SHACKLETON NEWS ARCHIVE
TEAM LED BY MICHAEL AW CHARTS SIGHTS AND SOUNDS OF ANTARCTICA
The National Maritime Museum magazine reports that in February 2010 a team of explorers inspired by the heroic spirit of Shackleton set off to document photographically a part of Antarctica, the world's last pristine wilderness.
The route of the 19-day Elysium Epic expedition roughly followed the track of Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew after they lost the Endurance. This took them to the Weddell Sea, then across the treacherous Drake Passage and on to South Georgia.
One of the primary objectives of the expedition's leader, award-winning underwater photographer Michael AW, Director of the Ocean Geographic Society and founding director of the conservation charity OceanNEnvironment, and his team was to document faithfully, in present time, the sights and sounds of the region that those early 20th Century explorers would have experienced. It is, he said, "about extraordinary explorers using advanced imaging technologies to document the last wilderness on our planet. The aim of the project is to provide a visual library that documents the flora and fauna of Antarctica, and to produce a documentary feature and book to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the heroic legendary expedition of Sir Ernest Shackleton's Trans Antarctic challenge in 1914b
The 57-member team came from 18 countries and included artists, photographers, film-makers, musicians and scientists. They included Emory Kristof, who with Robert Ballard discovered the wreck of the Titanic; the celebrated photographer David Doubilet (of National Geographic fame); and Jonathan Shackleton, Sir Ernest's cousin, who as expedition historian provided accounts of early explorations of Antarctica, including the first sightings in 1820 and first landing in 1821.
During the Elysium project they produced evidence of the rapid warming of the Antarctic Peninsula: the reductions in sea ice, ice sheet collapse and increases in air and water temperatures are major areas of concern. Rain is quite common and it and soft snowfalls create a significant threat to marine life. Gentoo, Adelie, Chinstrap and King penguins were noted, and crabeater, leopard, Weddell and fur seals. All are dependent on krill (small crustaceans) for their food, which can be abundant one year and almost absent the next.
Their landing on Elephant Island was notable for the presence of fur seals at Cape Wild, which are recovering after man's depredations in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The glaciers draining the icecaps of the peninsula and surrounding islands are also shrinking. The thunderous calving of icebergs and rumble of avalanches were evidence of this. The abundance of wildlife on South Georgia was gratifying, and included reindeer roaming the hillsides. Among the birds in evidence were albatrosses and petrels.
The National Maritime Museum is exploring the possibility of hosting the world premiere of the Elysium Epic exhibition. The Elysium Epic book will be published in 2013, in time for the centenary of the Endurance expedition.