SEIKO’S FRIEND OF THE BRAND BECKY KAGAN SCHOTT TRAVELS TO ANTARCTICA TO CAPTURE AND DOCUMENT UNIQUE AND RARELY SEEN ENVIRONMENTS.
STORY: Built from the start for superior operation in the most hostile environments, Seiko diver’s watches were an immediate favorite for high-intensity exploration, becoming essential equipment for the Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition (JARE) within a year of their 1965 introduction. It was in these frigid waters that the superbly rugged timepieces became legendary for reliability in extreme conditions, taking their place as the watch of choice for generations of polar explorers and mountaineers. This tradition continues with today’s most intrepid adventurers, including Becky Kagan Schott, a “Friend of the Brand,” has tested the endurance of these special Prospex designs in dives under the frozen Great Lakes, Glacial Moulins in Alaska and will continue to collaborate on upcoming expeditions.
Expedition Purpose: Seiko returns to Antarctica with Becky where she will document the unique and rarely seen environments. The purpose of the video and images captured are to help paint a picture of what impacts are happening to the environment whether its human or natural. The Antarctic is one of the least explored places on our planet, there are species yet to be discovered and others that are rarely documented.
Seiko’s initiative will be conducted with Sustainable Development Goal 14, to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development,” in mind.
FOLLOW BELOW AS BECKY SHARES HER DAILY EXPERIENCES IN ANTARCTICA!
It’s hard to believe just 7 weeks ago we were diving inside of glaciers in Alaska and this week diving to the bottom of icebergs in Antarctica. Adventure is all around us and you never know what each one will bring you. On this expedition we had amazing ice with brilliant colors. We saw crabeater and leopard seals, humpback whales feeding, chinstrap, Adelie and Gentoo penguins and stunning glaciers. I’m still smiling after being in the water with a leopard seal and capturing some unique shots of an animal rarely snorkeled with. As a photographer there is nothing more exciting than interacting with a curious, wild animal in its environment. I have a passion for ice and cold-water diving so jumping into water with bergy bits is always exciting. I’m glad we didn’t have to cut a hole this time! It was also great to visit the penguin colony and sit and watch groups of penguin’s waddle by and jumping in the water. I don’t know how to put Antarctica into words which is why I’m a photographer. I hope you enjoy the beauty through my images and feel inspired to protect and someday visit this special place yourself. It’s time for us to leave and make our way back through the Drake Passage to Ushuaia. I’m looking forward to sharing more photos and video when I return!
Diving in Antarctica isn’t easy. It takes a lot of gear and preparation before splashing into icy waters in the most remote part of the planet. Before I come, I make sure my dry suit is dry and there are no leaks because having 32f degree water in your suit isn’t pleasant. We have to bring everything except tanks and weights. The tanks have what is called an H valve, so you use two regulators just in case there is a free flow in the cold water. This allows you to turn one side off and still breathe from the other. I typically have to use about 26 pounds of weight with the steel tank here to get down with the dry suit and all of the thick undergarments that keep me warm. I use a fantastic dry glove system that snaps on and always have a snorkel in my pocket just in case whales or seals are close and we are able to get in the water with them. We dive from zodiacs so loading them with all of the gear is strenuous. Then gearing up on the water we help each other by holding the gear on the rib and sliding into it. Rolling backwards is the easy part and I always hope I don’t feel the rush of cold water during those first few seconds. Once I flip around, I’m able to get my camera rig passed down to me and we go diving! We watch our time closely and try to keep the dive around 45 minutes. After we surface, we hang up the cameras and then get out of the gear in the water and it’s pushed up into the zodiac. Then we grab ropes on the sides and kick hard to push yourself up onto the side of the boat. It’s not usually pretty but this is what expedition diving is all about. I only dive the best gear in these harsh environments and gear I can depend on. The ice, the cold and the zodiacs are tough on equipment, so I rely on the best to do my job and not think about anything but getting great images.
We dived to the bottom of an iceberg at the bottom of the planet! How cool is that! I’ve been diving around a lot of ice, and you can’t dive just any iceberg. Ice is dynamic, it’s always changing, melting, breaking, flipping, and moving so it can be quite dangerous. The best icebergs to dive are grounded so they can’t flip, flat on top and no big overhangs that could break off. We found a beautiful one and splashed into the icy water. It looks so inviting because the aqua blue clear water. I started shooting the interesting, scalloped formations on the ice. We went to about 50 feet and swam around it but as most people know icebergs are much bigger underwater. I ran my hand along the cold, silky and almost transparent ice just taking it all in. I’s hard to describe what they look like but the ice is clear with bubbles trapped inside and when the sun is out it sparkles. It’s really captivating and because it’s always changing. When we surfaced the water was so blue it almost looked like the Caribbean minus the freezing cold temperatures. I’m so glad we were able to get an iceberg dive in.
