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PNSV - Spitzbergen Explorer Akademik Sergey Vavilov

Thu, 02/11/2010 - 17:43


After having just come back from the Antarctic from an amazing trip on this ship, I've booked to go on the photographic trip to Spitzbergen.  Anyone else going?


Tue, 03/09/2010 - 14:58


My wife and I are going on the same trip.

Sun, 03/14/2010 - 19:52


I'm going on this trip too. I haven't been on any polar expeditions yet but am very much looking forward to it. Look forward to meeting everyone on the trip.

Wed, 03/24/2010 - 18:55

Hi All,

I'm taking my first polar trip to Spitzbergen in June and am not sure what is generally considered good to take by way of photography gear.  Anyone here with experience of either Arctic or Antarctic trips with tripods? Are they needed? Is a monopod more useful? Ill be taking a 100-400mm zoom and hopefully a 500mm telephoto. I'm assuming it's hand-hold only in a Zodiac but what about onboard and ashore? What's best?

Any info or recommendations based on personal experience or just general guesswork would be appreciated otherwise it'll be all but the kitchen sink!




Thu, 03/25/2010 - 11:19

I've had an exchange of emails with Paul Goldstein on this. I'm taking 500mm, 70-200mm and 28-105 (all Canon IS L lenses), two Canon bodies and tripod. Paul told that I was well kitted out and to bring everything including the tripod for on board ship and also a polarising filter for the 24-105mm.

Fri, 03/26/2010 - 11:38

Thanks Colin. I think I'll just take everything and risk the wrath of the "5kg hand luggage" enforcers if they turn up:)


Fri, 03/26/2010 - 21:42


thanks for the info on the tripod.  I was wondering myself as I had been advised against taking one to Antartica but with hindsight, wished that I had.  Not a good idea for the zodiacs though - sometimes have to move very quickly, particularly when a passing humpback whale was about to surface more or less under the Zodiac!!

 I was also planning to go to Paul's polar evening in London in late April.  Anyone else going?


Fri, 03/26/2010 - 22:54

Hi Claire,

I've just been to Pauls talk in Cambridge on  " Penguins to Polar Bears". It was great so I'd definitely recommend going. He's got some amazing photos. I can't make the London ones due to work, I'm sure you'll really enjoy it.

Sun, 03/28/2010 - 18:31

I had confirmation from Exodus that the weight limit for this trip is 20kg hold luggage and 5kg hand luggage. I've calculated that my camera bag plus two bodies and three lenses is over 10kg, that is before I add the laptop, tripod, batteries etc etc. Very little of that is going in the hold!

So kevin_G, I'm with you in risking the wrath of the 5kg enforcers.

I'm surprised at Exodus running a photographic trip and then chartering an aircraft with these absurd restrictions. I'll let you know the responses that I get from them about this and from Paul Goldstein.

Mon, 03/29/2010 - 22:33

Hi.  this restriction seems crazy.  So, on the basis that I had received a letter recently saying that they have not yet chartered a plane and therefore have the opportunity to change this restriction, I raised this again with Exodus.  The answer I got was that they would write to all clients when the charter is complete with the hand luggage allowances but increasing 'shouldn't be a problem'.  Guess we'll have to wait and see but at least at Gatwick, they don't weigh your hand luggage as you go through security which is what happened last time I went through Stansted.  

Tue, 03/30/2010 - 12:59

I haven't had a response from Exodus. Paul told me to act as if your bag is light, it's what he does.

Wed, 03/31/2010 - 13:48

Hello all,

 I'm certainly looking forward to this trip, my first up to this part of the world, now it's getting ever closer.

 As for kit I'm pretty sure I've got it all covered, but I'm considering lugging my medium format film camera on the plane too.  I'll have to see how heavy it all is when it's packed.

 Looking forward to meeting you all,



Fri, 04/02/2010 - 12:38

I spoke with Exodus re the hand luggage weight. 5kg is the limit but "camera gear would be OK". Even when I said I'll be nearer 10kg I still got the same answer.. "camera gear would be ok". We shall see:)

Anyway I'm hoping to be at the April 27th polar talk in London so look forward to meeting some of you there maybe.

Wed, 04/07/2010 - 14:51

I've been to the Antarctic, the Falklands and Greenland over the last few years - and I'm looking forward to adding Svalbard to the list.  I'm still trying to figure out how much camera kit to take, but will probably take as much as I think I can get away with.

