After a short break and some time to process his experience in Antarctica, we caught up with Inspiring Explorer Marco de Kretser to get his perspective on the expedition, find out the highlights of the trip and the big challenges he faced.
What was your favourite part of the trip?
My favourite part of the trip was the overnight camping on the ice. It was just mind blowing. I keep looking back through photos and reliving the experience. It was just so memorable. The best moment for me was in the morning when I woke up. I sat up, everyone was still asleep, and I watched as the sun climbed up over the mountain peak and the snow turned orange. It was that single moment when I realised that ‘Wow, this isn’t a dream, this is really happening.”
Diary excerpt: Friday, 8 March 2019
The wind is so cold that each time you took a breath it sends a cold spike through your throat. The shovelling began. Creating your own ‘grave’ is an odd experience but somewhat satisfying as one slides the shovel deep into the powder snow. We made a hole in the snow just wide enough to fit us and our sleeping kit in, and then we build walls around our new home. As we prepared for bed, Leah and I decided to make use of the ‘toilet’ which entailed a 10 minute walk down past our kayaks, past two fur seals, up and hill and down the other side to where the other camp was. When we arrived we saw that the toilet was not quite as glamorous as the rest of our trip had been. Hidden in a tent, was a single plastic rubbish bin lined with a black bag with some slightly off-putting steam coming out and mixing with the cool Antarctic air. On the way back to the camp, Leah and I slid on our bums down the snow bank to our camp. It is debatable whether that was intentional or not. We spent the evening around camp chatting, taking photos of Georgie reading a book on Arctic adventure – yes, the wrong side of the globe, and videoing Mele building her first ever snowman.
What went through your mind when you were arrived back in Ushuaia after 10 days aboard the Akademik Ioffe?
On way back through the Drake Passage I was processing the experience and how amazing it was to be in Antarctica. But leaving the ship made me realise how incredible the on-board experience had been. The staff on the boat had been amazing. They were interested in our story, they shared their stories, they were there for all the time. The moment I left the ship and waved goodbye that was a moment that sticks in my mind. It was sad to leave the Ioffe family.
What was the most challenging part of the trip?
I was one of the first to get a bit cold and fluey, which left me tired and bunged up. I was exhausted but didn’t want to miss out on anything so went on some land excursions or in the zodiac with Mike – that gave us some good opportunities for photographing whales.
On the technology front, my purpose was to get sound recordings but it was a lot trickier than I expected it to be. The environment was much quieter than I thought it would be, except there was lots of human noise just when I needed it to be quiet. It’s also really hard to predict when things like whales breaching, or ice cracking are going to happen. The one exception was when we were on Deception Island surrounded by a fur seal colony. There was so much to record – ice cracking, seals and other animals. It was incredible for sound.
What did you learn or discover about yourself
This experience taught me that there is still so much in this world that I am yet to learn and to experience. Being in Antarctica was the most weird, wacky, “How-did-I–get-here-at-18- years-old,” experience. The opportunity to talk to the scientists on board, to talk to Alex and Mike about the different extreme adventures that they’ve been on, It made me realise there is so much that I’m yet to do. It was quite humbling.
What was something you experienced that was different to your expectations?
I was expecting most of the trip to be focussed around Antarctica, the wildlife and the phenomenal landscapes but the experience on ship was really good. I loved hanging out with the team, going to presentations, and getting to know the staff. My favourite presentations were ones given by the whale expert on the ship. He was genuinely excited for us to get to know about all the different whale species he knew we would see. Him sharing his knowledge made the experience so much better when we actually did see whales, because suddenly what he had talked about was there in real life.
Surprisingly, I thought the whales would be the most memorable things, but the best things by far for me were the leopard seals. Once at Cuverville Island, a leopard seal played around our zodiac for ages, even popping its head up and sticking his face in front of my camera. It was looking me in the eye and giving me some freaky smiles. And then it followed us back to the ship, leaping in and out of the wake of the boat. Even our boat driver was saying she had never seen anything like that before in her life.
When you go out and share your story, what will be the thing you want to share most?
What I want to share is how real the environment is. It’s not like you are in some sort of staged environment, like a zoo. You feel the raw-ness nature. It was so unpredictable and not censored in anyway, just a raw, real place. At Port Lockroy, I watched as a leopard seal caught a penguin and was thrashing it around the bay. It was pretty graphic but it’s just nature in action.
Diary excerpt: Thursday, 7 March 2019
Walking among seals and penguins was amazing. Penguin carcasses were mixed in between poo, snow and rock. Late in the evening around 6pm, through the window we saw the mast begin to glow. I quickly ran up to the Top Deck and saw 360-degree views of the most incredible sunset I have ever seen. Stunning orange light created these deep, dark silhouettes of the surrounding peaks.
What other messages will you be giving to audiences about the trip?
When we got back to Buenos Aires, you realise how insanely busy life is. Everything is happening so quickly, there are the constant sounds of cars and people talking all the time. Being down in Antarctica, it was a unique experience just to be so calm and quiet. There was this one time when we were kayaking at Almirante Brown Station around Paradise Bay through calm flat waters surrounded by glaciers. It was so quiet and you’re alone in the environment. We couldn’t see the ship, or any other people; it was just the group of us kayaking quietly. The experience definitely made me want to get out into nature more often to experience it’s serenity, and I just want to encourage my audience to as well.
What skills did you bring to the team, and how were you able to use those skills on this trip?
My skills took me there to take photos and capture Antarctic audio, but what I brought was the ability to act weird and whacky. Being able to loosen up and be comfortable being myself around the team, I think helped loosen everyone up. We were relaxed around each other and just became great friends.
Any comments about the team itself?
Firstly, everyone was great about sharing gear, and made sure that we all had enough so no one felt cold. It did take a few days to figure out what to wear under the dry suit.
Secondly, there were a couple of people on the ship who asked us whether we had been friends for years, they found it hard to believe that we had basically just met. Everyone got so close to each other we were so comfortable in each other’s company.
Would you recommend others apply for future expeditions and why?
Yes, of course. How else could an 18 year old get themselves to Antarctica. It was such an amazing experience to be part of the team and sailing off to the bottom of world. It still doesn’t feel real. It feels weird to be back in Auckland and just carrying on with life.
Do you have any advice for future expedition members?
Just be yourself, and if that’s wild and whacky then be it. Be open and be comfortable around the team. Be prepared to make yourself vulnerable because once you get super close to everyone it’s so much fun. It feels like we have been friends forever.
Now that you have settled back in at home, what’s next?
The trip has definitely changed the focus of my life as now I want to explore the earth and get back out there. Alex and Mike’s talks of their extreme adventures have inspired me and I have been looking at joining the university mountaineering and alpine clubs. I definitely think this has instilled a desire in my heart to spend my life in nature.