Last December, after 16 years of planning, a 12 person team of British scientists, engineers and support staff made the 16,000 km journey from the UK deep into the heart of the Antarctica to collect samples of water and sediments from an ancient lake buried beneath three kilometers of ice. Their quest was to reveal vital secrets about the Earth’s past climate and discover life forms that may live in subglacial Lake Ellsworth on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.
The British mission was part of an international effort to discover and explore subglacial lake environments, and to advance scientific understanding of Antarctica’s hidden world. The team who headed to the frozen continent had to work around the clock in a cold, demanding and extreme location – testing both their personal endurance and the performance of every piece of equipment selected to withstand the conditions and make the long journey south.
The unique trip sparked a great deal of attention from the global media and the general public, interested in catching a glimpse of this unexplored environment for themselves. A key element was to try and capture as much of the action as possible on video to share the images with the rest of the world. One key piece of filming equipment was the Vinten Vision 3AS pan and tilt head and tripod system that was selected as the camera support for the mission.
Pete Bucktrout, Image Collection Manager, British Antarctic Survey, explained: “We chose the Vision 3AS for the trip as Vinten has a positive track record in extreme environments. The system performed really well and we were able to stream out images and video back to Cambridge and our website every day.”
Throughout the trip, the team were feeding live images and updates to the site and managed to get in excess of 11,000 individual people following their journey. During the season, Bucktrout also managed to ‘packet’ broadcast video out, which was subsequently used by outlets such as BBC News, ITN, Channel 4 News and Sky TV as well as numerous international channels.
Once the Antarctic science camp had been set up and all the equipment prepared to start the mission, the team had just 24 hours to attempt to sample the lake before the borehole re-froze and therefore re-sealed the lake. The challenging working conditions involved operating in temperatures as cold as minus 25°C, with wind speeds averaging 25 knots.
The robust design of Vinten’s Vision 3AS lightweight pan and tilt head enabled it to perform effortlessly during these extreme conditions. Vinten’s Perfect Balance technology allowed the camera to be positioned in any orientation without constant re-adjustment, while the Vinten sideload camera plate feature enabled Bucktrout to mount and dismount the camera in seconds, reducing set-up time and enabling him to focus on the shot.
Bucktrout continued: “As far as the Vision 3AS goes the unit performed well as a static platform even when temperatures dropped below minus 20°C and we had to work with hand warmers around our heads. Even after a period of 24 hours outside, the Vision 3AS functioned perfectly.”
Since the Antarctica mission came to an end, Bucktrout has taken part in a separate trip working on Svalbard in the Arctic. He will be reunited with the Vinten Vision 3AS in a few weeks, once it completes its journey back north on one of the British Antarctic Survey ships.