Wed, 04/07/2010 - 18:32

Having read all this am now packing the kitchen sink too!

No room for all the clothing we may need as well then - oh well! Hopefully my room-mate will share the same opinion (sorry Jill!)

This is my first trip to this part of the world but have travelled with Paul before and survived!!

Looking forward to meeting everyone and will be reading this for more advice/updates!


Tue, 04/27/2010 - 19:54

Has anyone had an update on the flights now that BA strike is over? Any updates on weight restriction?

I still haven't had a reply from Exodus. 

Tue, 04/27/2010 - 22:45



I was at the screenshow this evening in Kensington with Paul Goldstein (great evening) and spoke briefly to Exodus about the flights.  They are still not confirmed but likely to be either a BA or BMI  plane.  Confirmation has been delayed because of the volcanic ash situation.  They said once again that the hand luggage should not be a problem, particularly as the flight will not be full as the ship only takes 100 passengers.

Kevin - great to meet you this evening. 

Hi Claire. Good to meet you too.

Re the airline it appears it will most likely be BMI, which is good news as they tend not to have a weight limit on hand luggage, just a dimensions limit. So no skimping on lenses or batteries or chargers or laptops or anything else so long as the bag isn't enormous and you can lift it into the overhead lockers.

If I remember correctly BMI hand luggage size restrictions are the same as BA.. something like 55cm xthirtysomething x twentysomething.


Tue, 05/04/2010 - 14:28

Hi Kevin

Neither BMI nor BA has a weight limit as such - they stipulate that you have to be able to fit it unaided into the overhead locker. Dimensions are pretty close BA 55x40x23 BMI 55x40x23 (cm).

As long as it isnt BMIBaby which  is 55x40x20 but with 10kg limit.

Fri, 05/07/2010 - 16:08

Thanks Colin. Just had a quick weight check and am just over 13kg excluding laptop so will probably end up being around 15kg. Time to hit the gym and bulk up a bit:)

Mon, 05/24/2010 - 23:11

Hi all

 I spoke to Kim today after receiving the letter on Friday about the flights being confirmed on SAS.  She has been trying to negotiate additional hand luggage allowance but it looks like it will be 20kg checked in with 11Euros/kg excess.  Hand luggage 8kg only.   We will also have to pick up our checked in luggage in Oslo and re-check it in again.  It will be collected in Longyearbyen for us and taken to the ship.  if others have different / other information, would be great to hear.

Great news that Ian Stirling is on the ship.  He was on the trip I did to Antarctica earlier this year together with Woody and Annie.  He's an amazing guy and a polar bear expert, so think that we are very privileged to have him on board.  I bought his book 'Polar Bears' - great, insightful read




Fri, 05/28/2010 - 13:34

According to SAS website the hand luggage size limit is 23 x 40 x 55 and 8kg. SAS have tried to become a low cost airline hence the meagre allowances. This also means that any food and drink on the plane has to be bought.

Tue, 06/01/2010 - 12:20

Hi all,

Well not the best flight deal but at least we have flights arranged now. I've got the 2 stopper via Tromso and have to change planes there as well. Does anyone know if they actually weigh the hand luggage at heathrow and just judge based on how much you're sweating? I'll be wearing a coat with big pockets:) Also, would they weigh the hand luggage when transfering to the internal flight to Longyearbyen?

Getting quite excioted now:) 


Fri, 06/04/2010 - 08:07

I don't know whether they weigh hand luggage at LHR - don't often travel through that terminal.  Kim  did say though that we would have to collect and re-check luggage in Oslo but then it would be checked through right to Longyearbyen.  It will then be taken directly to the ship.

Does anyone have any thoughts on taking walking poles?  I saw that they were suggested in the trip notes but in Antarctica, we'd been advised not to take them (and I wouldn't have used them there with the walking that we did).  With the luggage limitations, would prefer not to take additional weight if unnecessary, so any guidance would be appreciated!


Tue, 06/08/2010 - 09:38

Hi All

Also checked the airline's website and the info is as above! Am also going via Tromso - so glad to see it's checked in from Oslo!

Glad you raised the pole question Claire - also like to know what others think on this! Thanks - yep getting excited too!

