I overwintered 14 months in Antarctica, as part of the 51st mission at the Dumont D’Urville research station. I worked there as a field biologist for the French “Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique”, studying and collecting data on birds and sea mammals.
The socio-psychological side of the experience – 24 people stuck together in a remote and harsh environment for over a year, with high proximity – lead to the realisation of a photographic movie (“Antarctica, Life Against the Odds”, 24 min.), which I showed within a lecture tour to various audiences through Canada, the USA and onboard tourism ships cruising around Antarctica. Besides, a photo exhibit was created as part of an education project on energy consumption and its effects on global warming, supported by the International Polar Foundation-IPF and the French Polar Institute-IPEV. During the International Polar Year, the “Conseil Général de l’Eure” (France), in partnership with local NGO “Eure Solaire” organized workshops for over 200 students, explaining how our daily habits are slowly changing the world, as far as Antarctica. They gave tips and ideas to reduce our impacts on our environment, without necessarily giving up on comfort.
Antarctica is the continent of the superlatives. A place human mind can’t even picture before experiencing it, as nowhere on Earth nature is as extreme, extra-terrestrial and outstandingly magnificent as it is there. Some people who have lived in its womb long enough to feel its true personality have one wish only: never go back in there! For some others, only one thing matters: to feel again what Antarctica has once infused into the soul and flesh, with the same intensity and beauty. For many, it will be a quest of a lifetime.
Surprisingly enough, remoteness, inaccessibility and extreme weather does not keep Antarctica from being harmed. Like it has been doing everywhere else on the planet, Homo sapiens is now shaping what was for a long time isolated enough to stay away from its reach. Global warming, over fishing and pollution are slowly putting the beast down.