Pristine, untouched, and mysterious – these are but a few words that only come close to describing the fascinating continent of Antarctica. Having embarked on a journey that brought him face to face with the harsh and unrestrained reality of the South Pole, author Raghunandan Vadla recounts to You & I his trip, which was filled with extreme temperatures, exotic creatures, and overwhelming sights.
As part of the International Antarctic Expedition conducted by the 2041 Foundation, for which I was one of the participants in the ‘Leadership on the Edge’programme, I set out on a journey to Anctartica. Founded by Robert Swan, the first person to walk to both the North and South Poles, the 2041 Foundation is committed to protecting the world’s southernmost continent of Antarctica. Currently, Antarctica is bound by the treaty which states that the continent is no country’s land until 2041. To keep it pristine and pure, the foundation has been fighting to extend the treaty to not only save Antarctica, but also the world. As the continent holds more than 70% of the world’s freshwater resources, it will create havoc if the glaciers were to melt around the globe.
Usually made up of people from many different fields from across the world, this time around the expedition featured 80 individuals from 32 different countries. The journey began in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and from there we went to Ushuaia by flight. Dubbed as the ‘End of the World’, Ushuaia is the earth’s southernmost city. It was from here that we travelled by ship to Antarctica.
It took us around two days to reach Antarctica by way of the Drake Passage. From there we landed on the shore of Half Moon Island, where we spotted a huge colony of chinstrap penguins. In the following days we saw scores of gentoo penguins, many whales, numerous seals, and other polar birds. Among the places we visited on this trip were Brown Bluff, Mikkelsen Harbour, Cierva Cove,
Petermann Island, Danco Island, and Neko Harbour.
While we stayed mostly on the ship, we would also visit the Antarctic continent with the help of small boats called Zodiacs, which could accommodate around 10 people. Apart from traipsing across what was one of God’s finest creations, the most special moment for me was when Robert Swan himself launched my book, The Great Indian Treasure.
I shall also never forget the time when I spotted the very first penguin at Half Moon Island. And the time when a humpback whale glided beneath our little boat and came close enough for me to almost touch it; it was a breathtaking experience. Watching the numerous seals having a gala time on the icebergs, sun-bathing, taking a nap, and posing for photographs were quite memorable as well. Moreover, the mere sight of the finest naturally formed ice sculptures all around the place was enchanting to the core.
I would love to further explore the deeper parts of Antarctica and get a chance to see the Emperor and King Penguins that are found in the interior parts of the continent. This is a trip that I would certainly recommend to everyone. A destination that is sure to give you a magical glimpse of God’s most beautiful creation, this is a place where you’re sure to leave a piece of your heart.
Unlike other places where humans are custodians, here the wind, penguins, whales, seals, birds and, other animals are the guardians and custodians. They welcome us with open arms, and ask for no visas and check-ups. They embrace us and accommodate us, provided we don’t violate their space. It was nature at its best as the place wasn’t tampered with by humans. The colossal continent of Antarctica was truly a paradise, and it made for a surreal experience. – Raghunandan Vadla