The Drake Passage, a 600-mile waterway that connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans round Cape Horn, is taken into account the roughest sea on this planet. Thirty-foot swells rock the ship I’m on a lot that at one second my entire view is a stable wall of grey, swirling water, and within the subsequent all I can see is sky. Sea illness abounds, as passengers together with me seize tightly to rails when making an attempt to stroll. Waves are crashing on deck and alongside the ship, which is engulfed by mist and fog.
However we should navigate the Drake Passage, regardless of how treacherous, as a result of it’s the gateway to Antarctica, the final nice wilderness and our vacation spot.
I’ve traveled to Antarctica as my firm’s ambassador on an expedition organized by Sir Robert Swan, the primary particular person to stroll to each the South and North Poles, and his 2041 Foundation that’s devoted to the preservation of Antarctica. My project is to drink in all of the splendor, biodiversity and energy of nature and convey to colleagues at house eyewitness accounts of how shut we’re to dropping it.
I’ve traveled to Antarctica as my firm’s ambassador on an expedition organized by Sir Robert Swan, the primary particular person to stroll to each the South and North Poles.
It’s not a brand new message — 15 years in the past, my firm despatched its first ambassadors to Antarctica with 2041, which led to a dramatic improve in new sustainability work on behalf of our personal agency and purchasers. One of many first ambassadors is now our world head of sustainability. The purpose is to create ardour round sustainability after which use that zeal, not simply knowledge factors, to verify the subject interprets into all our consulting work, not simply climate-related assignments.
That mentioned, the irony that our ship and expedition are creating emissions as we make our technique to Antarctica on a quest to scale back emissions isn’t misplaced on any of us. Sure, we’re offsetting them by way of carbon-offset tasks, however there’s no denying our briefly expanded carbon footprint.
The continent of Antarctica and its ice, ocean and ecosystems play a vital position in regulating the worldwide local weather. Collectively, they assist to gradual world warming, drive necessary ocean currents and contribute to the drawdown of hundreds of thousands of tons of carbon dioxide from the ambiance. There are 170 on the expedition from 35 nations on the Ocean Victory, together with executives from a number of the world’s largest firms, documentary filmmakers, poets, highschool academics and college college students — all decided to view first-hand harm being finished to Earth’s southernmost continent by local weather change.
It’s the very finish of the Southern Hemisphere’s summer time and there’s nonetheless a superb chunk of day with daylight. Quickly there might be 4 months of complete darkness. Our first glimpse of the ice-encrusted continent is of a cluster of icebergs floating on the darkish blue-gray sea. Sometimes, solely one-tenth of an iceberg’s quantity is above water, the rest — a gorgeous turquoise mountain of ice — hides beneath the seawater.
We’re on the hunt — photographically, in fact — for the rugged area’s wildlife, most of which dwell in or close to the bountiful seas surrounding it. Penguin colonies populate the banks, alongside their principal predator leopard seals that may weigh as a lot as three vehicles. There’s additionally a present of divers close by as albatross, petrels and cormorants search their subsequent meal.
In Paradise Bay, Antarctica, expeditioners observing a whale’s tail. Picture: Trenton Branson.
I pressure to listen to the calls of humpback whales and watch hopefully for one of many 35-ton creatures to flap its tail or breach the waves. In Antarctica that quest is unlikely to go unrewarded though centuries of searching and now lack of habitat have decimated their numbers.
Sadly, I additionally observe among the many many pure beauties the unnatural impacts of people on this nice wilderness — glimpses of plastic litter or different refuse. However extra could also be coming as we noticed actually tons of plastics and waste strewn throughout the waters and littering the shores round Patagonia.
After which there’s the temperatures. In March, coasts of Antarctica have been as much as 40 degrees Celsius warmer than month-to-month common temperatures of previous a long time, in line with the Nationwide Facilities for Environmental Info. That’s a distinction of 72 levels Fahrenheit. The irregular heat has shrunk sea ice and killed off giant parts of the inhabitants of shrimp-like crustaceans known as krill that type the idea of the marine meals net for whales, seabirds, fish, squid, seals and sharks. The hotter temperatures have allowed me to depend on chilly climate garments I take advantage of in New York Metropolis and fear much less about frostbite.
The mission of our expedition is to interact and encourage a brand new technology of leaders to take accountability for preserving Antarctica and all our planet’s habitats. Many on the journey are already foot troopers within the struggle, spearheading tree-planting initiatives, creating documentaries about local weather change and endeavor composting, plastic recycling and different round economic system endeavors.
However none of that might be sufficient as we enter the final nice battle for the planet. Antarctica could also be uninhabitable for people, but it surely’s the place a whole lot of animal species can be thriving had been it not for the damaging incursion of human existence.
With no different people moreover ourselves in sight, our incidental position within the functioning of nature turns into clear. Nowhere on earth is it extra evident that this isn’t our planet to destroy. But destroying we’re.
On the coronary heart of the 2041 Basis is the preservation of the Madrid Protocol, a treaty that protects Antarctica’s pristine panorama and habitats from people. In 2041, the protocol may face potential modification that might raise the ban on mining and mineral exploration, a deathblow for the area and its position as a local weather stabilizer for the planet.
This journey has satisfied me and others on it that we should act nicely earlier than 2041 if we’re to save lots of Antarctica’s wonders, our planet and ourselves. Efforts to cease local weather change have been all about making guarantees, most of which stay guarantees unfulfilled. However the pictures of this journey will stick with me my total life and hopefully assist me maintain the guarantees I made to myself after I arrived house — to alter my very own life-style and assist educate the broader neighborhood whether or not by talking to excessive colleges or supporting neighborhood efforts to scale back waste and extra.
Most necessary, I’ll work above and past with my company purchasers to assist them determine the very best methods to chop emissions and ship on their 2030 and 2050 targets. These are guarantees that might change our planet’s trajectory, and serving to to satisfy them is a spot the place I could make a distinction.