After 18 years of filming in interesting locations around the world, local business owner Sinclair Black recently returned from a once in a lifetime filming trip in Antarctica. We chatted with Sinclair to hear about his latest adventure.
Sinclair, tell me about some of the places you have filmed around the world.
I have been very fortunate to have had some interesting assignments in places as remote as Easter Island and Tahiti, to the west coast of South Africa to Niijima Island, Japan and Brazil, but I never thought I would get the opportunity to work in Antarctica.
Tell me about your latest adventure …
Since moving to the Coffs Coast almost ten years ago with my young family, I made the conscious decision not to travel so much. But when one of my clients, natural health company Blackmores, asked me to document the process of catching krill from its source in Antarctica, I jumped at the opportunity.
What is krill?
Krill are the tiny prawn-like crustaceans that are a rich source of omega-3s. Antarctic krill is known for its purity and potency, and that’s why Blackmores uses it in their products.
How did you get there?
It was a bit of a mission, with a flight from Coffs to Sydney then to Santiago, Chile, via Auckland. We then had a three-stop flight to the Falkland Islands, where we landed at a UK military base to get to the main town of Stanley. Each side of the road was littered with active war mines from 1982. Stanley is a quaint little fishing village and one of the main ports for trips to Antarctica. From there, it was a five-day journey on a 200 m long Russian tanker across the Drake Passage to the Antarctic Peninsula. It was rough at times, but mostly a smooth journey. We then transferred onto a Norwegian fishing ship for eight days.
Tell us about your first impressions of this great continent?
Where do I start? I felt like I had travelled back in time. The sheer size of everything around us felt prehistoric, and I was half expecting a dinosaur to pop up! What struck me the most was the size of the mountains (up to 2,500 m) rising straight up from the ocean. To put it in perspective, it’s like standing on Muttonbird Island and looking towards Sealy Lookout, but imagine it is eight times higher. Everywhere you looked there were glaciers meeting the ocean, with cliffs 300 m tall.
The clarity and visibility of the water was also incredible – Tahiti is known for some of the clearest water in the world, but Antarctica is just something else.
The floating icebergs were twenty times the size of our ship. They’re so big, that sometimes they get stuck between islands and stay there for years.
What was the weather like while you were there?
Thankfully it wasn’t as cold as I was expecting, with most days ranging from -10 – 0 degrees Celsius. This made filming relatively easy, but I was surprised at how quickly the conditions could change. One day it went from -2 and sunny to about -20 and snowing, with 70 knot winds in half an hour.
What did you wear?
When we were on the land working, we had to wear “survival suits”, which were bright yellow airtight suits. It felt like I was walking on the moon. They are designed to keep you afloat and will give you about an hour if you happen to fall in; otherwise, you’d have a maximum of 15 minutes before your heart stops.
What was the wildlife like?
It was nothing like I had imagined. There were countless whales everywhere you looked. I thought there were a lot on the Coffs Coast, but there wasn’t a moment you didn’t see one – Blue Whales, Southern Rights, Fin Whales, Sperm Whales and Humpbacks. We also saw Emperor Penguins and Fur Seals on land.
Did anything take you by surprise?
I was surprised by the incredibly unique nature of the penguins. George Miller, the director of Happy Feet, captured them perfectly. They approach you on the beach, walk up to you, take a good look, then wander off for a swim, then return to have another look. Each one looks different, and they all seem to have a different personality. They seemed more inquisitive than fearful, which I’m not used to with wild animals.
What was the highlight of the trip?
The captain took the fishing ship to Deception Island, which is an active volcano off the Antarctic Peninsula. The ship sailed through a narrow channel into the centre of the crater, which forms a natural, sheltered harbour. The landscape surrounding the harbour included mainly snow-capped mountains, which where grassy and barren lower down with steaming beaches and ash-layered glaciers due to the heat radiating from inside the volcano. An old whaling station with ruins of hardwood timber huts stood on the shore.
Rumours are that you braved the icy waters and went swimming?
It’s partly true. We stripped down to our speedos and planned to take the plunge, but after realising it was going to be a 100 m wade just to get to waist depth, we decided to just have a water fight instead; it was freezing.
What are you working on next? Are there any other adventures in the pipeline?
Nothing as unusual as Antarctica, but the beauty of my work is that it can be quite unpredictable. We are currently working with a mix of local and national businesses, so my work is always varied, but nothing beats living on the Coffs Coast – where the water is always warm. But you never know; it only takes a phone call, and I could be anywhere!