Mar 27, 2012
Posted in Post Expedition | Leave a comment

IAE 2012 Expedition Film

Journey South with Robert Swan and the 2012 IAE Team to the coldest, driest, highest and windiest place On Earth- Antarctica. Watch as they gain firsthand knowledge of the continent’s fragile ecosystem, experience its unique wildlife and observe the magnificent landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula, all while learning about climate change, sustainability and what they can do to protect the last great wilderness on Earth.

Mar 13, 2012
Posted in Day 15 | 5 Comments

The final crossing

“And now the storm-blast came, and he
Was tyrannous and strong:
He struck with his o’ertaking wings,
And chased us south along.

With sloping masts and dipping prow,
As who pursued with yell and blow
Still treads the shadow of his foe,
And foward bends his head,
The ship drove fast, loud roared the blast,
And southward aye we fled.

And now there came both mist and snow,
And it grew wondrous cold:
And ice, mast-high, came floating by,
As green as emerald.

And through the drifts the snowy clifts
Did send a dismal sheen:
Nor shapes of men nor beasts we ken –
The ice was all between”
-Samual Coleridge
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

The drake would not acquiesce a second calm crossing and as the waves churned the words of Samual Coleridge assumed a new meaning. Although we were fleeing the alien landscape of ice and snowy cliffs they carried no less weight. I did not envy the albatross on this crossing and kept meek in my cabin fortified with drugs. Would have Neptune spared us the tax of the Antarctic crossing perhaps I would have the wits to see some imperfection in its borders, but I cannot find such a blemish. Again the great wilderness has brought me to tears. I have found here peace, in a place that has never known war. I have found here companions that are only revealed when the cold has struck you and the wind whips at your face. I have found here the stalwart commitment of a powerful generation that has humbled me again and again. I came to the Antarctic to better understand a land without human touch, and leave touched by the people who shared it with me.
As we enter the beagle the jubilant crew fires expired flares into the night. The colour dazzles us as we stand on the stern of the Sea Spirit. The air hums with more than the fizz of bright lights and chemistry. I know that although this voyage has ended, the real journey has just begun.

Jack Robert-Tissot

Mar 10, 2012
Posted in Day 14 | 1 Comment

Moving forward as the glaciers retreat

It has been raining in Antarctica. Not heavy rain but enough to give the Inspire Antarctic Expedition 2012 team an uncomfortable two nights out in the open, as they camped in survival bags under the clouds on beautiful Curverville Island. Uncomfortable but certainly survivable. What the rain means for our planet is less certain.

Apparently rain was, until recently, a pretty rare thing on the Antarctica Peninsula. Scientific records will show it normally receives almost no precipitation a year. It’s the driest continent on our planet and, surprisingly for a land of ice, Antarctica is technicality a desert. And
when it does rain here, because the temperature, it should come down as snow. However, according to Jamie Watts – a former British Antarctic Survey scientists who is with the IAE expedition – rain has recently become a lot more common on the fringes of Antarctica.

The IAE team has been using the scenic Curverville Island as an impromptu campground for many years. It’s situated on a small snowy sloped hill that is surrounded by towering glacier draped mountains. Today the island is surrounded by water and, beyond that, there are very visible glimpses of rock at the bottom of the glaciers. IAE expedition leader Robert Swan says this is a very new thing. He says just a few years ago the island was linked to the mainland by thick ice and no rock was visible anywhere around the island. It was the same the next day, when the team arrived at Neko Harbour. The glaciers at Neko have always been huge tumbled down chunks of compressed ice that kissed the glittering blue sea below. Now rock can be seen everywhere between the water and the glaciers. The ice is disappearing. “The ice retreat is nothing less than incredible,” says Rob. “We are now seeing very visible changes, in just one year.”

On March 8th, the team headed to Bellinghausen on King George Island. It’s the largest island the South Shetland Islands of the Peninsula and is home to numerous international research bases. They are part scientific centers and part geo-political brinkmanship, clear signs that many sovereign states are ready to make territorial claims to this last great wilderness if ever the opportunity arose.

Bellinghausen is also home to the 2041 E-Base, the first education station built in Antarctica of sustainable products and run on renewable energy. In 2008 Robert led the “E-Base Goes Live” mission here, where a 2041 team successfully became the first people in Antarctic history to live for two weeks solely on renewable energy. The IAE 2012 team spent the day visiting the E-Base and doing maintenance, modification and new installation work on the renewable energy systems that power the facility before heading back to the expedition vessel, the Sea Spirit. It’s clever, inspirational stuff and the team arrived back on board in buoyant mood. Coincidentally, March 8th
also marks the Indian festival of Holi. It’s a festival of color and joy that celebrates the triumph of good and evil and it’s a vibrant national
holiday back in India. As there were also two significant birthdays among the team – the oldest expedition member, Vijay from India, celebrated his 67th birthday and the youngest, Theo from France, celebrated his 21st – the Indians on board, expedition members and crew led the rest into a party. It was wonderful stuff, with the 22 nationalities teaching each other dances and songs from all corners of the globe village as they danced and laughed well into the night.

In case the team forgot why we are all here, the team were all woken by the formidable but lovable expedition safety officer, Adrian “Jumper” Cross wellbefore 7 AM. Jumper loudly directed all expedition members, via the ship’s tannoy, onto the ship’s top deck where, in temperatures well below zero, Rob Swan stood in front of a huge tabular glacier that was once part of the Larsen B Ice Shelf. A huge chunk of the shelf – the chunk was bigger than Belgium – fell into the sea in 2002 and these incredible chiseled tabular mammoths that are scattered across the southern ocean are its remnants. It was sobering indeed as Rob stood in the freezing wind on Antarctica Sound and told the team that here in front of us was evidence, albeit stunningly beautiful, of writ large climate change and global warming.

