For centuries, mankind has been hooked on the concept of a mysterious continent at the end of the world. Ancient Greeks and Romans called it “the unknown southern land” and a century ago, Captain Robert Falcon Scott paid the ultimate price on his famous South Pole expedition.
Antarctica, the planet’s southernmost continent, is home to spectacular biodiversity – from emperor penguins and blue whales to krill. But climate change, oil drilling and an ever-expanding commercial fishing industry are threatening this undisturbed land and its iconic creatures.
For the last year Greenpeace has been campaigning for the creation of a massive ocean sanctuary in the remote Weddell Sea. The marine reserve would cover 1.8 million square kilometres and would be protected from direct human impacts like fishing and deep-sea mining.
“Scientists are saying we need to protect a third of the world’s oceans, at least. If we want to let fish stocks recover, if we want to mitigate against the worst impacts of climate change, then Antarctica is a great place to start,” says Will McCallum, head of oceans at Greenpeace UK, who leads the Weddell Sea petition – one of the most significant campaigns in the environmental organisation’s history.
In October 2018 the 36 governments responsible for the conservation of Antarctic waters met in Australia to make a final decision on the protected area.
earthrise joins Greenpeace’s expedition to the Weddell Sea, as a team of scientists, ocean photographers and ocean experts set out to gather sufficient evidence to ensure that the proposal is carried through and that international support is garnered. Later, we meet up with them again in Australia to see whether the bid to create one of the largest ocean sanctuaries in the world has been successful.