After around two weeks the team sets foot on the antarctic soil and Yadegar Asisi experiences the key moment of the journey. A final report by Philipp Katzer.
The ship has stopped pitching. The ocean has become completely calm since Antarctica has surrounded us. So much so that it virtually feels like being in my room at home when I read a book below deck. The aura of the world of ice lies over us like a soft veil. I feel a bit come down after all the turbulences in the sea journey. We hadn’t been here very long before Yadegar Asisi was clear in his own mind: yes, I’m going to make a Panorama of Antarctica. He’s already working on the first sketch. His picture of the eternal ice emerges layer by layer on his iPad.
Almost two weeks and over 2,500 nautical miles on the South Atlantic lie behind us as we aim for the highlight of our journey on Thursday about 7 o’clock in the morning. Paradise Bay.
A magnificent, beautiful natural harbour on the mainland of Antarctica, which probably received its name from Norwegian whalers about a hundred years ago. They certainly didn’t have to think too long to find the name. Under clear blue skies, we climb down the gangway on the side of the ship and get into the inflatable. Four men, four cameras and the promise of a unique spot.
The inflatable chugs smoothly through Paradise Bay. Asisi and Mathias at the prow, Richard and me at the stern. The cameras are glowing. Then we switch off the motor and start drifting. The quietness immediately switches me into a different mode. All my sensory organs seem to go haywire: as if my eyes could also hear, as if my ears could also smell. Somewhere behind us a glacier is cracking.
Paradise Bay has everything that we had hoped for in Antarctica. Icebergs as far as the eye can see, large and small alike, shining turquoise-blue beneath the surface of the water. Brutal glaciers with chasms and caverns – as only nature is capable of creating. Massive mountain ranges, black and majestic, their crests disappearing in the fog. And as if this scenery weren’t enough for us, you see it twice: as a mirror image in the sea water. Suddenly the motor springs back to life. I wake up – as from a deep dream.
In the afternoon, the ship passes the Lemaire Channel. The most dangerous part of the journey. On both sides only a few metres to the shore, while the tips of icebergs tower out of the water. Yadegar Asisi and Mathias Thiel are standing up on the deck and taking photos, one on each side.
While I watch them I’m thinking: for the first time in our expedition to Antarctica the weather has become extremely hostile to life. Bitterly cold – due to the polar wind coming straight at us. And a deep black fog hangs menacingly above us. I’m absolutely freezing – despite the twelve layers of clothes I’m wearing, despite the expensive functional clothing. I can only stand it on deck for a few minutes at a time. The other two, though, persevere for hours on deck.
And then, right at the end, just before the ship turns round in the direction of South America, Yadegar Asisi experiences the most important moment of the journey. We have moored an inflatable on the shore of a small island. Just a few rocks, peering out of the water, very close to a glacier wall. Asisi is sitting on a rock, drawing on a sketch pad. “I have never come as close as here”, he says. “Only the ice and me, face to face.” He closes the pad. “Only now do I understand the power Antarctica possesses.”
Now we can go home.