ISZL students in Antarctica
The students’ insights:
“The trip to Antarctica was spectacular. I learned and experienced so many new things first-hand that I could have only dreamt of before I travelled to Antarctica. For many years, I have been watching David Attenborough’s documentaries about Antarctica and I was mesmerized by the beauty of the nature. Experiencing the white continent in reality was breath taking and far better than on a screen. It was very rewarding to study the marine life under the microscope on the ship and to watch animal behavior in the wilderness of the islands and the Antarctic Peninsula. On one occasion, a very graceful and playful Minke whale swam next to our ship for almost half an hour as if it wanted to accompany our journey. Observing an animal that is so calm and so friendly and not at all afraid of us was an unforgettable experience. We also watched many other animals such as penguins, crabeater seal, Weddell seal, leopard seal, elephant seal, dolphins, orcas and humpback whales. The animals in Antarctica are not used to humans and therefore they were not afraid of us. When we spotted a leopard seal on an iceberg, it just looked at us and smiled; it did not dive back into the water, just stayed still on the iceberg. All these animals are very precious and I am very happy that they are protected and cannot be harmed in beautiful and amazing Antarctica as long as we manage to keep the climate change in check.”
“It still hasn't gotten into my mind that I am one of the 40,000 people who have gone to Antarctica in 2014. I am grateful to have had this experience and to step foot on one of the coldest and most unique places in the world. Visiting the base stations, seeing how the scientists live and also seeing dozens of penguin rookeries a day. What made the experience more amazing was that I spent it with students in my age, mainly from America and Canada and it was really nice to be able to share this time with people you got to know on the boat Ushuaia. Seeing animals you usually see in zoos, in their natural habitat such as penguins, whales, seals, dolphins and birds. One memorable moment was when a minke whale was following our boat, we were leading it to the orcas but luckily the minke whale got away. The landscape and views were amazing. I am thankful to have gone on this trip and I its a trip I will never forget.”
“I am sure the trip that will forever make part of me will be Antarctica. We met people that have the ability to make us seat back on our chair and think about how special this place is and how nature is beautiful without any intervention of the human being. They are an inspiration. Never forget that world doesn't need humans, but are humans that need the world. You go from not knowing people at all and you get close to them and you just let them go. Go back to your life and move on. It seems that for a moment it was like a dream. It was a reality that I can’t touch anymore. There were multiple highlights in this trip but one of my favourites was when we were on top of the mountain and we had to seat down and be quiet for 5 minutes and just take everything in that paradise had to give us. I remember being next to Evelina and thinking "this is how life should be enjoyed and there is nothing more pleasurable than being here". In the end of the trip I couldn't believe that is was over. I want to thank my mom, Dr. Abella and the students that went on the trip for making this trip one of the best moments of my life.”
A Day by Day Story
by Dr. Anna Abella, (HS Science and Biology Teacher)
All started on Boxing Day afternoon when we met at the airport for a long long trip to Ushuaia.
When we finally arrived we were in for a treat, meeting the rest of the 23 educators and 66 students. First workshops on Wild life; Water, Ice & Climate Change; and Exploration & History. And then an Argentinian Asado!
We spent the first day of our trip in Ushuaia; a walk in the Martial National Park with amazing views of the city, the glacier and the Beagle channel. That evening we embarked into the MW Ushuaia that was to be our home for the following 10 days.
Frist two days on board were spent crossing the Drake Passage, the ship rocked but everybody kept telling us how lucky we were and how calm were the waters! During these days, lectures and workshops continued, we needed to learn as much as we could before getting to the Antarctica, this way we could appreciate it to it full.
Finally we saw land on the horizon and there we were. Our first Antarctica encounter was a zodiac cruise around Elephant Island, were we saw our first penguins, a colony of chinstraps and some leopard seals waiting for a good penguin bite. Plankton was also collected so we could then study it in the lab we set up on board. Elephant Island is known for being were explore Schackelton wintered whilst trying to find help for his crew trapped further south by the ice.
