Why you should go to Antarctica in 2017
A&K is excited to introduce a series of first-hand stories by our guests and Expedition Team about their experiences across the Southern Ocean
The first is told by Dr. James McClintock, A&K climate change expert and marine biologist from his current research site, Palmer Station in Antarctica
‘No one should put off a trip to Antarctica. It is the quintessential trip of a lifetime and I can say with great experience and confidence that it will change you — and in a better, enriching way.
For me as a marine biologist, Antarctica is always about the wildlife, which is remarkable and unreal in so many respects. Just last month, I was along the Antarctic Peninsula on a research expedition and we counted 65 humpback whales in just a few hours’ time. We saw many feeding and several breaching (leaping from the water). I had never seen such a large concentration of whales.
These high populations of animals take some getting used to. One of my favorite experiences is going ashore and being welcomed by tens of thousands of Adélie, gentoo or chinstrap penguins. The penguins have not read the regulations for keeping their distance. I call it the Disney element; because the wildlife has no history of predation by large animals, they have no fear of us. It’s surreal. Whether for me as a scientist or an A&K guest making their first landing, it’s like being a kid in a candy store.
I find that guests are awed by the sheer beauty of Antarctica and its amazing landscapes and wildlife. They are equally awed in a different way by the vivid story that the continent is telling us about climate change. It is impossible to come here and not see and feel the changes happening now.
On my same research trip last month, I was astounded by the rate that the Marr glacier was disintegrating in front of my eyes, and right behind Palmer Station where I work. No longer are house-size chunks calving once a week as they did fifteen years ago, nor once a day as was the case five years ago. Now, there are many huge cracks and falling ice every day. As if the glacier is disintegrating in real time, instead of glacial time. It stirred me to action. Soon I was live on the radio from Palmer Station about these effects of global warming on display in Antarctica.
I believe the most meaningful way to learn about climate change is to witness its impacts firsthand. And despite the telling evidence in our own backyards at home, no place is more aligned with seeing global climate change firsthand than Antarctica. It’s wonderful to see guests return home as ambassadors of Antarctica with a deep commitment to sharing the climate change story written boldly in its spectacular shows of ice and wildlife.'