My time in Antarctica

Hi there, I am Harry, a third-year Law student at RGU. During this winter holiday, I was offered the opportunity to support the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust and travel to Antarctica.  After 16 hours of flying and seven days of sailing, I finally reached the Antarctic Peninsula.


One of the aims of the Heritage Trust is to ensure the preservation for future generations, of the historic sites in Antarctica that are under their care, including Port Lockroy, by helping to finance the restoration and maintenance of the Port, surrounding buildings and research stations.


Base A at Port Lockroy has stood for more than 100 years; it was established by British explorers and has served as a home to explorers, scientists, whalers, and sailors who have all contributed to the history of Antarctica and our understanding of the continent today.


Once I had arrived at the Peninsula I attended my first lecture discussing what was expected from my expedition to Antarctica. I was first briefed on the wildlife such as penguins, whales, elephant seals and the many species of birds that inhabit this desolate continent, and I was intrigued as to how they managed to survive such intolerable conditions of the freezing cold and harsh winds.


I learned about the topography of the land that lies underneath the ice itself as well as how this land helps to form the glaciers and ice shelves that are found all over the continent. I also learned of the Antarctic treaty and the mass amount of signatories that help to protect and support the scientific progress and perseverance of the continent.


Due to this Antarctic treaty, there are strict regulations on contamination, when going on expeditions to the continent it is vital that the local ecosystems are not jeopardised by invasive species that may be hidden on the equipment brought by an explorer. Before my expedition, I was only allowed to visit Antarctica if my kit was hoovered out using a powerful suction tool that could rip out any dirt found that may contain bacteria or foreign organisms from the seams and zippers of my jackets and trousers. This process also had to be done for my equipment bags, as well as needing my boots to be cleaned by using a disinfectant solution.


One of the interesting aspects of the Antarctic treaty is its voluntary nature. Often there is some way of enforcing the regulations found in international treaties, for example, an action can be raised in the European Court of Human Rights should a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights by a state who signed the treaty occur. The Antarctic Treaty is completely voluntary in that there is no official method of ensuring that groups abide by the terms of the treaty.


When it comes to the preservation of Antarctica, countries are willing to come together for the common good of the Antarctic and the world despite their political disagreements. I believe that this willingness to co-operate shows that many countries around the world understand the importance of preserving Antarctica for its scientific, environmental, and scenic benefits.

I also heard another lecture given by crew members of the American scientific research team from Palmer station, they gave a lecture about the inner workings of living and researching in Antarctica for six months of the year. They told us about the research that is conducted and the mental aspects of living in Antarctica.


I found this extremely interesting as that was an aspect I had not thought about when planning my expedition and although this was something I did not have to account for, I nonetheless still found these to be interesting elements of life on Antarctica as a researcher.


Although Antarctica is known for its ice and snow covered face, underneath this barren ice land is a vast amount of minerals and ores that can be found a few kilometres under the ice’s thick layered ice barrier. Most of the topography underneath the ice are hills and mountains formed by volcanic rock as well as deposits of iron and granite being found all over the continent.


Being known as the continent filled with ice, it would make sense that due to increasing temperatures and climate change has forced large deposits of ice to slowly crack and eventually fall off the continent into the surrounding ocean.


There was an iceberg that I saw that was rather memorable due to its enormous size of 62 square kilometres of ice, and although absolutely stunning and a spectacle that I shall never forget, still a serious consequence of human action within the world and our reckless behaviour towards our planet’s health.


Now it is time to conclude the topic of this article. Just to see the Antarctic Peninsula, made all the frustrations of countless hours of plane travel and several days at sea worth the hardship. The breathtaking landscape and incredible wildlife create a picturesque scene to rival the natural wonders of the world.


The hard work of the British Antarctica Heritage Trust and similar organisations that serve the purpose of preserving the Antarctic is helping to maintain the pristine nature of the landscape. As the Trust maintains historical sites home to many scientists who carry out research in the Antarctic.


The research carried out expands our understanding of the continent and some cures have been found in certain organisms found in the Antarctic however there is a cost. For such a hostile environment, it is an incredibly fragile ecosystem.


The Antarctic Peninsula has warmed by 2.5 degrees Celsius over the past 50 years and as a result of this, many glaciers have begun to retreat by an average of 50m per year over the past five or six years.


If you were to explore Antarctica yourself, I would recommend that you should become a friend of the UK Antarctica Heritage Trust or a similar organisation, as these organisations help to sustain and preserve the continent itself and allow you to become a part of the history of this great scenic and scientific land.


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