Posted by: Celine Cousteau | November 28, 2010

Chile- “Oceano” Part 4- Antarctica

The white continent. Is it the end of the world? Everyone I asked this question of down there replied “no”…it is the beginning, it is the center, it is home.

It seems there is something that happens to many people when they visit Antarctica. It is a bit of what happened to me with the Amazon. A piece of this magnificent and magical place stayed with me and the need to return is strong. From the moment we experience this we are changed, perhaps becoming part of a cliché. But there is a reason clichés exist and there must be some truth to them.

I never truly contemplated going to Antarctica before I took on the role of co-host for the Chilean “Oceano” TV series and saw that this was one of our episodes. Often I’ve worked in hot and humid locations but this time I was headed to a much different place. Now that I have gone- I too am in awe and if given the chance, will return without hesitation.

While we were on location we filmed the usual suspects, penguins. If they had not been on my list of animals to observe, they certainly have captured my attention now. The second day we were there, I was dropped off on land and sat in a total snow blizzard for 3 hours shooting stills and filming. Using the small GoPro HD camera in it’s waterproof housing made it easier to capture footage because of the weather conditions. In the end, having the camera on a monopod was a great way to get close to the penguins without invading their space. Rows of them waddled past us from one end of ocean front property to the other; a slow, albeit short journey seeking mates as the breeding season was near.

One of the goals for the episode was to talk to people who work in Antarctica: naturalists working on the tour boat, the ship’s captain, and volunteers arriving in Port Lockroy to spend 5 months counting penguins, attending to the ship guests that come there to buy a gift and send a postcard home stamped Antarctica. Each of them has a personal story of their connection to Antarctica. One can sense they have a shared knowledge, perceivable through the gaze in their eyes, of the beauty and importance of this continent.

An incredible part of this journey was having the opportunity to dive and film underwater. We captured the incredible reflection of light in the icy waters surrounding icebergs and looked for life along a wall, finding a big white nudibranch, many sea stars, kelp, and a small fish darting away. We even had an opportunity to dive on the wreck of an old whaling boat, the sea taking its revenge on the vessel where life now grows; yellow sponges making their homes. At the end of this dive we surfaced to find a Weddell seal resting on a small floating iceberg, barely interested in our own swim. Though we had trained to dive in cold conditions with dry suits, very thick undergarments, and extra weight while filming in the southern fjords of Chile, nothing would really prepare us for Antarctica, except Antarctica. Some of our 1st stages froze part way through the dives and our regulators began to free flow. For safety reasons, this meant the dive was over, time to come out. The learning curve from one dive to the next was incredible and I only wish we had had more time.

Too soon the journey was over and after a stop on Deception Island, it was time to head back north. Our ship started making it’s way back across the famed Drake Passage and as I looked ahead, I started to think about how I could plan my return. This is always a good sign.

Beautiful sunlit icebergs and mountains.

The production team dropping two of us off on land and going back out for a dive.

Çapkin van Alphen filming a weddell seal.

Chinstrap penguins staking their claim on the nesting grounds.

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Responses

  1. Dear Celine, as a teen I was greatly inspired an,d influenced my the mission of the geat Jacques Cousteau. And now as inspired my you and your family for the awarness you bring to the world to protect and preserve its environment. Thank you for what you do, candy leone

  2. Dear Céline,

    I leave for Antartica in two weeks and reading your post, I already feel lucky to get “home”.

    Take care

    Olivier


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