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In the Footsteps of Shackleton

Keen photographers, Duncan and Deborah Armour, who share a passion for wildlife and wild places, delivered a masterclass in storytelling when they presented their photographic talk, In the footsteps of Shackleton, to members of the Dawlish & Teignmouth Camera Club.

Inspired by the story of Shackleton’s Trans-Antarctic Expedition 1914–1917, the last major expedition of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration, where Shackleton attempted to make the first land crossing of the Antarctic continent - Duncan and Deborah embarked on their own unforgettable trip to Antarctica.

Their journey to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the Antarctic Circle was told in parallel to the places Shackleton’s expedition had been, providing a fascinating insight into the hardship faced by the expedition team and their resilience against the odds.

Setting off from Ushuaia at the southern tip of Argentina, Duncan and Deborah chose to eschew the luxury cruise liners in favour of the less-glamourous Polar Star icebreaker vessel, because it had Zodiac landing craft which would take them to the islands so they could explore. Their first sightings of the local wildlife were the Albatrosses, which followed the boat, their three-metre wing spans enabling them to glide effortlessly over the sea on the air currents.

Arriving at the Falkland Islands in the southern hemisphere’s summer, they were delighted to see the sandy coves resembled the Caribbean, but subsequent photos showed stormy weather followed. Duncan explained that because the wildlife was not nervous of people, photographers were able to get up close using wide-angle lenses, rather than the usual telephoto lenses, and this had the benefit of showing the animal in their environment. Duncan recounted an amusing story of how, when he was laying down to take a photograph, a curious Johnny Rook (the Falkland Islands’ raptor bird) checked to see if he was alive by pulling at his shoelaces!

Throughout their trip they were able to witness the gamut of bird behaviour – from rituals and preening, to courtship dances and differing parenting skills, as well as watch the penguins slide into the sea and carefully time their launch back onto the ice to avoid predators.

Their journey to South Georgia provided countless opportunities to photograph magnificent icebergs, with their blue hue and intricate ice patterns and they marvelled at the extraordinary light as a result of the ice acting as an all-round reflector.

At St Andrew’s Bay, South Georgia they encountered colonies of King Penguins (about half a million strong) – their photographs showing a vast expanse of black and white penguins and their brown, woolly chicks. Although they would be standing close to each other, Duncan and Deborah would often take quite different images with Deborah favouring close-up details. This was beautifully illustrated with her photos of a pair of King Penguins painstakingly transferring their incubated egg from one parent’s feet to another.

Crossing the Weddell Sea, they had the good fortune to see Emperor Penguins, which they were told was a rarity. Their photographs of penguins sliding down the icebergs, and the endearing image of a Weddell Seal enjoying a scratch, were a real comic touch.

© Duncan and Deborah Armour
Weddell Seal enjoying a scratch

As the talk reached the end, Duncan told of the custom at Gritviken Whaling Station to raise a glass of whisky to toast Shackleton – the inspirational leader who would not accept defeat and who brought every man back.

A big round of applause was given to Duncan and Deborah for a most enjoyable evening.

The Club has a full programme of guest speakers, competitions and in-house evenings. If you are interested in joining, find out more on the Dawlish & Teignmouth Camera Club website.

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