Chris Packham is urging us to protect Antarctica: 'It's not the wilderness it should be'

15th Oct 18 | Lifestyle

Ahead of several charity lectures in November, the TV presenter speaks to Sarah Marshall about his experiences of the seventh continent.

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A proactive defender of wildlife and wild places, TV presenter and photographer Chris Packham has visited the polar regions on multiple occasions.

At the end of November, he will return to Antarctica on an exodus Travels charter with wildlife photographers Mark Carwardine and Paul Goldstein – his sixth trip to the region.

Ahead of the voyage, Goldstein and Packham will be doing a series of charity lectures up and down the country, featuring superb images, offbeat humour and some serious discussion of the challenges facing one of the most fragile environments on Earth.

Here’s what you need to know about Antarctica, according to Packham…

Tourists exploring the Antarctic Peninsula (Paul Goldstein/PA)
Tourists exploring the Antarctic Peninsula (Paul Goldstein/PA)

Antarctica is a special place
“There are very few places on the planet where we can see such large aggregations of wildlife. That’s one of the many things we’ve lost. I’ve always enjoyed sandy deserts but I’m equally inspired by an icy desert. I like plain and simple environments because they’re easier to accommodate mentally for me. The most extraordinary light I’ve ever encountered occurs in those regions because of the clarity of the air.”

The icy landscape is always in flux
“The first time you step foot on the seventh continent is something special. I remember watching an iceberg one evening on my first trip, and we were up all night. The iceberg was white and blue in every shade and then it was green, orange and lilac. The diversity of life in Antarctica is amazing and the sculpturing of the bergs never ceases to entrance people.”

It’s an extremely fragile environment
“On my second trip there was a very large tabular iceberg [an iceberg that’s broken off an ice shelf]. It had carved and twisted upwards and marooned some penguins on top. They were stuck 100m from the sea, trapped on this iceberg. We sailed quite close and I have some photographs of these poor little things stuck up there. One wandered to the side and peered over the edge into the sea. I managed to get a photograph of it and it told a remarkable story of the harshness of that environment and how serendipitous everything tends to be.”

The scenery can be overwhelming
“Whether it’s a colony of chinstraps, Adelies or king penguins – we’re not set up any more to contemplate that density of life in one place. In our forthcoming trip, we have plans to visit the new colony discovered by satellite at Danger Islands where there are millions of birds. That will be quite mentally challenging.”

Climate change is not a myth
“Last year when I visited Antarctica,  I can’t remember being cold. At that time, a huge chunk had also broken off an ice shelf. You know the environment is fragmenting. Everyone these days knows they are visiting a vulnerable and disappearing continent, and that heightens the sense of privilege.”

We all have a responsibility to protect Antarctica
“The first time we visited, I got on a rib boat and there was a plastic bottle on the beach. This last time we visited, there was a big chunk of plastic. It’s tempting to think of Antarctica as an untouched wilderness, but if it isn’t touched directly, it’s touched by climate change and plastic drifting from other places. Even now it’s not the wilderness it should be.

“We should be ambassadors for that place. We should campaign to protect it. That’s something we should do for all wild spaces – whether it’s our local woods round the corner or Antarctica.”

Hear more…
Chris Packham will be joined by wildlife photographer Paul Goldstein for a series of charity lectures at Kensington Town Hall, London (November 12), Dorking Halls (November 15), Buxton Opera House (November 19) and Cheltenham Town Hall (November 20). Tickets for ‘An Even Wilder Night Out’ cost from £25. Visit exodus.co.uk/wilder-night-out.

Those booked to attend can enter a wildlife photography competition ahead of the lecture and be in with the chance of winning a photographic safari to the Mara worth £5,000. Visit
exodus.co.uk/wilder-night-out-photography.

© Press Association 2018

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