Steve McCurry shares his insights on his first-ever trip to Antarctica

By Matthew Scott

Among the most iconic voices in contemporary photography for over three decades, Steve McCurry has travelled the world to photograph conflicts, vanishing cultures, ancient traditions and contemporary culture alike – yet always retains a human element. Now, though, the legendary visual storyteller shares details on an entirely new kind of artistic challenge: Antarctica. Steve McCurry travelled to the White Continent for the first time with Silversea Cruises, departing Ushuaia on Silver Cloud on December 10, 2019. The photos from his expedition are nothing short of breathtaking—each captures a rare moment, frozen in time. In this exclusive interview, McCurry opens up about his first-ever cruise to Antarctica.

This was your first expedition to Antarctica. What were your expectations ahead of the trip? And how did your experience differ?

“Antarctica is unlike any other destination in the world. It felt like I was on another planet. I was most looking forward to seeing the icebergs; these mammoth floating pieces of sculpture that constantly change and evolve. But Antarctica’s diverse ecosystem greeted me with so much more—whales, seabirds, penguins, and seals, plus vast glaciers and relics of history, frozen in time. Being able to experience the continent so authentically was an experience that will live with me forever.”

What were three highlights of your trip?

  1.  “Seeing the whales and elephant seals up close.
  2.  The landscape that looked like another world, full of hundreds of beautifully shaped icebergs.
  3.  There were so many Antarctica experts on the ship; I loved learning about the history, wildlife and various expeditions around the region from over 100 years ago.”

Which encounters with wildlife stand out in your memory?

“We had some incredible encounters with elephant seals, which were fascinating. They are such enormous creatures with big beautiful eyes and wonderful expressions—so full of emotion.”

The history of Antarctic exploration is an especially poignant feature of the cruise experience. What historical relics did you find most interesting and why?

“The abandoned whaling station we visited on the South Shetland Islands was very interesting. The region has numerous whaling stations, scientific bases, and way stations that have been abandoned. They are now covered in snow and ice, but still serve as remarkable time capsules. I saw an airplane hangar, dormitory, cemetery and huge oil storage tanks.”

How was your experience enhanced by Silver Cloud’s Zodiacs and Silversea’s Expedition Team?

“The experienced crewmembers on board were great and made me feel very safe when discovering our surroundings on the Zodiacs. The Zodiacs enabled us to view icebergs from different angles and gave us easy access to land. They provided a great platform from which to photograph. Being accompanied by experts in their field taught me a lot about what I was experiencing, which enriched the experience. I always looked forward to all the lectures and learning about this unique part of the world. I spent many enjoyable meals talking to these experts and scientists, learning about the region.”

If you could extend the expedition to spend longer in Antarctica or South America, where would you go & what would you do?

“I would spend some time exploring the Tierra del Fuego National Park to discover its dramatic landscape of snowy mountains, glaciers and wind-sculpted trees. Tierra del Fuego is also home to the city of Ushuaia, often called ‘The City at the End of the World,’ which is of great interest to me—I’d love to explore its rich history and the surrounding mountains. I would also take a few days in Buenos Aires to experience the culture.”

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