I, Avani Awasthee, an undergraduate student of FLAME University, Pune had been selected for the “International Antarctic Expedition 2016”, which was a once in a lifetime opportunity. This program is called the “Leadership on the Edge” and the expedition was held from the 13th-25th of March 2016. The International Antarctic Expedition 2016, which hosted Sir Robert Swan’s Leadership on the Edge program, was indeed an exhilarating and a life-changing experience for all the 143 participants from 30 different nations across the globe. Antarctic – The last great wilderness on earth is melting! We along with the 2041 Team witnessed, debated, discussed and received firsthand information of the effects of climate change which was more than evident on this continent. We had the opportunity to see the effects of temperature rise on this icy and remote continent.
Our aim on this expedition was to learn about climate change, sustainability and energy use and how they affect us worldwide and what we can do to “PROTECT THE ANTARCTIC”. The icebergs do calve naturally, regularly and frequently. We ourselves witnessed, firsthand something that not many humans have seen, which is unimaginable – massive icebergs breaking away due to the steady increase in the temperatures. This is happening at a rate ten times faster than previously thought. We can sure look this up on the internet, but I have been there and seen it happen!
The oceans make up 71% of the earth’s surface. Less than 10% of this living space has been explored by humans. The Antarctic Ice Sheet that forms and melts over the ocean each year is nearly twice the size of the United States.
On the afternoon of the 14th of March 2016, after making final phone calls back home, we embarked our ship the Ocean Endeavour and bid adieu to the southern-most city of the world – Ushuaia. Sometimes misty and grey, other times calm and clear, crossing the legendary Drake Passage took us a good 30 hours. During this crossing, we were a part of various multimedia lectures by global experts about Antarctica including its geology, wildlife, history and geography. We were given IAATO (International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators) guidelines for approaching the wildlife and soon began to discuss about renewable energy and how it plays a role in the preservation of the Antarctic. One of our major conclusions at the end of this expedition was that we have to change our ways!
Once we successfully passed the Drake and entered into calm waters, we had the opportunity of making many shore landings in inflatable rubber boats called zodiacs. The places we visited include – Port Foster & Whalers Bay, Brown Bluff, Portal Point and Dallman Bay, The Lemaire Channel, Port Charcot & Pleneau Bay, Peterman Island and finally the Neko Harbour.
After a lot of learnings and experiences, it was time for the biggest experience – The Polar Plunge. The challenge was jumping into the Antarctic waters which was then -2 degrees Celsius; but it was worth every moment. It was extremely scary but an experience which I will never forget throughout my life! On this note, we headed back through the Drake back to Ushuaia.
“It is us who needs the environment, not the environment that needs us”- This is the statement I strongly believed in for a long time now, but the visit to the icy continent has just made this belief even stronger for me. All of us need to be considerate and sensitive towards the environment; it could be in the smallest way by switching off the light bulbs when unnecessary or by living on renewable energy through solar panels. But eventually, the choice is ours!
Undergraduate student, FLAME University