​International Antarctic Expedition: Part 3

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Heading south!

We were finally on the ship and the journey towards Antarctica began! The ship started to move and we all gathered on the top deck to bid farewell to the South American continent!

To begin with we had a safety briefing from Cheli, the expedition leader. Apparently the safest place for our things to be was on the floor – we had to drake proof our room that night as we would be entering open waters later in the evening. We heard stories of how dangerous the Drake passage could be and had to prepare ourselves for the worst!

 

We got our Parkas and boots and had the mandatory lifeboat drill. All I could imagine during this were the scenes from Titanic! I mentally started calculating the number of people on board and the number of available life jackets and boats! Thankfully there were more than enough!

Inspecting the life boats
View from the top! The shades of blue were so beautiful!

The ship had a capacity of 400 guests (+ expedition team members). It would take a day or two to get familiar with names, faces and the insides of the ship! It was like a maze!!
Maggie and I found our way to our room and were quite surprised at how tiny it was! There was a porthole window in our cabin and if we were to experience the Drake shake – that would resemble a washing machine window!

Porthole window!!

 

The great thing about our room was that it was right next to the mud room. The mud room was where we would get ready for our landing and zodiac cruises. Everyone had their own lockers and we would keep our main gear there.
Though I was ready to eat canned food for the entire duration of the expedition, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that would not be the case! The chef on the ship was pretty good and prepared some amazing meals!!
One of my favorite parts about the ship was definitely the bridge and the control room! You can see everything from the bridge room and what better way to start the day than by standing at the bridge and watching Humpback whales swimming around the ship?
On our way to the peninsula we were lucky to experience the Drake lake instead of the Drake shake! A lot of people were till sea sick but personally I loved the gentle rocking feeling!
Our sessions on board began right on day one! Starting with “whales of the southern ocean” to “Penguins” and “sea birds of the Drake Passage and the Antarctic Peninsula”. It was so useful to learn all this from the best in the field! We had Marine biologists, ornithologists and naturalists on board who have been going to Antarctica for many years now. I was also able to get deeper insight into how the fragile ecosystem of the Antarctic is getting affected by human actions. The consequences of these actions will be (and are already being) felt around the world.

Learning more about ice bergs! Fact : you can only see 1/7th of an iceberg from the top!

One of the most interesting things I learnt during these talks was the importance of Krill. Krill are keystone species in the food chain. Our health and lives directly and indirectly depend on their survival. Though considered to be microscopic, they can grow to up to 7cm. One of the tiniest creatures around and yet their total biomass outweighs the entire human population!

Krill and climate change :

Krill, as mentioned above are tiny shrimp like creatures. They form an integral part of the food chain in the oceans. almost all creatures consume krill or they consume something else that consumes krill and so on and so forth. One break in this chain could lead to catastrophic effects and unfortunately that is what is happening already.

Krill require a delicate balance of conditions. They feed on phytoplankton (algae), their eggs require a certain temperature to hatch and they need sea ice shelter in the winters in order to survive. The times don’t look promising for krill – whether its sea level temperatures rising, sea ice melting or even ocean acidification – these tiny poor creatures are getting attacked from all sides. Their decline would mean a declining trend for other polar animals as well including whales, seals and penguins!

 

When will we realize that we aren’t the most important beings on this planet? We are tiny in the face of the natural world and it’s sad to see and know that we assume that we have the upper hand in most situations.
This expedition was going to raise more questions in my head and that’s exactly what I wanted! It was going to lead to a lot of reflections and I feel that is so important when you’re trying to bring about solutions for the rest of the world!