Two years ago, there was an article about a young girl called Fanny Dedenbach who has been part of an expedition in Antarctic. This was my dream as well! I wanted to go to the Antarctic, the coldest, driest and most isolated continent of the world.
I have always felt inspired by the Antarctic, not only thanks to the testimonies of the discoverers of the South Pole from the 19th and 20th centuries such as Roald Amundsen or Robert Falcon Scott but also thanks to the harsh climate, beautiful ice-scape and unique animal diversity. However, I did not want to go there, make a selfie of myself with a penguin and just come back. What I really wanted to experience was to get to know the continent from the perspective of the people who already went there and who truly adored the Antarctic in the same way that I did.
The same spirit inhabited the “International Antarctic Expedition” organized by the “2041” organization, the same organization thanks to which Fanny Dedenbach went to Antarctic. I was thrilled when I read her article and couldn’t stop imagining being part of this project.
What is the “2041” organization?
The “2041” organization was founded by the Englishmen Robert Swan to protect the last great wilderness on the planet, the Antarctic. Robert Swan was in the 1980s the only living person on earth who travelled to the South and North pole, without any help, i.e. without phone, radio equipment or any telecommunication devices. Because of a lack of ozone in the ozone layer over the Antarctic, he became almost blind. Robert Swan also almost died in the Arctic at a moment when the ice started melting as it got way too early warm that year (an effect of global warming in all probability). After these two expeditions in both the Antarctic and Arctic, he decided to engage himself into the protection of the environment and the Antarctic more specifically. He realized that the Arctic had almost been completely destroyed and exploited by the developed world because of the richness of its fauna and huge natural resources.
Fortunately, the Antarctic’s natural resources are still protected by a UN-Resolution that most countries of the world signed up until 2041, which means that until that date, no one has the right to exploit the continent’s natural resources in any way. The question remains, though, what will happen afterwards? For Robert Swan, this protection must remain after 2041 in order to impede mankind from making the same mistake it did in the Arctic which is today a shadow of itself. Robert Swan founded the “2041” organization in order to pursue that goal. In order to raise awareness among people from all around the world, he created the “International Antarctic Expedition” (IAE), a project through which people are embarked in an expedition in the Antarctic to discover its beauties and to realize how important it is to protect them. Most people who participate in the expedition are people from big environment protection organizations or environment activists or supporters. According to Robert Swan, once back home, these people will spread the word and fight for the environment. Just to give an idea, if the ice of the Antarctic melts through completely due to climate change or damages originated by humans, the Belgian beach would reach a region as far as the province of Arlon.
I was chosen!
3 months after my application, I finally got the acceptance and my mind was set: I would be going to the Antarctic. However, I had to find sponsors in order to finance the participation costs (€17,000, quite a significant amount). This was not an easy task as most firms are not willing to spend money on an “Antarctic freak”? Fortunately, I finally got support from the “Icewalk” non-profit organization (who also helped Fanny a couple of years ago) and two high-schools from Luxemburg, i.e. the Sainte-Anne and Fieldgen colleges. The financial support I got from these sponsors was not enough though, so, I started working after university, save money everywhere I could and also got the help from friends and an amazing family.
12th March 2015: the day has come!
The adventure started. Everyone of the “International Antarctic Expedition 2015” had to come to Ushuaia (Argentina), the most southern city on earth, in order to take an ice-breaker ship to the Antarctic. Robert Swan in person greeted me and the other 80 people, all coming from 20 different countries. Every person in the team had participated in the expedition for various reasons, ranging from studies research programs to genuine curiosity. We were split into teams of 10 people in order to get to know each other better and to organize everything in a better way. We spent the first two days in the hotel and listened to the presentation of the “2021” experts of the Antarctic, its protection, the environment and Robert Swan’s life. We were also briefed about how to behave on the continent with respect to the environment and to the animals we would be going to encounter as well as about the dangers lurking in the wilderness.
In the Antarctic
After two days on the ship on our way to the Antarctic continent, we saw our first iceberg. Then, after two days and a half, we saw the continent itself and some humpback whales. On the continent, we spent most of the time outside in order to enjoy the vastness of the icescapeRespect towards the environment was very present. For example, we were not allowed to pollute the nature, so the use of any forms of plastic was strictly prohibited as plastic is not biodegradable and, once rejected in the nature, is most of the time eaten by animals and finds its way in the food chain. We could not even eat on the ice. Moreover, we should always stay at least 5 meters away from the animals we met. On the shore, our ship was often surrounded by penguins but we also saw all kinds of whales and sea lions. During our trips, we walked a lot across the icescape, most of the time, tied to each other with ropes to save each other if someone would fall in a crevasse. We also drove around in Zodiac boats and all the boats and ice-breakers that helped us to reach the Antarctic were driven with bio-oil in order not to pollute the sea. Even most of the flights used to reach this other side of the world were CO2 neutral.
During this expedition, we clearly saw by ourselves how much the Antarctic is hurt by climate change. Big icebergs of the size of some US states detach every day from the continent and float in the water to finally melt totally. The fauna of the Antarctic was also heavily damaged by human activity. In the 1930s, for example, thousands of whales were murdered as whale fat was seen as a cure against some diseases.
What an experience!
End of March, we went back to Ushuaia. By far the most amazing adventure of my life ended. Everyone was convinced by the message of Robert Swan and we were ready to spread the message of “2041” into our home countries. We had seen the Antarctic, according to me, the most beautiful place on earth. Way too beautiful to destroy.
For more information about Robert Swan, its organization and the moratorium of 2041 on mining in the Antarctic, see the website: 2041.com
Photo credit: Javier Paredes http://bit.ly/1Kta0FU