In Captain James Cook’s day, it was thought that there must be a Great Southern Continent that would balance the weight of Europe and the Americas on the globe. In 1774, he sailed deep into the south, incredibly to 71 degrees south, trying to find it, but without success. The first known landing on Antarctica was purportedly by the American sealer Cecilia, at Hughes Bay in 1821.
The continent has lured the great explorers: Scott, Amundsen, Shackleton and others. They wished to get to the South Pole. Now this land continent houses researchers of many varieties and nationalities. In fact the Antarctic Conservation Treaty, which manages the continent, must be deemed a great diplomatic success, as there is to be no militarization of, nor mining on, the continent, it must remain ‘pristine’ for several decades to come.
Important research on climate change has been done in Antarctica by measuring ice thicknesses on land, and whether more or fewer icebergs are breaking off from the continent into the sea. We see this in the Vendée Globe, where, to keep the competitors safe from accidentally running into an iceberg, there has been established an Antarctic Exclusion Zone, where we cannot go. Satellites are taking pictures of icebergs, but they can only see ones that are bigger than 80 meters long. As icebergs move north into warmer water, they break up into sizes unseen by the satellites. Even in our race so far, because of these observations and interpretations by experts, our AEZ has been expanded 5 times.
From various expeditions to Antarctica, one sees fabulous photos and videos that ‘take you there’. But I would like to see it and feel it and hear it for myself! Just as I make plans on the boat for the coming days, it’s time to make a plan to see Antarctica in the coming years. When one has a curiosity, it must be pursued.