As I'm writing this, I'm on board an aeroplane that's just left London, en route to New York, where I'll be catching another plane to Santiago, Chile. From there I'll get another plane further south to Puerto Montt, where I'll catch yet another flight to Punta Arenas, right at the southern tip of Chile. Once there, I'll help put 4 months of food, fuel and equipment onto a modified 1948 DC3 prop plane and fly down to Union Glacier, a polar research and expedition base in the heart of Antarctica.
Some of the flights are pretty long, and in the case of the last one - extremely noisy. I like to imagine that the whole trip is taking place much like the map sequences in the Indiana Jones movies.
I'm the videographer attached to the Scott Expedition - the first attempt in over 100 years to complete Captain Scott's ill-fated last journey; to walk from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole and back again. It is a two man team led by British polar explorer, Ben Saunders, who will travel with his friend and fellow explorer, Tarka L'Herpinere. The whole trip is on foot, and completely unsupported (they basically have to pull everything they will need behind them in their sleds, and can't have assistance from anyone else for the whole 4 months.)
I get a lot of questions about how I got the job, particularly from other videographers. I have wanted to travel to the Arctic and Antarctica for as long as I can remember, but Ben and his team actually emailed me out of the blue a couple of years ago and I subsequently worked on a North Pole expedition with him in 2011. But before that, I'd never heard of him, or his impressive roster of accomplishments, let alone considered I could join him on some of his adventures to the poles.
Since joining the team I've been making a film every week this year since February - charting the build-up to the expedition; the research that goes into sourcing custom-made kit from around the world, route-planning, training and equipment testing. Once we are in Antarctica I'll be filming all the last minute prep and final farewells. As Ben and Tarka set out for the South Pole, we're hoping to continue to make a film each week via the footage they send back from their satellite communication set up.
Though no Antarctica expedition is ever low-cost, we don't quite have the film budgets of fantastic programmes like Planet Earth or Frozen Planet. There's no film crew, just me, and the cameras aren't Hollywood dimensions either - I shoot everything on a small Micro 4/3 Compact System Camera, a Panasonic GH3. Once the expedition has begun, Ben and Tarka are taking a pair of even smaller cameras to film with - a pair of Panasonic GX7s. They have a dozen 64GB SD cards each. When they return it's going to be my job to sift through 4 months of the footage they shoot, and piece it together into a final film. It's a daunting task, and far larger than anything I've ever done before.
Over a hundred years ago, when Captain Scott left England bound for Antarctic aboard the Terra Nova, he also took with him a film-maker and photographer called Herbert G. Ponting.
During his time on the ice, he documented the landscape, wildlife and daily life in Antarctica like never before. He did not join Scott and his companions on their final bid for the South Pole, but captured some of the last moments that Scott and his men shared together. Shooting everything on nitrate film, and processing it all whilst he was there, his film, The Great White Silence, is one of the most ground breaking pieces of cinema, given the conditions it was made in, and the equipment available at the time. It's also one of the most moving documentaries you are ever likely to watch.
Just as Ben and the team cite Captain Scott's ambition as the spur for the incredible journey they are about to set out on, I regard Herbert Ponting as no less than a giant among filmmakers, and a huge inspiration to my work.