Well this has been an interesting start to 2019.
I’m off to Antarctica!
Just before Christmas I had an email from Michelle, one of the scientists I met in the Arctic. She told me that one of the researchers had dropped out from the expedition she is leading to Antarctica, would I like to go with them?
Yes I would.
I have always wanted to be an artist on a scientific expedition, and to go to Antarctica, so it was a fabulous and unbelievable Dream Come True opportunity.
I somehow managed to get a medical done during the ‘festive period’ and sent off my heart patterns and blood tests and organ scans to the Spanish Polar Committee who have at last deemed me FIT to carry out Antarctic research.
I am setting off via Buenos Aires all the way to Ushuaia, Argentina, on the Tierra Del Fuego archipelago right at the bottom of South America. There I will meet Sarah and Michelle who have worked together on many sample collection adventures all around the world.
We will climb aboard the Spanish Research Vessel RV Hesperides and sail across Drake Passage, the roughest sea crossing in the world. We don’t have to go actually around Cape Horn but from what I have read it all sounds rather wavy and sick making, I’d better pack some ginger sweets.
Photograph from freeshipplans
After a couple of days on the high seas we will arrive at Deception Island and enter the protected harbour by navigating our way through a gap in the rocks called Neptune’s Bellows. Everything about Deception Island is exciting and sounds as if it is straight out of a Pirate story. (I thought that the High Seas was just a jolly tar type nautical expression but turns out it is actually a part of Maritime Law. Just fyi.)
Deception Island, South Shetland Islands, Antarctica.
Deception Island is the top of a volcano. An active volcano. It last erupted in 1969.
It is a croissant shaped island with water in the middle and the bit where the ends don’t quite meet is Neptune’s Bellows, ships can sail through here straight into Port Foster, the centre of an active volcano.
This sort of formation is called a Caldera (not a crater – I’ve found all this out in the last couple of weeks) and it was made about 10,000 years ago when the volcano erupted and blew out all its magma. The top of the magma chamber collapsed allowing the sea to flood in and create this totally sheltered harbour which whalers, scientists and explorers have been thankful for ever since. I wonder if we can swim in it.
We will be working for Imperial College, collecting sediment samples and invertebrates from terrestrial and aquatic sites on a geothermal temperature gradient. What this means is that I’ll be scraping lots of little bits of mud and sand into tiny pots and labelling them. In a scientific rather than artistic way. Hopefully I’ll have time to do some of it in an artistic way too.
I will also be seeing if I can gather some Foraminifera (tiny fossils from the sea) samples for the micropaleontology department at the Natural History Museum London, these are my area of personal interest.
On the island are some penguins and a base called Gabriel de Castilla run by the Spanish army. We will be staying there for three weeks and returning to Punta Arenas, Chile on February 14th so please send my Valentine’s cards there.
In Punta Arenas I am going to spend some time at the Museo Historia Natural Rio Seco Celular, the natural history museum run by marine biologist Benjamin Caceres and his brother. I met Benja in Svalbard and was so inspired by what he has done in Patagonia, I never imagined that I would be on my way to visit so soon!
Photograph from http://www.cnnchile.com
Benja is taking part in a Sei Whale research project and I am going to do a residency there for a week.
All around the West side of the bottom of South America are the most wonderful islands and inlets teeming with wildlife, I’m hoping to go and draw birds and seals there somehow, and make my way back down to Ushuaia.
In Svalbard I managed to find the world’s most Northerly printing press and create some prints there, inspired by my voyage in the ship Antigua. In Ushuaia I would like to find the world’s most Southerly printing press to complete this project. If anyone knows any artists there then please let me know, everything is completely unplanned at this point. I’d be delighted to be in touch with anyone who anyone knows in the area especially artists and scientists. Or recommendations or places to stay or see.
Then I fly back to England on March 7th.
I’ll try to write this blog as much as possible, please get in touch if there is anything you would like to know and I’ll do my best to answer.
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