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08. February 2016

Antarctica travel diary – Part 1

Antarctica travel diary – Part 1

Yadegar Asisi and his team are currently on a research trip to the Antarctica. Some first impressions of a trip towards the end of the world.

A wave from outside crashes against the porthole of my cabin just as I am cutting off a slice of ginger for Yadegar Asisi. I need three goes at it because the ship first rolls forwards and then suddenly keels to the side. Eight-metre high waves, a force seven gale – the ocean has been going crazy for hours now.

Asisi puts the ginger under his tongue. The crew say it helps with seasickness. He takes a step to the side and presses his forehead against the glass on the porthole. “When you see this demented mass of ocean around you”, he says, “then you can get really frightened”.

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We are on our way to the sixth continent – Antarctica. For nearly three weeks, we’ve been on board the MS Hanseatic ploughing through rough seas in the direction of the South Pole. Past the Falkland Islands and South Georgia towards the Antarctic land mass. Yadegar Asisi wants to see the last remaining intact major ecosystem on the earth with his own eyes at last. And who knows, perhaps the eternal ice will inspire him to create a new Panorama.

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Accompanying Asisi is Creative Director Mathias Thiel. And us – the film team: cameraman Richard Klemm and myself. We are relating Yadegar Asisi’s voyage of discovery into the Antarctic in moving images. This film could later be seen as part of the accompanying exhibition to the Panorama.

Our trip begins five days beforehand in Ushuaia, Argentina. The most southerly city in the world really lies at the “fin del mundo” – at the end of the world. Those who board a ship here bound for the south are embarking on an adventurous journey. The continent of Antarctica still lies 1,000 kilometres before us.

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Yadegar Asisi stands on the sundeck of the Hanseatic when we depart from the port of Ushuaia shortly after 10 in the evening. He is gazing at the mighty mountain range towering behind the city. The sun is setting behind the snow-capped summits. This close to the South Pole, the days are long and the nights short. It’s now summer in South America – fortunately! At this time of year, the temperatures in the Antarctic only fall to -30°C. In the winter, the temperature can drop to as low as -90°C. The Antarctic is the coldest place on earth. As Ushuaia disappears behind the horizon, we toast the onset of our adventure with champagne.

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The next morning, Asisi and I are leaning against the ship’s rail. All around us, only the open sea. In the night, we passed the Beagle Channel – now the South American continent only exists in our memory. The sky: a glass disk that somebody up there has painted a pale blue. Not a cloud in sight. Only wind and water.

“Are you already thinking about your picture, Mr Asisi?”

“It’s too early to say whether a Panorama will really emerge from the impressions gained from this journey.”

“Have you prepared for the Antarctic?”

“My preparation invariably consists in not preparing at all. I’m not one of those who read a lot or watch films beforehand. I want to be as impartial as possible when I get there. Now I feel like a child opening his eyes for the first time.”

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Two days later: shortly after six o’clock in the morning, Yadegar Asisi dons his boots. Next to me, Mathias Thiel pulls the zip on his parka right up to the top. We put on life jackets as we have to board the inflatable across a ladder.

The sea is calm in the first rays of the sun, as we leave the ship for the first time some 500 kilometres from the coast of South America. Engine on, spray in our faces. Five minutes later, we climb out of the inflatable and step ashore onto a foreign country – the Falkland Islands.

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I am surprised: With its turquoise-blue water and fine sand, the beach we moor at on Carcass Island could easily be in the Caribbean. In the background, I see gently rolling hills, similar to the landscape I know from Scotland or Iceland. We are immediately greeted on the beach by a rockhopper penguin. A wild mixture!

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The Falkland Islands, which consist of two large islands in addition to more than 400 small islands, are British. However, the Falkland Islanders have only really felt British – so we are told – since the war against Argentina at the beginning of the 1980s. In the afternoon, we drink a pale ale (a typical English beer) in a pub in Port Stanley, the capital of the Falklands.

Later, we return to the ship on the inflatable. We are impressed by what we have seen. And the journey has only just begun. “If it continues like this, I may well make a Panorama of this,” Asisi stated. We still have several days at sea ahead of us before we reach Antarctica.

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