Art People

Portaits Of The Antarctic: Exclusive Interview With An Expedition Leader Martin Enckell


After learning that his father worked for Jacques-Yves Cousteau aboard the famous ship Calypso, Swedish-born Martin Enckell insisted on learning to dive right away. His training started at the age of 12 with Israeli navy divers in the Red sea.

Martin began his career at sea over 20 years ago and has been on the move ever since. Having stood at the Geographical North Pole seven times and been returning every year to the Antarctic and the high Arctic since 1999.

Martin works as an Expedition Leader, Zodiac Driver, Dive Master and Private Guide. Based for 18 months in the Maldives, but wanting to specialize in the colder waters of the world, Martin started the Antarctic Dive Program for Quark Expeditions, successfully guiding diving excursions in the Antarctic Peninsula, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands.

Commercially, Martin worked as a safety diver on the feature film “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” and led the underwater team filming Sir David Attenborough’s “Penguin Island” in South Georgia.

“I started to travel abroad when I was 9 month old. I guess I never stopped.”

Enjoying the contrast of the Polar Regions and the tropics, Aldabra in the outer Seychelles, Africa, Madagascar and Maldives continue to pull Martin to the Indian Ocean year after year. Still, by choice, most of his time has been spent in the Antarctic and the Arctic; along with the Canadian Maritimes, Northwest Passage, Iceland, Norway and Greenland.

In the Arctic Martin has explored both the West & East coasts of Greenland, the Canadian Arctic, Franz Josef Land, Novaya Semlja, White Sea, Sea of Okhotsk in the Russian Arctic and Svalbard.

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Two glaucous gulls waiting for scraps

© Martin Enckell
© Martin Enckell

Mr. Enckell, where does the love to travel come form?

I was always travelling since a very young age. I started to travel abroad when I was 9 month old. I guess I never stopped.

Has travelling changed you in any way?

Most likely, I do think you understand the world better if you travel and meet people. Not everyone can but if you can I think you evolve and do not take the luxury of everything for granted.

What amazes you about your job as an expedition leader?

Places, wildlife and people. There is so much to see and learn. Challenges with weather, finding wildlife, finding the “right wildlife” for photography. People have no idea about the “behind the scene” scenarios and hours of work with that.

Evolved perfectly to live in the high Arctic where it is hunting seals out on the sea ice. Each hair is hollow so it insulate the bear perfectly.

© Martin Enckell

A young polar bear cub follows its mother for about two years. Training to be able to deal with the the tough life in the Arctic. This cub follows his mother to cross the fjord to get to the ice.

© Martin Enckell

King penguins going out to sea to feed.

© Martin Enckell

What moments do you aim to capture? How long does it take to produce such shots?

My photography is hobby based but I am privileged to be out in extreme conditions and get a lot of ” perfect moments”. I think the longest I have waited for a shot is 8 hours in a zodiac just in front of a beach up in the high arctic. You need patience for good wildlife shots. The animals have to come to you.

How photographing nature is different from photographing people?

Patience, patience, patience.

Does your work require strict choices? How has it affected your personal life?

My work is freelance based so I agree to each and every contract. When I have agreed to a contract then, of course, it is set. As I have done this work since I was 19 years old it is normal to me. You have a personal life that works well with what you do.

Has photography any practical use nowadays?

I think photography is very important; to get the pictures out there, to tell the stories. We need to preserve and look after wildlife and nature.

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