In December 2011 we returned from an expedition to the amazing white continent of Antarctica, without a doubt one of the most awe-inspiring places on Earth! Our adventure was shared with a fascinating group of friends, including scientists, a nature photographer, an environmental attorney and, a college professor from Loyola University. Our mission was to observe first-hand the remarkable animals and landscape, and to note the impact of an ever-changing global climate on our fragile ecosystem.
Antarctica and its seas are governed under a unique network of international instruments known as the Antarctic Treaty System. The Treaty does not recognize any sovereign nation’s claim on any part of Antarctic territory. Agreements negotiated within the Antarctic Treaty System include environmental protection measures for expeditions, stations, and visitors; waste-management provisions; a ban on mining; establishment of specially protected areas; and agreements for the protection of seals and other marine living resources.
We feel very fortunate to have had this rare and special opportunity to visit such a delicate and enthralling place and look forward to sharing the experience with all of our friends and colleagues!
Our expedition lasted two weeks and started in Ushuaia, Argentina (the southernmost city in the world), with a fascinating trip into the Tierra del Fuego National Park, to view the interesting and unique fauna and flora found in the southern Patagonia region of South America. Tierra del Fuego National Park was created in 1960 and is located in the southwest Tierra del Fuego province up against the border with neighboring Chile. It protects 63,000 hectares of the southern tip of the Andes.
Getting to the southernmost continent on the planet is a large task by any definition. Our boat trip to Antarctica took us through the notoriously fierce waters of the Drake Passage, which lived up to its reputation of being one of the world’s roughest stretches of water. Strong winds and ocean currents squeezing through a narrow gap between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, absent the presence of land to slow the movement of water and wind, results in high waves and frequent storms. Our ship, the “Polar Pioneer”, began its life as a Finnish built ice-strengthened research ship, which was originally named the Akademik Schuleykin. She was expertly manned by a superb Russian crew who carefully navigated through waves as high as 20 meters, frequently causing our vessel to roll as much as 44 degrees laterally! Each voyage through Drake Passage (one going to Antarctica and the other returning to South America) took over two days!
Once we arrived in the area of the Antarctic Ocean the water almost immediately began to calm and we were greeted by the presence of icebergs.
The Antarctic continent’s changing moods, weather and ice conditions governed our daily schedule. We lived on the boat the entire trip and made numerous excursions to land to photograph and observe the indigenous animals and incredible landscape. On one of our excursions, we found ourselves completely surrounded by ice, which had quickly moved into the area driven by the strong winds. Unable to move our excursion vessel, we were forced to wait for a rescue from our ship, which barely had the capability to break through and push aside the ice that had stranded us. The episode was a clear reminder of the power of mother nature in this part of the world and how quickly a lovely landscape can become dangerous.
Our return trip through Drake Passage was more frightening and relentless than our initial voyage to the Continent, due to the increased wind and higher waves. We were relieved to return to port in Ushuaia and begin our very tiring series of flights back home.
We took a large number of photographs and videos and are currently determining the best way to display them for everyone to enjoy. While we work on a permanent solution we invite you enjoy a sample of our Novesis in Antarctica Slideshow and for additional photos and information, please “Like” our Novesis Company Facebook page.
For those considering a trip to Antarctica, we would be pleased to answer any questions about our adventure.