertex 200AW camera backpack as it is and I don't really feel I want a tripod strapped on to the back of that as well. Backpacks are not worn on your back in the zodiacs for obvious safety reasons.

If anyone was thinking of buying Kwells for travel sickness here is the lowest cost online I've found


Fri, 02/04/2011 - 15:19

Hi there,

Another antarctic "newbie" here (tho been "up north" a few times!) and very much looking forward to this trip! Does anyone have any tips on the gloves/photography front? I read wanderlustg's comments about silk liners and SealSkinz waterproof gloves - is it warm enough to wear one over the other and take off the waterproof ones when trying to manipulate the camera? Or have you developed a cunning way of taking photographs without the hands getting cold?! Helpful (or not?) man in the camping shop suggested I go for the fingerless glove things that turn cleverly into mittens, but I wasn't sure if they would be a recipe for disaster when getting into and out of zodiacs....and not even remotely waterproof, I suspect.

Any suggestions welcome!


Sat, 02/05/2011 - 09:32

The silk liners and SealSkinz waterproof gloves worked fine for me both in Spitsbergen and South Georgia / Antarctica. Yes I found it warm enough to take off my right SealSkinz glove most the time. I didn't need to take off the left when it was cold or I sometimes it was warm enough not to wear the SealSkinz at all, and I do tend to get cold extremities. It was more when it got windy and wet that I left them all on, don't worry, not that often! I learnt I could take photos with them on, I just couldn't change the settings as quickly. I personally would have waterproof gloves as you will get wet in the zodiacs, travelling in them the sea and wind will naturally spray and splash. If it's a bit choppy you will tend to hold onto the rope around the edge of the zodiacs and your hands will get wet. Some people had fingerless glove things that turn into mittens. It's horses for courses. I don't like wet gloves and have cold hands!

Sat, 02/05/2011 - 09:48

Note the position of the rope if you do need to hold on, if it gets a little bit choppy, do you think your hands will get splashed?

Thu, 02/10/2011 - 20:43

Thank you for that. Hadn't thought about needing to hold on in the zodiacs during choppy moments - will definitely go down the waterproof glove avenue! Went rafting on a tidal bore last year and ended up taking the (very un-waterproof) gloves off as my hands were warmer without them!! (mind you, we were very well soaked by the time we got back so not much feeling in any part of the anatomy, quite frankly!)

Tue, 02/15/2011 - 20:05

Hi Everyone

I have done 2 Arctic trips and one Antarctic trip on the Vavilov - a wonderful ship, pity we are on the sister ship. You need waterproof gloves. I use a pair of thin cashmere/silk gloves and on top a pair of waterproof ones. The type you buy in the outdoor/climbing shops. It is worth taking the small heat packs, (buy in a ski shop) which if you open to the air become warm. Take some cling film to put around them to exclude the air when you do not need to use them. It means they last longer. Your feet can get cold wearing wellingtons so have several pairs of socks. I use a woolen pair and 'wellie warmers' which are like large fleece socks. The type you may want to hang up for Santa Claus. The Antarctic is a magical place with lots of photo opportunities, counting the days.

Wed, 02/16/2011 - 14:02

Hi Everyone,


Not long to go now!! 

I've just been onto Exodus, regarding the length of time we have between our flights at Madrid before flying to Buenos Aries (about 8 and half hours). I was told that we are able to go out of the airport.  There is a train which takes about 45mins to the city centre.  Would any of you care to share email addresses etc, so we could perhaps meet at the airport, or on the plane, and have a wander around Madrid!?  Not sure I want to do it on my own, and certainly don't fancy spending that length of time wandering around Madrid airport.

Thank you, sparkliiing, for the tip about the hand warmers; I didn't know whether to take any - now I know!!

I'm going to Paul Goldstein's presentation evening next Tuesday in London.  I know it's a bit close, but I wasn't able to get to the ones last year.

See you soon. 


Thu, 02/17/2011 - 13:52

Moira. Do you realise that you have been on both my Arctic and Antarctic trips?!

@ Denise. What flights have Exodus put you on?! I booked my own with AEROLINEAS ARGENTINAS via Opodo as they were £300 less and Exodus had no availability left (?) I have 1.5 hours at Madrid before the AR 1133 20:05 flight to Buenos Aries.

Talking of flights etc, does anyone what to share a taxi across town with Fabienne and me in BA to get from the international to the domestic airport? This company does buses and mini cabs between airports in Buenos Aries

50 pesos (£8) each for the bus or 190 peso (£30) for a mini cab. I know where to find them at the airport.


Thu, 02/17/2011 - 17:19



Air Europa arrive Madrid 13:25.  I also have AR1133, but given a departure time of 22:05.....hmmmmm, think we'd better check on that one!! I booked this trip in Oct 2009, so managed to get a flight through Exodus....hearing the saving you made, I wish I'd organised flights myself now  If we're on the same flight, I'd be happy to share a taxi, although only have US$, if thats any good.

