Posted in Expiriencing Antarctica

The Ice is melting!

 

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Photo by Rohan Sood at Neko Harbor. Notice the ice calving into the water on the right and how the size of the wave created is almost three times the size our ship even. 

 

Are you the kind who believes in conspiracy theories? I know I am. When I was younger I would watch every documentary and dig up all possible information about the Apollo moon landing and Area 51. I was convinced about the Apollo moon landing being fake because my then-favorite rock band said so, even though they meant it as a diss on Hollywood referring to its Darkside and the west for propagating the ‘immoral’. I would go around propagating the same hoping people would finally see that we are being lied to!

As the years have passed, I’ve learned to exercise my own critical thinking and let others do the same by letting them form their own opinions. So even though I strongly believe that climate change is happening, I will let you form your own opinions around it. To lay down the facts, climate change deniers believe that global warming is not happening at all as since the formation of the earth, through millions of centuries, earth has gone through fluctuating climate i.e. through the ice age and the stone age etc etc. So if the earth is heating up now, it’s only because it is meant to. Dinosaurs have become extinct and so have Wooly Mammoths but evolution has brought in new species into the picture. It’s the natural cycle of life! Sure, that makes absolute sense…. right?

Wrong! When we talk about Climate Change we are talking about “Human-Induced Climate Change” which is way different from the natural climate change. The amount of Green House Gases being released into the atmosphere has accelerated the process of natural heating since the industrial revolution to levels now higher than the speed of warming observed over centuries. Animal adaptation and evolution is a slow process and does not happen overnight. At the rate at which the climate is drastically changing, there is no scope for animals to adapt to the change.

Since the Industrial Revolution began in about 1750, carbon dioxide levels have increased nearly 38 percent as of 2009 and methane levels have increased 148 percent.

Earth Observatory, Nasa

All this has led to the ice at the poles to melt, which in turn is going to flood cities like Mumbai, New York, New Orleans and entire island nations like Maldives along with its flora and fauna, due to sea level rise. Whether you live in these cities or far inland, you probably still don’t understand the gravity of the situation. You might think it doesn’t affect you? The fact is, it does. What happens at the Poles effects all of us, and no event on earth happens in complete isolation. Climate change is not only making the temperatures to rise but is also making the weather more extreme. I am sure you are experiencing it too, no matter where you are in the world. These past few years, Boston has seen the coldest winter, Delhi has recorded the highest temperature, farmers all across the globe have seen the worse droughts and the coasts furious cyclones.

The global average surface temperature rose 0.6 to 0.9 degrees Celsius (1.1 to 1.6° F) between 1906 and 2005, and the rate of temperature increase has nearly doubled in the last 50 years.

Earth Observatory, Nasa

For me climate change is real because I have seen it happen. The ice is melting!

On our last day at Neko Harbour when we were sitting on top of that hill, reflecting, we saw something that drove home the point of climate change and for some of us scarred us for life. A huge chunk of the hanging ice from the glacier in front of us broke off and fell straight into the water. There was a loud noise and a thud that got our heart racing for it almost sounded like an earthquake. And the silence that followed felt like an eternity. At that moment, the thing that our team leader Don Kent said “nothing in the world will give you the emotional impact that Antarctica will give you” never seemed truer. The ice is melting! And it is happening at both the poles.

 

I am convinced that climate change is real because I see it happening every day. My own city is getting warmer and I hear everyone I know complain about ‘this year being the worse summer’, every year. Every global issue is a direct or indirect consequence of climate change. From terrorism to the refugee crisis to inflation and global economy fluctuations can all be traced back to climate change. Think about it! I watch what is happening to the animals (marine and land) due to human activities and how vast and intricate the climate change issue is.

If you want to know more, watch “the climate change conspiracy by the Truthloader” and learn more about this guy: James Hansen. If you are a climate change naysayer I would love to indulge in a healthy discussion and learn from you as to why you believe so? But be warned, that I put climate change deniers in the same category as people who believe that the Holocaust wasn’t real! And if you fall in the category of the latter I put you in the same category of Heartless Humans.