Tue, 06/08/2010 - 20:21

I asked the same question of Kim and this is her reply:

As there is not much ice around during June/July, walking poles can be useful for onshore hiking.  We do not recommend them as a must and many people choose not to take them, as with camera equipment etc, it’s just extra to carry.  We normally do split the group in half for those who want an easy walk and those who prefer to hike for a few hours.  If you are quite comfortable not taking walking poles I would say leave them behind, as you could be out for several hours at a time and it’s just more to juggle.


On balance, think I will not bother to take them.

Kim also mentioned that final joining instructions should be emailed out later this week.  Looking forward to meeting you all - probably in a departure lounge somewhere (Gatwick would have been so convenient...) 


Tue, 06/08/2010 - 22:34

Hi All,

Only about 2 weeks to go now, look forward to meeting you all. I'm on the Schedule A flights so will look out for any other Exodus luggage tags. All the info people have posted has been really helpful, especially for a first time arctic traveller, thanks.

see you soon.

Tue, 06/08/2010 - 23:41

Good point about the walking poles, something I'd not considered.  I think I'll leave them behind this time to save a little weight.

 I'm on the B Schedule flight, and as I've got a meeting in London the day before I'm staying over at the Ibis at Heathrow, so if anyone is doing the same and fancies meeting up on the 23rd for a pre-flight drink let me know.

Sat, 06/12/2010 - 09:11

Weight is always the main problem but with photographic equipment and computer it is going to be a lot more than 10m kgs. I was told photographic equipment would be OK. Only have up to a 300 mm canon Is lens.  Was thinking of buying a 2X converter.  Jessops do one at £80, which fits. Does anyone know if this will be OK.  Cannot carry anymore weight .  

Sat, 06/12/2010 - 18:57

Am departing on 24th June.  I am a very new amateur photographer and am not quite sure what equipment to take.  Do have a Canon 500D.  and my longest lens is 70-300. (also 10-22, 100mm macro and 18-55) did not buy the 400 and 500  as seemed too heavy for me to cope with.  Jessops suggested a 2x converter but have never used one. Any suggestions or advice.  I am sure we are all going to be overweight in the photographic equipment department but have been told that this will be alright.  Can anyone tell me what is absolutely necessary.  Have tripod and two batteries.

Sat, 06/12/2010 - 21:32

I'm definitely overweight, by about 3kg at the moment, I'm trying to trim the bag down without much success at the moment.

 As for lenses, I'm sure there are others on here with more experience of Arctic/snowy wildlife shooting but I'm bringing a 12-60mm lens, a 50-200mm, a 300mm (hired) and a 1.4x teleconvertor.  I hope this should cover most eventualities, and if not I'll just put the camera down and enjoy the view!

 I'm also packing 4 batteries (I'm bringing two bodies, one for a long lens and one for a wide) and 6 4gb memory cards.

 Hope this helps somewhat.

Sun, 06/13/2010 - 10:32

Who did you speak to about the weight of hand luggage and what did they think that we sould be ok with? My hand luggage is currently 13kg and its not fully loaded yet! I do have an option because my wife is not a photographer so she can take some gear as hand luggage.

I listed my gear in an earlier post (2 bodies, 3 lenses, polarising filter and tripod) plus 2 bateries for each camera, epson P-3000 (multimedia backup and photo viewer), laptop (maybe), 8 x 4GB cards, battery chargers and 1.4x teleconverter.

Sun, 06/13/2010 - 14:51

The weight restrictions were from the SAS website.  I've been through it and it doesn't seem to say that are are any special exceptions for photographic gear.

On the plus side I've never had my carry on luggage weighed (but I usually travel to the US on a different airline), just checked to see if its within the size limitations, and that rarely).

I forgot to add to my list a laptop and polarisers.

Sun, 06/13/2010 - 17:40

When the confirmed flights were announced, I asked Kim to check specifically (which she was doing anyway) and she said that Exodus had been unable to negotiate increased hand luggage allowance.  Still not sure about T3 but they do weigh hand luggage at Stansted as you go through security, so it could be a possibility.  colleagues who regularly go through Stansted suggest putting stuff in pockets e.g. batteries :-)

I've seen some comments about memory cards.  When I was on the ship earlier this year, there was the facility to download all the common card formats onto CD/DVD (which were quite expensive).  I had taken an external hard drive and used that. You'll need to take the USB cable though!.

 Batteries lasted reasonably well in Antartica which is probably colder,  but I always kept one on charge.  There are EU 2-pin round sockets in the cabins and I also took a double 3-pin to 2-pin round adapter as I found I ended up charging quite a lot!   

 looking foward to it!