Sat, 02/19/2011 - 18:23

Sorry, my poor typing. That leg of the flight is

FRI 25FEB      MADRID ES           BUENOS AIRES BA        2205     0630

Intersting that the London to Madrid leg is with the same airline. Mine is 

FRI 25FEB      LONDON GB           MADRID ES              1705     2030 

I booked Mid Oct 2010. I'm not surprised the Exodus flights are more, as since I guess they are part of your package they are covered for delays and thus you are paying for some sort of insurance?Exodus got hammered 14 months ago when the Kapitan Khlebnikov was frozen in the Weddell sea for six days and everyone missed their flights home via BA. As you can imagine the bill for that was quite high. As this is not the Snow Hill trip, we're not going to get frozen into the Weddell sea! So even though Exodus organised your flights, they didn't organise a transfer in BA? That was all included two years ago, along with the flights. As I said there seemed to be a change in company policy after the KK freeze-in incident.

Must get back to my packing! 

Sat, 02/19/2011 - 18:29

Nearly forgot. My Argentianian source says dollars should not be an issue for the taxi/bus. He said that even if they don't take $ the money exchange is close by. Two years ago I just stuck my debit card in an ATM and got pesos at the airport ... back in the days when Nationwide Building Soc didn't charge any FX, or foreign ATM fees. Ah those were the days ... I spent six months going round Russia, China and South Africa with my trusty Natiowide debit card five years ago.

Sat, 02/19/2011 - 18:56

Fabienne, here. I am travelling with Graham. To all the newcomers to the Antarctic you will enjoy the experience undoubtfully... Have not started packing yet, arrgghhhh.

See you all in person in a week's time! How exciting!!!!!!!!

Sat, 02/19/2011 - 19:06

Chris, try to pack light. Graham (Wanderlustg) has given the right tips. 3 layers of tops (t-shirt, thermal+winter jumper), same bottom (2 thermals, one thin, one thicker + 1 anti-wind/water protection), No matter which cabin you get it is easy to wash on your own, and easy to dry during the day as the ships are well ventilated. I did Spitzbergen and Antarctica and ended having way too much clothing packed - even though went with the 3 x 2 rules. Bring casual easy to wear 2 sets of clothes for life aboard and one hice shirt for the last evening on the ship (nothing fancy though). We are given overalls before getting on the zodiac so it is another set of layers to protect. Also we have the top jacket given as well. Make sure you get thick wollen hats and scarves, sunglasses and sunscream (the latter is indispensable as sun is harsh down there even though it might be covered).

Come to the worse, we can always help each other if someone misses sthg...

The crew is good (based on Graham's as well as my experience) per our experience on the Russian vessels and with the Naturalists/Scientists. It is going to be good. I just cross my fingers for whales as I am a big enthusiast of these mammals... I have seen them up close and personal last April so I feel we might be lucky... Happy Packing and see you soon. Fabienne

Sat, 02/19/2011 - 19:38

Very interesting reading the above. I am flying BA and wanted to go via Madrid, but Exodus would not book it for me. I thought travel between the international and domestic terminals was provided by Exodus.  Graham, Fabienne and Barbara, good to know you are on the trip. I wonder who else I will know. Started packing and not taking a lot of luggage. Wonder what the yellow jacket will be like. I believe it also has a fleece attached.

Sat, 02/19/2011 - 20:21

BA transfer - I've looked on the details sent, and the only transfer that I can see is the one in Ushuaia from the airport to hotel.  I didnt realise the domestic flights flew from elsewhere before Graham's post.

NBS Debit Card - those were the days, that was why it sold so well!!  I was an NBS Branch Manager in a previous life. 

Thanks for the 'heads up' on packing, although women always pack more than they need anyway :)

Luckily my theatre trip in London has been cancelled for Thursday evening.  So looking forward to meeting everyone, and getting really excited.



Mon, 02/21/2011 - 16:12

I phoned Exodus today and if you have booked a flight through them and the transfer/hotel package then you get shuttled via bus, by them, from the international to dometic airports in BA. Also collected and uplifted from Ushuaia airport to the hotel. How is everyone getting on with packing hand luggage? Mine weighs 9 kg at the moment and my pockets are stuffed. The domestic flight has 5 kg as the max for hand luggage. Hope they don't check to see what we have. Apparently Woody and Annie are only on the ship because Exodus have paid for them to be part of the team. Thank goodnes, it would not have been the same without them.  Moira

Mon, 02/21/2011 - 16:31


I had a phone call from Exodus this morning, and don't need to take up the offer of sharing a taxi with you and Fabienne.  My flight to Ushuaia is from the international airport, but just a different terminal, so no transfer involved. Also, I seem to be the only one of the group on it, arriving in Ushuaia at 13:48 on AR2892.

If there is anyone else on this flight, I'd love to know.


Tue, 02/22/2011 - 08:31

Just checked mine again to make sure. I'm definetely flying into Buenos Aires Ministro Pistarini (EZE), and out of Buenos Aires Aeroparque J. Newbery (AEP). No transfer offered as booked own flights, but as I said it's easy enough. It's the same on the way back, but then we opted not to have a night in BA, but continue on and head back to the UK. Arrive 16:00 Sunday so saves a days holiday.

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