Finally, I’d like to leave you with one of my favourite quotes by Sir Ken Robinson:”If in 50 years all insects were to die, all life forms on earth would perish but if humans were to die all life forms would flourish.”

Are you the kind who believes in conspiracy theories? I know I am. When I was younger I would watch every documentary and dig up all possible information about the Apollo moon landing and Area 51. I was convinced about the Apollo moon landing being fake because my then-favorite rock band said so, even though they meant it as a diss on Hollywood referring to its Darkside and the west for propagating the ‘immoral’. I would go around propagating the same hoping people would finally see that we are being lied to!

As the years have passed, I’ve learned to exercise my own critical thinking and let others do the same by letting them form their own opinions. So even though I strongly believe that climate change is happening, I will let you form your own opinions around it. To lay down the facts, climate change deniers believe that global warming is not happening at all as since the formation of the earth through millions of centuries earth has gone through fluctuating climate i.e. through the ice age and the stone age etc etc. So if the earth is heating up now, its only because it is meant to. Dinosaurs have become extinct and so have Wooly Mammoths but evolution has brought in new species into picture. It’s the narutal cycle of life! Sure, that makes absolute sense…. right?

Wrong! When we talk about Climate Change we are talking about “Human-Induced Climate Change” which is way differnt from the natural climate change. The amount of Green House Gases being released into the atmosphere has acceralated the process of natural heating since the industrial revolution to levels now higher than the speed of warming observed over centuries. Animal adaptation and evolution is a slow process and does not happen over night. At the rate at which the climate is drastically changing there is no scope for animals to adapt to the change.

Since the Industrial Revolution began in about 1750, carbon dioxide levels have increased nearly 38 percent as of 2009 and methane levels have increased 148 percent.

Earth Observatory, Nasa

All this has led to the ice at the poles to melt, which inturn is going to flood cities like Mumbai, New York, New Orleans and entire island nations like Maldives along with its flora and fauna, due to sea level rise. Whether you live in these cities or far inland, you probably still don’t understand the gravity of the situation. You might even think how does this effect me? The fact is, it does. What happens at the Poles effects all of us, and no event on earth happens in complete isolation. Climate change is not only making the temperates to rise but is also making the weather more extreme. I am sure you are expirienceing it too, no matter where you are in the world. This past few years, boston has seen the coldest winter, delhi has recorded the hightest temperature, farmers all across the globe have seen the wrose droughts and the coasts furious cycolons.

The global average surface temperature rose 0.6 to 0.9 degrees Celsius (1.1 to 1.6° F) between 1906 and 2005, and the rate of temperature increase has nearly doubled in the last 50 years.

Earth Observatory, Nasa

For me climate change is real because I have seen it happen. The ice is melting!

On the last day at Neko Harbour when we were sitting on top of that hill, reflecting, we saw something that drove home the point of climate change and for some of us scarred us for life. A huge chunk of the hanging ice from the glacier in front of us broke off and fell stright into the water. There was a HUGE noise and a thud that got our heart racing for it almost sounded like an earthquake. And the scilence that followed felt like an eternity. At that moment the thing that our team leader Don Kent said “nothing in the world will give you the emotional impact that Antarctica will give you” never seemed more true. The ice is melting! And it is happening at both the poles.

IMG_8959
Photo by Rohan Sood. Notice the ice caving into the water on the right and how the wave created is almost three times the size of our ship even.

I am conviced that climate change is real because I see it happening everyday. My own city is getting warmer and I hear everyone I know complain about ‘this year being the worse summer’, every year. Every global issue is a direct or indirect consequce of climate change. From terrorism to the refugee crisis to inflation and global economy fluctuations can all be traced back to climate change. Think about it! I watch what is happening to the animals (marine and land) due to human activities and how vast and intrecate the climate change issue is.

If you are a climate change naysayer and I would love to indulge in a healthy discussion and learn from you as to why you believe so? But be warned, that I put climate change denyers in the same category as people who say the Holocaust wasn’t real!