Sun, 06/13/2010 - 20:51

You say you have just acquired a 500mm lens.  Which one.  I would love one but find them too heavy.  Any suggestions

Sun, 06/13/2010 - 21:03

It is impossible to be within the weight limits with camera equipment and a computer.  If we are overweight, what can we leave behind on a photographic holiday!!!!   I wish we could know definitively as there have been many trips before this.  


Mon, 06/14/2010 - 09:44

I've got a Canon EF 500mm L IS USM which weighs 3.8kg. I rarely use it hand held because the results I've had are not good. On a tripod or monopod or on a bean bag its gives brilliant results. I'm planning to use it only from the deck of the ship on a tripod and with 1.4x converter.

You are welcome to try it.

Tue, 06/15/2010 - 23:17

does anyone know where we stand on 2 pieces of hand luggage, ie camera bag and tripod bag? Or are you putting your tripods in hold luggage? I know some airlines are funny if you have more than 1 item of hand luggage.

Thanks Carol

Wed, 06/16/2010 - 07:37

Hi Carol,

 SAS is 1 carry-on bag only for economy. Also tripods, like trekking poles, can be considered  as possible weapons so most airlines insist they go in the hold. A friend was forced to check-in a trekking pole which of course never arrived at the final destination!


Wed, 06/16/2010 - 11:25

That is really nice of you.  Would love try.  If I take a photo can I say it is mine !!??.

 I have just bought a 4x converter and paul has said I should take it back as it will not provided good results and that I am OK with my 70-300mm Canon lens.  Am so looking forward and excited about next week. Will see at at airport.


Is anyone taking food with them as usually the food you can buy on plane is junk food (like pot noodles) and is dire?


Wed, 06/16/2010 - 13:24

The 1.4x converter is the limit on my 500mm for autofocus to work (with 2x its manual). If you press the button its your photograph.

I'm putting my tripod in hold luggage. 

I'm also planning on having a decent meal before departure and taking food on board.

Thu, 06/17/2010 - 09:02

I am going to take back the 4x but wonder if I should swop it for a 1.4 or just forget it.  How does yours work?  I also asked Paul about the 50-500 sigma lens.  He was totally against it and said he had someone on a trip who wanted to break it in half as it was rubbish. He says I am fine with my 70-300.


Look forward to meeting you and everyone.   

Thu, 06/17/2010 - 11:01

I've just checked your lens and I think that it will be manual focus with a converter. You need the lens to have an aperture of f4 or below to still have autofocus with a 1.4x converter.

Thu, 06/17/2010 - 20:36

Thanks Kevin and Colin , hold luggage it is. See you at Heathrow Carol

Fri, 06/18/2010 - 11:23

I made a mistake I bought a 2x converter but they say I can change it to a 1.4.  My lens is F4-5.6. Do you think it is worth getting or just forget it?

Fri, 06/18/2010 - 13:44

It's really up to you. As long as you are happy to manually focus, use the converter. Both 1.4x and 2x will be manual focus with your lens.

Sun, 06/20/2010 - 11:22

OK - I think that's my camera bag sorted.  Do I need anything else? :-)

Sun, 06/20/2010 - 13:50

Don't forget your dancing shoes!!

Sun, 06/20/2010 - 13:51

Hi All

Thanks for all your comments here - very useful! Walking pole will stay at home to give that extra space/kilo!

Thanks Ross - that just about sums this all up I think! 

Looking forward to meeting everyone - my all-purpose 300m lens is playing up so will have to take a 200m instead I think to be on the safe side.  

..til Thursday then!!!

Sun, 06/20/2010 - 23:33

Hi All

Finally resolved the packing problem. I've gone for my smaller and lighter camera bag and my wife will take two lenses (in their bags) in her hand luggage (she's not a photographer).

Having worried for so long about the camera gear and hand luggage, my hold luggage only weighs 15kg including a tripod. Perhaps I should pack some non-polar clothes for the ship and maybe the dinner jacket (only joking).

We're on flight schedule B so looking forward to seeing everyone on Thursday.

The forecast is +5 max and +2 min, windchill brings this to -1. Could be worse.


Hi looking forward to meeting some of you on Thursday and beyond. I have only just started to think about packing, so all the comments about the weights of your bags from weeks ago has started to freak me out! I'll be the one with the stupidly big bag.....


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