We set out to do our first dive and along the way passed by a sleeping Leopard seal on an iceberg. While checking that one out another was swimming around the ice and began to spy hop around the zodiac. We decided it was a curious an not an aggressive seal. We were able to get in the water and snorkel with it. I was so excited because this is such a rare opportunity to be in the water with one of Antarctica’s Apeks predators. They are large animals but this one was around 7-8 feet long. They have a big head and a very sly grin. They can open their mouth’s 180 degrees and have very scary looking teeth. They mostly feed on penguins, especially this time of year. After slowly getting into the icy cold 29-degree water and pushing some ice out of the way I saw the seal dart around in the darkness below me. Then as I approached an iceberg it came right up to my cameras dome port about 2 feet away and just looked at me. Then it turned upside down and looked at me almost like a puppy and turned its head in a lot of directions. I’m sure it was trying to figure out what I was. After an hour of being in the water with it the ice started to move in too close to where it could crush us so it was time to say goodbye and get out of that area. After getting back on the zodiac the leopard seal continued to follow us and spy hop to check us out. It was an incredible interaction especially when a wild animal that can be dangerous decides to interact back with you. I couldn’t stop smiling after we got back on the zodiac and on the ride back, we passed huge icebergs with stunning shades of aqua and blue tones. The mountains at Danco Harbor are also really impressive. Today is a day I’ll never forget.
What an incredible day! The sun was out and the temperatures were around 29f degrees. We visited a colony of chinstrap and Gentoo penguins in Orne Harbor. The Glacier here is spectacular and the icebergs in the bay were full of amazing textures and blue colors. There were a few seals resting on icebergs and dozens of penguins jumping all over and around the ice. Several groups swam under our zodiac, and I could see how clear the water was. When you’re quiet you hear sounds of penguins and water splashing on the icebergs and faint cracking of the glacial ice. It really feels like you’re visiting another planet down here. Next we head up to Danco Harbor and Cuverville Island.
We made it to Antarctica! I was up early at 3:30 am to make it outside at 4am to start shooting. We had icebergs surrounding us and saw a plethora of wildlife. There were groups of feeding Gentoo Penguins, Adelie penguins, six humpback whales and a leopard seal floating on an iceberg. It’s snowing which really makes it feel like Antarctica. Every direction you look is eye candy. We passed multiple huge glaciers this morning that had stunning tones of blue and aqua throughout the ice. I’ve been capturing some stunning images and It’s only 10am now. I’m excited to see what the rest of the day brings!
We just passed the South Shetland islands and are entering the Antarctic peninsula. The seas today were much calmer around 5-10 feet. Our first iceberg came into view, and it was stunning! A massive piece of ice that just kept getting bigger as we moved closer to it. A few penguins jumped next to the ship welcoming us to Antarctica. It feels surreal to see one of the least explored places on the planet. Tomorrow we will go ashore and take the zodiacs around the icebergs and glaciers.
During the night the seas picked up and we have around 25–30-foot seas. The boat rolls and everything not on the floor will be on the floor if you don’t secure it. The waves cause the vessel to shudder and creak sometimes and looking out the window the sea spray from the tops of the waves looks gnarly. Tomorrow as we enter the Southern Ocean the wind is supposed to decrease and hopefully the boat won’t roll as much. There are big waves breaking over the bow and all the decks are currently closed for safety. The temperature is dropping quickly and is around 32f now. We will start getting our dive gear and underwater camera set up for our first dives in Antarctica soon!
We are getting ready to depart to Antarctica today. Ushuaia is a beautiful place at the end of the world, and we enjoyed walking around the harbor and seeing the Patagonia mountains. This afternoon we will depart through the Beagle channel with the Straits of Magellan to the north and into the Drake Passage. We’ll spend the next 2 days crossing to the Antarctic Peninsula. The Drake passage is one of the most dangerous crossings for ships due to strong winds and currents. Wish us luck as we cross. Looking at the weather today, we may have 20-foot seas. It’s worth it to get to the most amazing continent on earth.
It takes a mountain of gear to dive and shoot in Antarctica. Today we’re starting our journey to the bottom of the planet, traveling from New York to Buenos Aires Argentina, then to Ushuaia, also known as “The End of the World”. I’m excited to bring in the new year flying somewhere over South America, off on another exciting adventure! This is my third trip to the white continent. Antarctica is one of the most magical places I’ve had the privilege of visiting. The amount of wildlife is incredible, and the scenic glaciers and icebergs always leave me speechless. I will be documenting the journey with video blogs and sending photos and updates each day! Follow us to the bottom of the earth as we keep going forward into 2022!