A frigid lumber into Antarctica


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From the golden age of polar exploration a century ago to approved day scientific expeditions, the wind-bitten metropolis of Punta Arenas is the Chilean gateway to the Antarctic. The custom and ancient previous of this frontier-metropolis are entwined with the Southern Ocean. 

In the principle square of Plaza Munoz Gamero, a statue of Ferdinand Magellan looks out in direction of the strait that bears his name, a route he realized in 1520 that allowed mariners to manual obvious of the shipwreck hell of Cape Horn till the building of the Panama Canal.

To reach Antarctica from Punta Arenas recently, you enjoy two alternate choices. Fly or bolt. Fly and likewise you might per chance perhaps most probably properly be there in ninety minutes. Fling by ship and it’ll cope with shut six days. We flew out. And sailed lend a hand, which is every other epic.

Leaving sunny, leafy Punta Arenas and touchdown on King George Island on the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula correct one and a 1/2 hours later is a tips-blowing trip. Or now not it’s Earth however now not as we perceive it.

‘Welcome aboard’

Or now not it’s shadowy and biting frosty. The wind is slashing horizontal rain all over the runway. A grimy yellow automobile on caterpillar tracks whirrs by. In the gap, shrouded in swirling mist, a bunch of cruise ship vacationers huddle, hoods up, surrounded by their bags, resignedly awaiting their flight out.

On top of a hill, you might per chance perhaps most probably perhaps correct form the surreal spy of a Russian Orthodox Church overlooking the compare inferior it serves. In this parallel universe, Russia’s instantaneous neighbour is Chile, two of several bases on the island conducting varied levels of atmospheric and environmental compare. Uruguay’s down the road and so they’re neighbours with China.

And then as I strive and receive myself, a penguin walks by, looks up at me a itsy-bitsy bit quizzically, potters about for a itsy-bitsy bit, and waddles off.

Within moments I’m whisked off by the Greenpeace crew, bundled correct into a vivid orange survival chase well with and hurtling all over freezing tough Antarctic waters, salt spray stinging the eyes.

Subsequent, our boat is slapping into the golf green painted side of a ship and all over the din of the engine and a howling wind, an Argentinian deck hand grabs my collar, hauls me up the ladder and she shouts: « Welcome Aboard! »

And there I’m on the Arctic Crack of dawn, an icebreaker. In Antarctica. Dwelling for the next two weeks.

The campaign

Warmed up and dried out, I chat to the Greenpeace campaign chief, Will McCallum, who tells me we’re making scheme directly for the Weddell Sea, the positioning of the proposed ocean sanctuary, five instances the size of Germany.

« Or now not it’s undecided how a ways we’ll obtain, » acknowledged Will. « There’s a beautiful quantity of ice within the trend however we hope now not lower than to obtain to the sixty fourth parallel, which is the attach the proposed ample advise would delivery.

« Or now not it’s described by all americans as a beautiful inhospitable attach so as that’s the feeling we’re going to obtain as we now not a ways away! » he acknowledged, pointing at a map displaying our route along the Antarctic Sound into the Weddell Sea.

So I employ my first evening on board. Or now not it’s a ship with hot showers, hot meals and elated cabins. But despite contemporary comforts, our hopes of success rely on factors no different to those of the polar explorers of a century ago – weather, ice prerequisites and a factual deal of generous fortune.

Aerial perceive taken off James Ross Island within the Weddell Sea, within the Antarctic [Daniel Beltrá/Greenpeace] 

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