Into the Land of Ice

Arriving in Ushuaia turned out not to be our real finish. From the southernmost city in the world we were very fortunate to join our personal hero and inspiration, polar explorer Robert Swan OBE, and his team from 2041to Antarctica. This last true wilderness holds roughly seventy percent

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of the world’s freshwater resources, and we were very anxious to see it in all its splendor, and learn about the effects of climate change on this; the White Continent.

Together with seventy other intrepid explorers coming from all across the globe, we embarked onto the luxurious Sea Spirit.

Beagle ChannelCrossing the famous Beagle Channel south, across the notoriously turbulent Drake Passage, towards Antarctica; the coldest and loneliest place on Earth.

Great AlbatrossWhile crossing the Antarctic Convergence and sailing into the cold, but highly productive, Southern Ocean; we see our first Wandering Albatross…

First Ice!and we spot the first bits of ice floating alongside the ship.

Welcome to AntarcticaSuddenly the mist and fog clears and we find ourselves looking at the Antarctic Peninsula. We sail into Dallmann Bay and marvel

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at the quiet beauty of the Melchior Islands.

Little IcebergAll around us are bergs and bits; the deep blue color caused by the scattering of light within the tightly compressed ice, in which all the air has been pressured out of the crystals.

BlueThis is Antarctica; a continent twice the size of Australia, but with no permanent inhabitants, and no indigenous peoples. It has never seen war, and it is the only place on our entire planet that

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we all own.

Joost is happy! Smelling the continent, tasting it, feeling it; it inspires wonder and amazement. It is an unexpectedly quiet place where humans are made very acutely aware of their own insignificance and vulnerability.

Animals and nature are in charge here… (photo courtesy of Jack Robert-Tissot)

And patrolling just below the surface in the frigid waters, there be giants… (photo courtesy of Jack Robert-Tissot)

SunriseMoving along, we sail through the gorgeous Lemaire Channel beneath towering volcanic cliffs. On the one hand lies Booth Island, on the other mainland Antarctica, tantalizingly close.

Gentoo Penguins!Going ashore on Petermann Island at 65° 10′ South, we visit the southernmost colony of Gentoo Penguins.

Fluffy Adélie PenguinSome fluffy, nonchalant looking, Adelie chicks are also around; they better hurry up and molt before winter sets in.

Otherwise they’ll be easy pickings… (photo courtesy of Kevin Jiahong Wang)

Follow the LeaderEveryone loves penguins and it’s difficult not to be too anthropomorphic with so many tempting ‘invent-the-caption’ scenes around…

In the CornerRight?

Camping out on Ronge Island we found that, despite popular belief, Antarctica does in fact have land-based predators… (photo courtesy of John Luck)

Although they do not appear to be too vicious… (photo courtesy of Jack Robert-Tissot)

Calm...After a rainy night, during which we could hear the thunderous sounds of glaciers calving into the ocean, we were glad to get out of our wet bivouac sacks and enter the brash ice of Paradise Bay…

Going for a divewhere a giant pod of humpback whales had just joined us.

From the relative safety of the zodiacs we could creep up very close to these gentle giants…

although they would regularly test our steadfastness by diving and gliding underneath the – suddenly very rickety feeling – rubber boats to show their immense shadowy outline in the cold, blue water (photo courtesy of Joseph Chan)

With the bike on AntarcticaAfter this mesmerizing experience we went ashore at Paradise Harbour…

where we could participate in the first ever TEDx event held on the Antarctic Peninsula.

Standing there in just our cycling shorts we rushed through our talk as quickly as possible…

Although actually jumping in the frigid, zero degree Celsius, water was even colder… and quicker… (photos courtesy of John Luck)

Wind PowerNearing the end of our Antarctic expedition we sailed to King George Island on the South Shetlands. Here, at the Russian base of Bellingshausen, stands Robert Swan’s e-Base. Run solely on renewable energy, it is an inspiring symbol that if we can successfully use alternatives here – in the most hostile environment on Earth; we can use it everywhere, meaning that there will be no need to come to Antarctica to seek out its riches and destroy the last wilderness on the planet in the process.

Long way to home..Because even though humans do not regularly venture to this bottom end of the planet, we have had a dramatic impact on it…

last Icebergswhich was made brutally clear to us once we passed to the eastern side of the Peninsula and sailed into the Weddell Sea; greeted there by massive icebergs dotted across the ocean…

Larsen Bour eyes were transfixed on this massive piece of the Larsen B Ice Shelf, which broke off several years ago. The shelf, roughly the size of Belgium (!), fell into the sea even though it shouldn’t have, and these gigantic tabular bergs floating around in the Southern Ocean are a powerful reminder that Antarctica – the planet’s early warning system – is telling us something. It’s telling us to slow down and think, because the biggest threat to the planet is the belief that someone else will take care of it.


  • Wat een reis, wat een ervaring en wat een schitterende foto’s. Groet.
    G. Scholtens

    Comment by G.Scholtens — April 16, 2012 @ 08:20
  • Thanks to both of you for your inspiration and example!

    My partner & I are currently cycling the world, as a part of our journey to living a simpler and more sustainable lives. We’re planning our route around visiting organizations and people that are affecting positive change, both locally and globally, in relation to climate change and other global issues (like water, food, waste, consumption, etc.). We want to learn as many new skills about sustainable living as possible, as well as talk about and share photos and stories with readers around the world, enabling them to understand issues more and perhaps be called to action themselves.

    However, these past few weeks I’ve had some depression and doubts over whether or not we can make any difference by just changing our own lives when so many others are not aware or educated or concerned enough to do the same. Sometimes these problems seem so insurmountable in a world of consumption and greed.

    I just watched your Ted talk and read this last entry and I gained some encouragement from your words and actions. It is true that the biggest threat to the planet is the belief that someone else will take care of it. Which is why we must continue onward and do the best we can.

    Hopefully you are experiencing some relaxation after your trip. And I wonder what you’re individual plans are next? How has this changed you and the way you live?

    P.S. Would love to have you contribute to our Cycling Shorts Series (10 questions we ask fellow cycle tourists and then share with our blog readers) if you’re up for it. If you are please email me! :-)

    Comment by Sheila Poettgen — June 2, 2012 @ 03:40

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