It was already 31st of December when we finally stepped on Antarctica, and what a day! We did two landings, the first one on Brown Bluff where we were able to appreciate our first penguin rookery from close. It was full of Adelie and Gentoo penguins, screaming, walking, bathing and my favourite; feeding the chicks protected under their bellies! Next stop was Esperanza Station; an Argentinian research station where we could visit the school and main hall and were we were treated with some drinks and snacks. It was also nice to be able to chat with some people that will actually spend the winter in Antarctica; I cannot even start to think about how cold would it be. That evening was New Years Eve, at 8 o’clock we were having diner and celebrated Switzerland entering 2015, we still had 3 hours to wait as we decided to celebrate it at 11 and go to bed, the day had been emotional and full and the one to come promised equally exiting!
January the 1st was celebrated with two landing on Deception Island; a volcanic caldera still active. We visited the old whaling station of Whalers Bay, with the big tanks were the blubber used to be stored and did a walk to Neptune’s window; which was the first place from where the Antarctic continent was observed! The visit ended with an Antarctic swim for the most adventurous. Actually I’ll call it more a dip than a swim but the courage of the intrepid need to be congratulated! Our second landing was at Bailey Head, what a place, we were surrounded by a rookery of HALF A MILLION chinstrap penguins!! There are no words to describe the sensations of being there… And as most of the times that we were out, more plankton was collected and a probe was used to take measurements of salinity and temperature down to 50m. Data and samples to keep the evenings on the ship full of science!
The following day was spent at Danko Island and Port Lokroy. The scenery from the top of Danko Island is literarily breath taking. We did our silence moment up there; everybody spread at the top of that small island contemplating and listening to what Antarctic had to offer, what an experience. We also took the opportunity of being on top of a glacier to dig some ice cores and do some snow profiles; more samples for the lab! Port Lokroy offered us the possibility to observe how life was in Antarctica in the 50s. The main building that used to be a research station is now kept as a museum exactly how it used to be. We could see the labs they had and “Besty” the ionospheric apparatus used to discover the ozone whole.
By the 3rd of January most of us stared to worry that the amazing trip was approaching its end; however the worries disappeared when we woke up at the entrance of Lemarie Channel. Who worries about the cold weather when you are in the middle of so much beauty? We spent the morning on deck whist we cruise along the channel followed by a Minke Whale that played with the bow of our ship for more than an hour. Lemarie Channel is one of the places where you can feel Antarctica to its deepest expression: the beauty and the hostility at the same time, how is it possible? At the end of the channel we were treated with a zodiac cruise in between icebergs, I have never seen such a blue deep and intense colour… and not even to mention the ice shapes… We landed at Pleneau Island, our southern most point (65°06'S, 64°04'W) where we were able to observe 4 different species of seals at once (Leopard, Crabeater, Elephant and Weddell). The afternoon was spent in one of the Wauwerman Islands doing some more glaciology; we recovered a sensor put two years ago that recorded temperatures, did some ice transects and map the ice thickness, we also installed a new sensor to continue the study and some poles that will help to monitor ice thickness.
And the 4th of January arrived, our last day in Antarctic. It was hard to be sad when the day was so stunning. Our last visit was in Neko Harbour. A gigantic glacier touching the water, penguins and seals everywhere, amazing views of the surroundings and some ice sledging! What a way to finish our visit!
Two more days were spent on the Drake Passage, which again was good to us. Time to digest what we experienced, time to continue learning with more talks, workshops and lab activities and time to have fun; the Antarctic Jeopardy and the Drake Passage Olympics proved challenging! The last night on board was a big one; talent show (with an amazing music performance from Evelina), photo competition, many surprises and lots of laughthing. We saw again the sun setting, a sign that we have headed north and then the Beagle Channel, we were back in Ushuaia.
What an experience, it will take all of us weeks to digest and realise how fortunate we were to be able to observe this amazing continent. Now is our obligation to share what we lived there, and help protect one of the most pristine places in our planet.
If you want to know more about Students on Ice, the organisation that we joined for this expedition, please visit: http://studentsonice.com/
You could also follow more extensively our expedition day by day with pictures, videos, general reports and participants’ blogs at: http://studentsonice.com/antarctic2014/
And even an interview that SOI did of me before the adventure started: http://studentsonice.com/blog/2014-antarctic-expedition/soi-educator-qa-with-anna-abella/