Leaving Paradise

December 18, 2013

We’re now back on the Drake Passage and the ship is rocking a bit back and forth. We all put on the patch so back to dehydration and sleepy mode. I’m going to miss it here, this has been one of my most favorite trips. Today I attended a couple of presentations, so if you would like to know more history / facts around Antarctica then read on.

John did a talk on “Governing Antarctica. How Does It Work?” He talked again about how Antarctica is governed by the Antarctic Treaty, which says that Antarctica is to be used for peaceful purposes and freedom for scientific investigation, while territorial claims are put aside. Originally the treaty began with only 12 members but today there’s 29 consultative parties. More countries got involved overtime because of the availability of minerals like coal. However, in 1991, the Protocol on Environmental Protection was agreed upon in Madrid where it bans mining and prospecting for minerals, it calls for the protection of marine pollution as well as conservation of the Antarctic Fauna and Flora; there’s also liability for not following these rules.

These consultative parties are required to conduct substantial scientific research activity there. But John says the treaty had no mechanism to review whether a CP continues to meet this criterion, so he looked at the number of working papers and scientific publication and found the top countries who actually did this include the UK, Australia, New Zealand, USA, Chile, and Argentina.

The CPs along with 21 further countries that are contracting parties entitled to attend meet for 2 weeks. This meeting is attended by diplomats, scientific advisors and more where they make decisions on how to govern the Antarctic. There’s 4 separate committees: Committee for Environmental Protection, Tourism and Non-Governmental activities, Legal and Institutional matters, and Safety and Operations. In addition to English, the treaty has to be translated in French, Russian and Spanish.

During our voyage, we had on board two people, Steve and Michael, from Oceanites who were performing an Antarctic Site Inventory. The mission of Oceanites is “science, education, and conservation.” Steve and Michael counted the number of penguin nests on where we landed each day.

Out of the sites we visited they counted 19,233 nests which put together with non-breeders means that there were approximately 57,700 penguins total on this trip. That’s a lot of penguins! Another interesting fact they had was that over the past 60 years, the winter temperature has increased by 9 degrees, while in the summer the temperature increased by 5 degrees.

Prior to dinner we had an auction. All the money is donated to support projects in South Georgia and Oceanites. The Shakleton whiskey sold for the most at $600+. They raised $2,600. It was great to see everyone outbidding one another. While there was a distinct Chinese group from the other passengers (many can’t speak English but everyone bonded during karaoke last night!) it was cool to see everyone together as a whole group. Jess started bidding for a really cute Chinese couple who only spoke Mandarin. It’s interesting to see how cultures are so different but the fact that everyone during this trip can come together as one. Love the melting pot.

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