Featured Image Credit: Laurent Ballesta
When most think of Antarctica, the first things that might come to mind are glaciers, frigid, below-zero temperatures, and a vast sea of whites and icy blues. While it’s beauty is undeniable, it’s an unpredictable and challenging place that some of us might never know.
Thanks to a team of experienced deep-diving photographers, we can now get a rare look at life beneath the frozen continent for ourselves—where penguins, seals, and exotic, mysterious and never-before-seen creatures thrive.
When deep-diving photographers Laurent Ballesta and Vincent Munier were invited to Antarctica by filmmaker Luc Jacquet, they knew it was a project that would only come around once in a lifetime. The plan was for the two to document life under the freezing sea while Jacquet filmed the sequel to his successful 2005 movie, March of the Penguins.
After two years of preparation, the crew set out for the icy continent in October 2015, which is considered to be the beginning of spring there. They had a 36-day window as the ice broke up and retreated to within a few miles of the coast.
Ballesta has an impressive resume as a deep-diving photographer, diving more than 400 feet deep off the coast of South Africa and for 24 straight hours in French Polynesia to witness the mating of 17,000 groupers. However, this dive was going to be very different; he would be diving deeper than anyone ever has in Antarctica, as deep as 230 feet, in extremely harsh conditions.
When the crew arrived each morning, they have to drill a hole just wide enough for one man through the 10-foot-thick ice. Both Ballesta and Munier had to wiggle and shimmy their way down through the hole into the 23-degree water while wearing four layers of a dry suit. Once they have finally plunged into the icy water, they look back to a chilling sight, the hole has already started to freeze over and close behind them.
This would not be the only dive, however. The photographers would repeat this process 32 more times before the end of the project. The result? See for yourself…
To read more about the challenging dive and to view more of Ballesta’s photos, click here.