Posted in AaratiinAntarctica, Expiriencing Antarctica

17th March: First Step on Antarctic Land

Today was the first time we got off the ship in 3 days. We did the whole Branco5 drill and suited up in all our layers and were all set to leave in less than 15 mins. Not bad for a first time huh? We all have allocated lockers in the mud room where our shoes and life jackets hang. When Orcas are disembarking and on shore, the Leopards are indoors having their leadership sessions and vice versa. Sometimes both teams disembark with a half hour gap and take turns between shore landings and Zodiac cruising. We’ve got to keep our ears open for the announcements on the PA system.

The first few steps after getting off a constantly moving ship were wobbly and mistargeted. But stable ground got familiar after a while. Our first stop was port foster, where we got to choose between three different hikes. The strenuous, the moderate and the contemplative. The strenuous hikers’, climbed up the hill for the bird’s eye view of the island; the moderate and the contemplative hikers got to watch them climb up from way below. I chose the moderate hike as it was day one and I was already out of breath just hiking up the mini hill in this cold. But it was a choice well made because all of us got to be a part of the fun little photo shot of writing a human 2041 on the ground! 🙂 The later description of the strenuous hike by the hikers reaffirmed our belief in our choice. 😛

Deception island is a horse-shoe shaped island situated in the South Shetland Islands of Antarctica. It’s rife with volcanic activity and has hot underwater geysers thus, you can see steam rising off its surface in the surrounding waters. If you didn’t have a GPS in hand, you could be anywhere in the world for deception island’s brown surface doesn’t look much like Antarctica or how you’d expect it to be. But things aren’t always what they appear to be at Deception Island- the apparent brown surface is actually volcanic Ash layered over Glaciers. The island is all ICE!

Whalers bay was our next stop, a place that deeply moved many of us animal lovers. It comes with a sorrowful history. Back in the early 1900s this was a whaling station where whales and seals were hunted for their oil and nearly driven to extinction. Whale oil was used in the houses of the rich to light lamps in Europe. As you walk through the rubble and dilapidated buildings, you are overcome by this feeling of sadness. There are still hooks hanging where the whales and seals were once hung and huge rusty tankers to hold whale oil which would take at least a thousand murders to fill. The whole place reeks of melancholy.

But as Rob often says, IAE is all about the positive. “Negativity never inspired anyone,” he also says. Due to technological advancements and the onslaught of electricity and the light bulb, whale oil soon became obsolete. Even the petroleum industry had a part to play. It no longer made monetary sense to get so much whale oil from a whaling base all the way in Antarctica. So is the case today for all the valuable minerals, and deposits of natural gas and fossil fuels deep under Antarctica’s frozen surface. The ice makes these reserves inaccessible and non-profitable for those wanting to misuse this opulence of nature and the Antarctica Protection Treaty is keeping it safe. But in 2041, in all probability with the current rate of global warming, the ice on Antarctica will melt thus making exploiting Antarctica easier and profitable. The hope is by then, just like electricity replaced whale oil, Solar and other alternative sources of energy will replace fossil fuels. Thus, by the end of the day, learning about the history of the place and speaking with Rob, Whalers Bay for us became a symbol of Hope, drowning the Sadness.

“All the knowledge in the world won’t give you the emotional impact that Antarctica will give you.”

-Don Kent

Rob spoke about all that and much more in his session called ‘Footsteps of Scott – 30th Anniversary’. When he spoke the entire room listened in pin-drop silence. You see what people mean when they say Rob adapts to his audience and that he is an amazing storyteller. He started off with his childhood and his influences in wanting to take on the feet of walking to the north pole and the south pole. He narrated the entire story with such humor, suspense, and drama while making himself so relatable throughout. I don’t remember even blinking once. I think for me the most endearing part was how he did not glamorize what being a leader meant. His lessons on leadership were subtle, narrative and contained many tiny things that you’d pick up, that would make you feel that even you are a leader,(maybe that’s why we are here) you only need to care enough. He moves his audience! There was not one soul in the room who didn’t feel that way by the end of his story. You could see it on our faces and it resonated when we exchanged looks with anyone, even on the other end of the room.

I didn’t take any notes from that session, I hope someone recorded it. But sometimes there is such joy in just listening.

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