Flying with camera equipment can be expensive, especially if you're hit with excess baggage charges. However, for a once in a lifetime opportunity like Antarctica, I resolved that I would just have to pay the charges if asked. However, it would be good to limit them where possible.
I took three camera bags with me.
LowePro CompuTrekker AW My Phase One 645AF, three lenses, Sony Vaio and back-up drives (4x 250GB WD mini drives) were taken as carry-on baggage. The weight is probably a tad over the 7 kg the airlines stipulate, but by taking the camera out and putting it over my shoulder I hoped I could avoid any probems.
This also meant that if my checked baggage didn't arrive, I had a working camera outfit and computer which would let me finish the shoot whether or not my other gear turned up.
LowePro DryZone This held my remaining Phase One lenses, the Pansonic GF1 and lenses, tripod head and assorted battery chargers. No idea where all the stuff I take comes from, but I seem to use it. The big problem travelling with three camera systems and a laptop is it requires four power sources or rechargers.
The DryZone is put in my main suitcase with lots of clothing stacked around it. I will probably use the DryZone to get my gear from the ship to the shore. Although I also have a large waterproof backpack liner to transport my gear in the CompuTrekker (as this is the more comfortable pack to carry), I need something to hold my extra gear in anyway and it gives me more options depending on the weather and conditions.
I also include my tripod in the suitcase, but I kept my heavy warm jacket out as this in itself seemed to weigh a couple of kilograms.
HPRC 2500 This is a plastic hardcase which is waterproof and shockproof. Into this I trusted my Canon outfit (1Ds and four lenses - see previous posting). I added a padlock to the case for peace of mind (but if someone wanted to souvenir the gear they'd just take the whole case) and intended to put this bag through as checked baggage.
Several other passengers were hit with excess baggage charges on the way over, but it really does appear to be the luck of the draw. The allowable weight for checked baggage is 23 kilograms, but if you're in the Qantas Club and flying with Qantas, they allow you 30 kilograms and are generally more generous if you go a little overweight. My suitcase and HPRC case together weighed 34.5 kg, but there was no problem getting from Sydney to Buenos Aires.
However, I was worried about the leg from BA to Ushuaia. At the BA domestic airport there are large signs limiting checked baggage to 23 kilograms and, since I was flying LanChile, I didn't expect my Qantas Club extension would work. However, one of my travelling companions suggested taking the HPRC and my backpack on board with me - and so I did.
My large suitcase was 24 kilograms, so no trouble there.
If I were challenged about taking two bags as hand luggage, I would be happy enough to entrust the well-padded HPRC to the baggage handlers. However, there were no problems and it felt a lot safer keeping the camera gear with me. Of course, the fact we were checking in at 4.00 a.m. might have had something to do with less interest in what I was carrying.
While in BA I decided to take extra AA batteries for the Phase One camera, just in case the rechargeables didn't work or hold their charge long enough. This was the only potential weak link in my equipment as I hadn't used rechargeables this way before. However, buying lots of AA batteries also increased the weight I was carrying, so I stuffed the batteries into the pocket of the jacket I was carrying, just in case!
As it of turns out, when you expect problems, nothing happens. I can remember coming back from Padang in Indonesia and being stung $200 to get my surfboard back to Singapore - despite the fact they charged me nothing to get it from Singapore to Padang in the first place! If the people behind the desk decide to charge you, there's not much you can do but pay the piper.
It's early morning in Ushuaia. Checkout is in a few hours, but we don't board the ship until mid-afternoon. Ushuaia itself is a small but cosmopolitan town with lots of shops and restaurants. It's cold, however, especially when the wind blows. Just because it's late spring in the southern hemisphere, doesn't necessarily mean it's warm! I have decided to buy some ear-warmers.
Next: Cast Off