Neko Bay, Antarctica
64°50′ South 62°35′ West
Love was in the air today. It was another breathtaking still day as we arrived in Neko Bay, so the team decided on a practice swim and photo session amongst the icebergs. By the time we returned to the ship, my crew had turned into the cast of ‘The Love Boat’, making plans for a wedding in Antarctica. (I’m fairly sure Amundsen, Shackleton and Scott never had to deal with this?)
The fact that we came back with an image of a heart-shaped iceberg was entirely coincidental. Or maybe it was an auspicious sign. The image went viral within minutes, but it was no simple thing to capture it.
It took an enormous amount of paperwork to get permission from the Norwegian authorities to use drone photography in Antarctica at all. The primary concern is to ensure that wildlife is not disturbed in any way. But that was only the first hurdle for Brant Backlund, our team’s drone pilot.
Not only does Brant have to keep a keen eye on the weather – the drone can’t fly in rain, snow or high winds – he also has to operate the machine from land. This is partly to avoid interference with the ship’s radar, but also because the drone has a homing feature; since a boat is a moving target, chances are an emergency ‘return’ would pitch it straight into the icy sea – which would make retrieval somewhat tricky!
Even with all these restrictions, Brant and our photographer Kelvin Trautman got the magic shot. I couldn’t tell from the water that I had been swimming alongside a heart-shaped iceberg, but the aerial photograph showed it clearly.
The image perfectly captures the reason we are here: the love of this extraordinary place, our message for the world to join together and protect the waters of Antarctica.
Meanwhile, preparations were in progress for another special heart moment.
Our campaign and expedition writer Jacqui L’Ange and her partner, operations manager David Bush, ended up tying a serious nautical knot.
David and Jacqui got engaged on a Shinkansen (Japanese bullet train) over two years ago. Jacqui likes to joke that that was the fastest thing about their eight-year relationship. They claim they’d been too busy to plan a wedding; all it took was some enthusiastic team and crew members to convince them that this was the perfect time and place.
They were married on the shore of Neko Bay against a backdrop of calving glaciers. The vows, read fifty metres up from the shore to ensure safety from glacial tsunamis, acknowledged the humbling immensity of the place. Gentoo penguins were the only guests in formal black tie. The bride’s snowflake-inspired veil was made out of paper from the Midnatsol ship’s office; and the galley rustled up a wedding cake with two chocolate penguins on top.
Perhaps my favourite part was receiving the newly weds back on board the ship. In one voice team and crew members serenaded them with the moon in your eye, pizza pie and amore.
It was certainly the most memorable wedding I’ve ever attended!
Pics via Kelvin Trautman
Lewis Pugh is an endurance swimmer and the UN Patron of the Oceans
He is supported by the MS Midnatsol and the Hurtigruten Foundation