Libellule. Sailing and Moutaineering in Antarctica

Published on 01 october 2015 at 0h00

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It took five weeks to get Libellule from New Zealand to Tierra del Fuego, in the heart of the “Roaring Forties”. At Ushuaia, the “French” crew made up of Yves German, Sylvain Martineau and Pauline Roques-Pentoy, was joined by the “Swiss”, Philipp Cottier and his mountain-climbing friends, who were hoping to be able to summit a few virgin Antarctic peaks as yet untouched by human feet. So there were 7 of us aboard. Having got through the Drake Passage, between South America and Antarctica, in early January, the first stop was Deception Island. On arriving in the White Continent, the temperature, which had still been relatively mild in Patagonia, was now rapidly falling: it rarely climbed above 5°C, and dropping to -10°C at sea level and -20°C in the mountains. On our first arrival in Antarctica, the climbers donned their skis for a trek with sealskins. On a hillside across from the anchorage there was a colony of chinstrap penguins, estimated to number 40,000 individuals. We approached them at a reasonable distance, but then a delegation of a few penguins detached themselves from the group and came a few meters towards us. With an astonishing cry they seemed to be addressing us, and discussing among themselves, in a way we would imagine extra-terrestrials would, when meeting the inhabitants of planet Earth for the first time. This process was repeated each time we came across a colony of penguins, especially further south.

We spent 24 hours there, before ...

This article appeared in issue 144. To read the article in full, buy this issue individually

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