29-year-old Sarita Singh is Senior Project Manager in an IT company and a PADI certified deep sea diver. She is also one of many people across the globe to have been a part of Robert Swan’s International Antarctic Expedition for 2014. Swan is a renowned Polar explorer and environmentalist who takes entrepreneurs, environmentalists, corporate leaders, teachers and other young people to Antarctica annually. The aim of IAE is to increase awareness of the Antarctic clime and to build skills through a number of programmes held during the trip.
MY INSPIRATION TO BE PART OF IAE
The idea of a journey to the very end of the earth, a place which belongs to no one; to be with young people who are inspired and united by a common cause to stand as one and do their bit to protect the earth – this thought inspired me to file an application for IAE.
The expedition started on 8 March when a group of 80 selected representatives (including 15 expedition leaders) from different countries and professions assembled in Ushuaia, Argentina, the southern-most city in the world. We spent three days here attending indoor and outdoor training sessions on trekking, hiking, surviving the cold and the safety measures to be taken while in Antarctica and on the ship.
CROSSING THE MIGHTY OCEANS
On March 11 our excited group boarded a mighty vessel which would be our floating home for the next two weeks. It took us two days to cross the unfriendly Drake Passage before we closed in on Antarctica. It is in this turbulent and hostile passage that two mighty oceans, the Atlantic and Pacific, collide.
Various seminars on environment, climatic changes, leadership, history of Antarctic exploration, exploitation, marine life and biodiversity were held on the ship.
AN UNUSUAL WELCOME
We were welcomed to the Antarctic Peninsula by a group of Minkie whales. They were huge and elegant, diving in and out of the ocean, right in front of our eyes. Awestruck, we watched these friendly mammals welcome its new visitors to their home.
FEELING LIKE ALICE IN WONDERLAND
Surrounded by near vertical peaks on either side, the Lemaire Channel in Antarctica is extremely steep sided and is only visible once you are almost inside, and it provides one of the most dramatic landscapes to sail through. We had a zodiac cruise (cruise on a fixed landing gear airplane) around this channel where blocks and blocks of ice bergs drifted and seals lazed around. We spotted a few penguins moving in and out of water, dancing in their natural habitat. I felt like Alice in Wonderland, for the ice was not just boring and white – but of different colours, shapes and sizes – constantly moving and looming behind us at times.
BLISS IN PARADISE HARBOUR
Named by whalers for its beauty, Paradise Harbour is arguably one of the most aptly named spots on Earth. Surrounded by glaciers that dramatically cave into the sea, Paradise Harbour offered breathtaking reflections of the mountains against clear, unspoiled waters.
A TRYST WITH PENGUINS
Thousands of penguins milled around the coast at Neko Harbour. We were allowed Incorporatedto sit near them quietly and wait for them to walk to us, which they did! Some gave us friendly stares and some maintained their distance.
CAMPING IN THE COLDEST PLACE ON EARTH
I think this was the craziest thing we did on the expedition – we left the comfort of our floating home, and with our sleeping bags, tents and warmers we camped under the glittering stars and a full moon with penguins and seals to keep us company.
We were lucky to catch sight of five humpback whales which came really close to our zodiacs and smiled and blowed at us. Antarctica was giving us all – good weather, hikes, history, penguins, seals and now humpbacks.
The polar plunge was a dip into the ice cold water of Antarctica without a dry suit. I skipped this activity though I regret it now.
While on the expedition, I felt extremely happy and could not believe I was living these moments, but at the same time I was haunted by sadness. We, in our day-to-day life, are doing things to kill this place. I woke up to climatic changes, global warming and our impact on the environment in the name of economic development. Antarctica speaks to you, while it surprises you with its beauty. It tells you a tale of exploration, exploitation and conservation.
I plan to work on a year-long sustainability project to promote the use of clean fuel in boats and renewable energy sources in Andaman Islands. I would also like to do my best in keeping the oceans clean. Being a diver myself, I would like to help in conserving our corals and reefs in this part of the world.
However, I feel before anything is attempted on an individual level, the government and corporates need to help build a framework of policies for such efforts. I request you to join hands with me and help me create a ripple, a voice for such issues. An environment we live and breathe in, which gives us everything for free, is polluted and undergoing drastic changes due to our activities. It is asking you for a favour – not for itself, but for you and your future generations to live.
Volume 3 Issue 11