We interviewed Mark Stevens about his recent trip to Antarctica where he used his Tchoup Industries Fanny Pack every day! Marks says his fanny pack "had permanent residency on my hip for every zodiac cruise and water landing." Keep scrolling to see his photos, read more about his adventure and get inspired by his upcoming plans.
(Patti): What inspired you to go to Antarctica?
(Mark): Last year as I was backpacking Patagonia, I had a friend/colleague who was on an expedition from Ushuaia to the Antarctic Peninsula. The majesty of the photos planted the seed of visiting Antarctica in my mind. It's so exotic and foreign, like an alien planet. My New Year's resolution was the vine that grew from that seed: to touch foot on all seven continents in the 2017 calendar year - I'm calling it the Continent Grand Slam. I wanted to attack the most difficult destination first to set the tone for the entire slam. As I researched companies and expedition trip, the excitement grew. Finally, some time off work opened up and I took it for the plunge.
(Patti): Did you see any wildlife?
(Mark): The wildlife in Antarctica is breathtaking. Our specific expedition stopped in South Georgia Island as well. A British Territory just Northwest of the Sandwich Islands (still in the Antarctic water flow). South Georgia is home to hundreds of thousands of King Penguins. St. Andrews Bay, a King Penguin colony we visited, is home to 150,000 breeding pairs plus chicks. That's over 300,000 penguins. For scope, think of the images of the crowd at a Beatles concert or a full stadium at the World Cup final, that was the density of these sea birds.
Joining them are curious Fur Seals, fat and sleepy Elephant Seals, Skuas & Albatross. Other sites we visited were Gentoo Penguin Colonies, Macaroni Penguins, an isolated Albatross nesting island and abandoned former whaling stations. When we arrived at the continent, we were welcomed by Humpback, Fin and Minke Whales; Leopard, Crabeater and Weddell Seals, Dolphins (both bottle-nose and hourglass) and were escorted home for an hour by a squad of Orcas.
The wildlife has been preserved despite massive over-whaling in the region in the beginning of the 20th century. It was only because of fortune and a major push for conservation that we were able to glimpse a Blue Whale as well. All in all, we saw five penguin species, five whale species, and five seal varieties!
(Patti): How did your Tchoup Fanny Pack specifically come in handy?
(Mark): My Tchoup Fanny Pack had permanent residency on my hip for every zodiac cruise and water landing. The ease of access it provided was instrumental in foraging for gear while bundled up head-to-toe to protect against the cold.
My parka housed most of my bigger camera gear (ie lenses), so it was helpful to have an easily removable access pouch to hold hand-warmers, batteries, ziplock bags, GoPro so I wouldn't have to waste precious continent time digging around big pockets for the little things. Also, the little front slip pocket has a remarkable ability to not allow my iPhone to fall out (which was kept there for the rushed, impromptu penguin-baby video).
(Patti): As a Louisianian familiar with heat & humidity, can you tell us what it was like to be in such cold temperatures?
(Mark): I would love to: I grew up in Maine. Nonetheless, I've been in New Orleans for ten years (in the South almost twenty) and my blood has definitely thinned out. As it's summer in the South Hemisphere, the temperatures were not unbearable. I'd compare it with winter in any Northern US State's winter, which I admit is probably unreasonable to certain New Orleanians. Generally we were dealing with an air temperature of between 20-30˚ Fahrenheit. However, as a veteran of both extreme heat and cold, I can declare humidity as the antagonist in our story.
A New Orleans 45˚ feels like an Antarctic 35˚. The folk secret to cold weather living is layering, trapping pockets of air in between clothing layers. Body heat warms that air to regulate the temprature and it can circulate so one doesn't also sweat, an enemy in cold weather. In New Orleans that cold, saturated air gets into your bones and there's not much a merino wool base layer can do about it. That's just one man's opinion, though. (Note: I did jump into the water to do the 'Polar Plunge', which was 29˚F. I cant explain that).
Mark Stevens is a DGA Assistant Director whose credits include Dallas Buyers Club, Birth of a Nation and Beasts of Nation. In between films, he travels and writes. You can follow him on Instagram at @marcointheworld and his travel writing on Medium.