Finally I’d like to leave you with one of my favotrite quotes by Sir Ken Robinson:”If in 50 years all insects were to die, all life forms on earth would prerish; if humans were to die all life forms would flourish.”

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.

Posted in AaratiinAntarctica, Expiriencing Antarctica

18th March: Unpredictable Antarctica

This morning I woke up early and sat by the window writing my journal when suddenly Rob came and sat in the chair in front of mine. :/ He said “Good morning Aartee!” in his very British accent. I got super nervous stopped whatever I was doing and sat up in total attention. It wouldn’t have been out of place if I even tapped my foot and saluted. I don’t know what happens to my demeanour on being surrounded by older people or by people in an authoritative position, but it probably has something to do with a combination of the Indian conditioning of respect for elders and my deep instilled manners and etiquette that came with having gone to Army School all my life and attending all those mess parties as a child. But 5 mins in, Rob made me feel so comfortable that were discussing everything from Indian youth dating scenes and arranged marriages to Yoga and the power of solar.

He also asked me the big question: What do you plan on doing post the expedition? What’s your one big goal? And that’s the dreaded question that everyone is being asked on this ship. We all are trying to work through that very question through our personal leadership journies and the modules, trying to find our “sweet spot”, diagnosing out strengths and weaknesses through group sessions while sharing our crucibles and success stories and some of the most intimate details of our lives and for some of us resurfacing memories buried away deep inside. But through the process, we are also building trust, among the entire team and friendships that will last a lifetime.

So what do I plan to do, post the expedition? Well, I told Rob I was still working on “the plan”. He said I should tell him “the plan” before the end of the expedition. I just hope I figure out what “the plan” is before that.

We disembarked the ship today at Brown Bluff. It’s called so because of the rust colored basalt rocks on its slope due to volcanic eruptions under its surface through years. But unlike deception island, Brown Bluff looked more like Antarctica. It was white from top to bottom covered in snow. We all walked till the top and a part of our activity was to cross a deep crevasse. The climb had the most beautiful view at every level as we ascended, but it was equally  challenging. People kept slipping and falling, one us even broke our camera lens by smashing it on a rock on slipping. We made a human chain to cross the most slippery parts in teams.

Antarctica is unpredictable. She is wild and free. One second she was inviting with her calm and beauty, stunning us while we were climbing a hill and the very next second she unleashed the katabatic winds of 45 knots (a tropical hurricane is at 50 knots) forcing us to abandon the hike midway and seek cover in the ship. That was quite some adventure for the day.

In the afternoon, we saw something that was right out of a movie. Icebergs! Huge Tabular Icebergs floating in the middle of the ocean. They were once a part of the Larsen B ice shelf that broke off  in 2002. You would be surprised at how they hold themselves afloat for some of them were bigger than the size of our ship. And so perfectly cuboidal that if you had the chairs of the right size, you could host a proper sit-down dinner on them for a 1000 people.

It’s like every day trumps the other in its awesomeness here in Antarctica. There are always things you’ve never seen before.

Posted in AaratiinAntarctica, Expiriencing Antarctica

19th March: Whale Footprints

Did you know- Whales leave footprints? I didn’t know that myself until today! Until I saw my first humpback whale take a dive and leave behind a prominent halo on the surface of the water that stays a good minute. It keeps expanding in size before it merges with waves. We went on a zodiac cruise this afternoon to spot humpback whales. We saw almost 6 in sets of two. For the most part, everyone was always ready with their cameras waiting for it to dive to get that perfect shot of its tail fin. You can tell before it is just about to take a dive, as its body comes out of the surface more than usual and for the last two strokes before it is about to take a dive everyone in anticipation is ready with their fingers on the camera clicker. And usually, you hear a couple of dozen misguided clicks on the penultimate one followed by twice as many on the real one. I am telling you about the distinct clicks because it’s all really quite. You can hear every tiny sound including the soft waves lashing against the zodiac when stationary, the sound of the whales swimming, their each stroke even if they are 30 feet away and an occasional blow from their snout.

