Reaching Antarctica by ship is an important part of the journey. It helps you slowly cut away from the real world (Since you have no way of really communicating with the outside world). The journey in the ship becomes as much a part of the story as taking your first step on the 7th continent. When you only see water all around you for days on end and no sign of land it makes you think of things you didn’t even know you were capable of thinking of!
We made it through the Drake Passage alive and in one piece!!
On the 8th of March I saw my first iceberg! It was a moment that I will treasure for the rest of my life. I felt every single emotion in that second. There were so many feelings surfacing that I began to cry. I cried because of how beautiful it was, I cried because I had never seen something so pure and it hurt me to know that our everyday lives back home were destroying that beauty. Its amazing what nature can make you feel without even trying too hard. I was looking at the last wilderness left on the planet.
Do we need to protect nature for the future of humans or protect nature from humans themselves.
We made our first landing on the Half moon island. It gets its name from its shape. The island is a part of the South Shetland islands and is not a part of mainland Antarctica. There’s an Argentine base on this island as well. We were welcomed by hundreds of Chinstrap and Gentoo penguins who were all mostly molting. Molting is a process that penguins undergo once a year. They lose their old feathers and get new ones. The process can make them quite miserable during those days (sometimes weeks) since they lose ALL their feathers at once instead of losing their feathers one at a time like other birds.
Despite my major phobia of birds I was quite comfortable being surrounded by penguins. They can be quite silly and curious when they’re in the mood. They taught me that it’s okay to continue being yourself even when you have a hundred odd strangers staring at you. It made me so happy to see them roam around freely, run, jump and swim in their natural habitat. There are penguins in enclosures around the world and my heart sank in that moment thinking of them. They’re meant to be open, wild and free, they’re not meant to be caged up and stared at by people on the other side of the glass. When will we learn? When will we learn that animals are not ours to keep?
I saw a number of penguin carcases on my first landing. It initially made me upset but the more I thought about it- it made sense. Nature knows how to maintain a balance. Antarctica has the most fragile ecosystem on the planet and yet it knows how to manage itself without human intervention. This was definitely something to think about.
For all those interested in a bit of science –
Climate change and Penguins :
Research shows that climate change will impact penguins in two ways –
- Reduction of food availability : Penguins mostly rely on krill. Krill depends on sea ice. Simply put – If sea ice melts that will directly impact the availability of krill and thereby affect the food source for penguins.
- Reduction in availability of nesting habitats. Though penguins spend up to 80% of their lives in water, Land is also crucial for their survival. These creatures lay their eggs on land and wait till the chicks are mature enough to take them into the water. Melting ice sheets means that at times the chicks are forced into the water before their feathers are fully developed and that could lead to hypothermia and ultimately death of the chicks.
This is a very simplified explanation of the relationship between climate change and penguins. If you would like to know more you can visit –
Being in Antarctica reminded me of the videos I used to show my classroom when I was a teacher. “ Nature is speaking” –
“NATURE DOES NOT NEED PEOPLE. “
“PEOPLE NEED NATURE”