“It is sad,” said Rob to the team. “But I want you to go home feeling something positive about this.”

Positivity is always one of Rob’s core messages. That Antarctica is our planet’s early warning system that holds more than 75% of the world’s fresh water. If this fragile ecosystem is upset, then we are all in trouble. Yes, the sights that the expedition team has seen in the last two days clearly show that the temperature is rising significantly here. But none-the-less, the landscapes and wildlife are amazing and this place is, in the truest sense, truly inspiring.

Let’s make no mistake, Antarctica is absolutely stunningly beautiful. Weather chiseled icebergs walls glint in the sharp sun rays and the sea
moves through shades of perfect aquamarine and turquoise to flinty grey and ominous choppy charcoal to black. The weather changes from sun to storm in seconds and the omnipresent backdrop is a towering mass of towering peaks, huge chunks of squashed, cracked glacier and vast pillows of sloping snow field. There is no place on earth like this and when the sun shines, those that are privileged enough to stand amongst this awesome glinting cacophony of natural beauty are blessed indeed.

On Friday, before leaving Antarctica, the team visited Brown Bluff above Antarctic Sound for one last visual treat. Hiking in rope teams, they moved across glaciers to the top of a stunning snow field. The views were, once again, amazing, back across the snow to the wide, sun dappled ocean with its patchwork of glistening tabular blocks. All of this is a powerful reminder why Rob Swan and his 2041 group grapple so determinedly with renewable power and work with many of the world’s biggest companies on getting the future energy mix right. The renewable energy systems on E-Base show these models can work in Antarctica. Now the team’s task is to ensure we make them work

Richard Cook

Mar 9, 2012
Posted in Day 14 | 8 Comments

Antarctic Sound

Today dawned early for me with ice-bergs, or pieces of them anyway, floating past my window. So I was well-prepared to respond fast to the call to head for the top deck on the double!

A grand sight awaited us. The ship had very kindly switched off all its electronic and surveillance equipment for a while so we could safely watch the giant tabular berg right in front! Grounded after floating up from the break-up of the Larsen B shelf a few years ago, it must have been at least 30/40 metres high – which meant another 300 metres or so below the surface!! What sights we are being treated to on this expedition to study climate change as its happening in Antarctica, and the metaphor it represents for this challenge to the whole of our Planet Earth!

And then breakfast, and into the zodiac boats for another exhilarating ride to shore with our fearless pilots! We landed on Brown Bluff, site of an old volcano, and walked up its slopes watched by young Gentoo penguins and a school of seals lolling around. Up on top we surveyed a wonderful vista. Looking into the Antarctic Sound. We had walked up safely roped together for safety and practicing our newly-acquired skills with knots, staying together and walking as a team looking out for each other.

Back on the ship we had lunch (the trip has been one excellent meal after another!) and then tips on public speaking from Rob, a group exercise, and a rather fine ceremony in the front of the ship conducted by Jumper, with Cameron and Anna, respecting the sea, the ship and its folk and Rob with a little military flourish! Good stuff!

And the Drake Passage lies ahead, displaying signs of liveliness we are told as we wend our way into the Brantsfield Passage on route the South Shetlands and into the Drake Passage tonight! Ah well, time to batten down the hatches, mateys!

Vijay Crishna

Mar 8, 2012
Posted in Day 13 | 4 Comments

Visiting the 2041 E-base

The days are passing by and time is flying away – we all have lost sense of time and looking out the cabin window, the icebergs have disappeared from sight. The Sea Spirit is now navigating to King George Island.

This morning, Darren and Nick have planned a series of classes presenting the causes that triggered past changes in climate, ways to promote awareness about climate change and the various existing tools to mitigate carbon dioxide emissions. By forming small discussion group we exchanged ideas, knowledge, solutions and challenges. Today’s feedback was high and engaged and it was great to see the various nation’s representatives leading discussions.

Following lunch, we are gearing up for our next landing at the Maxwell Bay on King George Island, when announcement ‘Layers, Layers, Layers’ was given as high wind are expected.

The Island is approximately 30 miles long by 10 miles wide and located in the 478 nautical miles north from the tip of South America. The Island sand is dark black which indicates the past volcanic activity and as little amount of snow settles all year long which is the ideal location for various countries to establish a scientific base including Russia, Chile, China and Paraguay and more. However, the reason of our visit is to find out more about the 2041 e-base (the ‘e’ stands for education).

We landed on the ‘russian side’ of the island at the Bellingshausen base. The area looked quite active with several buildings scattered around including a distinguished, small and magnificent church not far from the 2041 e-base.

Robert Swan’s e-base is the only base in Antarctica operating on renewable energy – THE ONLY ONE! This sounds insane taking consideration of the remote location and extreme climate but they’ve done it! They installed wind turbines and various type of solar panels to ensure the continuous and full operation of the base. In fact we met Sky who welcomed us at our arrival and have been living at the base for over 9 days now. Additionally, during our visit insulation sheets were placed on the windows by fellow team members while others demonstrated the affectivity of photovoltaic panel’s technology. The island visit ended with a great hike where we sighted for the first time chinstrap penguins and elephant seals – Both species do carry well very well there name.

The conclusion is that if renewable technologies are effectively operating in Antarctica then I guess it can be done anywhere else!

Ending on a cheering note by wishing a very happy birthday to our fantastic team members Theo and Vidjay who respectively turned 21 and 63 today!

Houda Dafir