Also, team Kershaw is generally a quite team. I feel like each team’s ‘team personality’ is usually a statistical mean of its ‘individual personalities’. While we have an extreme like our French-Australian boy Joslin with all the jokes and noise we also have ‘Guy’ who is always in Zen mode balancing it out. You can see Jossey with 3 giant cameras and lenses at any given time and you’ll know exactly why when you see his final masterpieces. Anisa from our team is always so calm, composed and gives and takes zero drama. She lent me her iron man Buenos Aires water bottle that she volunteered for before coming to the expedition because I lost my water bottle. Gene is perhaps the most contemplative 17-year-old I know. The first time I met her I had no idea she was 17. She is super smart and also speaks like a total adult. It was only when she told me about “this chapter” they were studying “in class” (high school) where they discussed letters written by a world war II leader as a piece of literature in an English class that also weaved into their history class about the world wars, that it all made sense. I love seeing how education shapes an individual along with other influences and this example of multidisciplinary learning just made me rethink classroom education as we in India know it.

Emma reminds me of Emma Watson for more reasons than just her accent. She comes across as an over achiever and is always in charge of the situation. Much like Ed, she keeps calm and has most situations under control. Ed is like the Mama bird protecting its kids. He is fun and funny yet super responsible at the same time. You can count on him for anything. He is a wood cutter and knows how to tie secure knots to climb up to great heights and is brave for that reason I believe. He stepped up to help me out with this braveness once. Keith is like daddy cool and he can tell stories with just one word. Abby is exactly how I see myself at 60. She is a grandma who kayaks and until recently was taking care of 40 Huskies in Alaska! Talk about dream jobs, huh?

 

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❤ Team Kershaw

 

The zodiacs move really fast and nothing can be worse than salt water for your cameras, so we have to pack them up in zip-lock bags whenever we know we are about to ride. Right when we were all ready to head back to ship after two hours of spotting five humpbacks, there was a moment in which a whale surfaced 10 ft away from our zodiac and none of us had our cameras out. While some of us reached into our bags to pull out our cameras, others were too awestruck to even move. Before we knew it the Whale took a graceful vertical dive and was back in the water again, waving goodbye with its tail fin right next to us. That moment was our moment of eternity. Experiencing that not through the frame of the lens but through my eyes  etched that moment in my memory forever. It drove home the point of- disconnect to connect. And that shared moment experienced in silence by our quiet-team connected us for eternity. That and many other such quiet moments we’ve shared as a team.

 

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Photo Credit: 2041 foundation

 

 

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I’m really proud of this one! 🙂

 

 

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And this one!

 

 

We did 4 phase team building activities at Portal Point, earlier this morning. Phase one involved using all our rope knowledge to work as a team and save Abby, our injured avalanche victim up over the slope with a pulley system in place. Luckily we had the ropes genius Ed on our team who got us through. Phase 2 had us all doing a Penta-Mime where we had to enact an object that defined us. we also took a group picture and my team helped me model for my Sponsor company, for the good looking team that we are. Phase 3 was a reflection session in the Meditation Zone with the most spectacular view ever. There was something deeply meditative about staring at floating icebergs. some chose to write and some to just close their eyes and feel the heat of the sunlight warm you up while sitting on snow ice. Our final team activity was interesting where each one shares one life advice with the other, and it didn’t matter whether it came from a 15-year-old or a 60-year-old, it was all so sensible, relatable and most importantly genuine.

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IAE 2016 133
Photo Credit 2041

 

We also have after dinner sessions every night, for an hour, which are optional and last about an hour. We have a presentation where I will be talking about the E-base, along with Rohan and Chandrika talking about Global Himalayan Expedition on behalf of Paras, in about two nights which we need to prep for!

Posted in AaratiinAntarctica, Expiriencing Antarctica

Jumper and Sunrises

We wake up every morning to jumpers Signature-style wake up call. It usually starts at 6 in the morning with very low volume and by 6:30 you get to hear it in full volume. If there is anything we are gonna miss the most it will probably be jumper’s wake up calls, so most of us recorded them and kept them as our alarm tones on our phone. You cannot not wake up if its jumper saying- Team Inspire! Team Inspire! Team Inspire!

Insert audio file.

If you are on the inside, you are on the wrong side! Get outside!

Out.

The sunrise this morning was spectacular! It made me vow never to miss a sunrise or a sunset in life, ever!

Posted in AaratiinAntarctica, Expiriencing Antarctica

20th March: Snow!

 

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Team Kershaw

 

We are already more than half way through this journey and time is flying by so fast. There is so much we are doing in a day and I am glad I am writing the journal every day because when I am thinking back on the days that have been, it is all a blur. They are all mixed up in my head. Even though I remember specific moments of the day, conversations, things we did, I do not remember the sequence in which everything happened. But the memories are crystal clear.

We started today at 6:30 am  when we were ushered to the bow by Jumper’s signature call. The ship was passing through the legendary Lemaire channel, “which was curiously named after Charles Lemaire, a Belgian Adventurer who never set foot on Antarctica” according to our log books. But that’s not what makes the Lemaire legendary. Una’s tits do. Una was one of the only few women working in Antarctica as a secretary at the British Antarctic Survey around in 1950s, after whom the Cape Renard towers, two symmetrical hillocks were nicknamed. We didn’t get to see Una’s tits maybe because of all the minors on Ship but entering the Lemaire channel was dream enough for most sailors even, I bet.

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It snowed for the most part of the day today which made everything we saw extra beautiful. There are some experiences which when experienced transform you and make you join a cult of higher mortal like said in the quote on top of this page. (which has come to become one of my favorite quotes on this journey.) The point is not that I feel superior for having experienced it, but I feel lucky enough, humbled even, to have experienced it. I only wish the same for everyone to experience something as soul-stirring, at least once in their lifetime. Watching snowfall while on a ship with icebergs as the backdrop is one such experience. The ocean and snow. There is nothing more beautiful than to watch snow hit the surface of the vast ocean, whirling with the wind and eddying down. Not surprisingly other times I’ve felt this way about something has been when I have been really close to nature like being surrounded by the mighty Himalayas, standing under the spray of Niagra’s wrath, watching a whale dive or even just looking straight up at the sky when it rains. These moments make me feel connected with the universe in an unexplainable way as I get a burst of epiphanies telling me of my existence in the cosmic scale. I value these moments because they make me feel alive and more connected to every other being present. They give me purpose. Antarctica is full of such moments.

In the afternoon, we went zodiac cruising around Icebergs. Imagine gliding on the surface of the water with icebergs floating around. Again, snow hitting the water. Snow hitting the ice. You can see icebergs in all possible colours, shapes, sizes and ages. Under the surface you can see shades of blue you would’ve never seen before with changing gradients playing with different light intensities to create magic. The closer you get the more you start to notice and get to know each iceberg’s little idiosyncrasies that make them, much like with people.  You can’t get too close to an iceberg though because they are very unstable and can topple any time and send you off surfing on a wave half its size.

All that snowing since last night turned today into a day of snow fights- on the ship, on the zodiacs, while in Antarctica. And it wasn’t even like the calm pretty kind of snow. It was like a blizzard. Our team mission was snow fight our ways to the top of the hill in this blizzard. As soon as we went ashore we were greeted by a large colony of moulting penguins. Penguins usually don’t move much when they are moulting to conserve energy. But those few almost done with their moulting can be seen waddling around, sliding on their bellies and just acting cute all the time. 🙂 We were also assisted by Rob to climb up a steep cliff with ropes. He pulled each and every one of us to cross over. At 59, this man is stronger than most 18-year-olds.

Not only does Rob set new fitness standards for us to aspire to he also sets new life goals standards to aspire to. His second talk left us speechless again. He had the entire room’s rapt attention till the very end. He made it super interesting, stirred up emotions and also threw in a generous dose of humour. We also has some great sessions by Xavier and Don on climate change and what we can do to fight it. More on that in notes!