Voyage of Discovery
May 3, 2016
By Philippa Ross – Great, Great, Great Granddaughter to Sir James Clark Ross
My own ‘Voyage of Discovery’ was quite unlike the perilous journey my Great, Great, Great Grandfather, Sir James Clark Ross, took 175 years ago. The most dominant difference being, I knew where I was going and when I’d be back!
James was a true pioneer who sailed unchartered waters, discovering the Antarctic continent in what Amundsen described as ‘ponderous tubs’—a man who’s remembered as one of the most capable seamen the world has ever produced and a votary of science to whom Antarctic scientific exploration owes so much.
I, on the other hand, am a mere pilgrim who owes much to Heritage Expeditions for their generosity in giving me a free passage to honor my ancestor—thankfully in a vessel that was a far cry from being ponderous or tub-like! There was nothing heroic about my journey. It was more of a personal quest, an internal calling to satiate my soul and connect to my roots, a journey I now consider to have been a rite of passage—the totality of my own experiences affirming the profound affect our external environment has on our internal environment, allowing me to embody my life purpose to help people connect and build a relationship with themselves and the world around them, to cultivate the conditions to regenerate the seed of potential within us all to grow and develop a sustainable ecosystem that supports all life.
The sun has now set in Antarctica and I’m still trying to wake up to the fact I’ve actually been there. I know it wasn’t a dream because I’ve got a gazillion photos to prove it. More importantly my heart is filled with memories that will last a lifetime. The tranquility was exhilarating—the polar opposite of the mental and physical world I came back to. I spent the first few weeks feeling in a similar state to the conditions that now envelop the continent—frozen and engulfed in darkness. I couldn’t get over how intrusive and disruptive the everyday subliminal noise we’re immersed in affects our ability to think and stay focused. It’s taken a while to acclimatize, but I’ve now regained my land legs and recalibrated my brain to function above the Antarctic Circle!
The visual and auditory landscape of Antarctica is now an intrinsic part of who I am—something I can draw on to both revitalize my energy and recapture a sense of peace. In the same way a picture is worth a thousand words, the rich tapestry within nature’s soundscape is priceless, it’s value subjective to the connection we feel and the story we want to convey.
A musical composition by the late Sir Peter Maxwell Davies to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Scott’s passing is a dramatic yet somber piece—a stark contrast to my own experience, but a fitting portrayal of the conditions and hardships he endured—something I believe Peter could not have expressed so eloquently had he not stipulated he be allowed to go to Antarctica and experience it for himself. The irony is that he travelled on the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) ship, the ‘James Clark Ross,’ which is also about to meet its demise—a ship that hopefully NERC do not replace with a vessel named ‘Boaty McBoatface!’
I firmly believe anyone involved in making decisions on the future of Antarctica should have to go there to fully integrate what it feels like to be a part of something bigger than yourself. Only then can a group of individuals with different ideals really appreciate how they can set aside their disparities and work collaboratively for the greater good of all—CCAMLR representatives for starters! In the same way you can’t judge a book by it’s cover until you’ve read the pages, or a person unless you’ve walked in their shoes, you cannot decide on the fate of a continent with an economic mindset governed by a system where money and winning are the dominant forces—a system I believe actually only creates a scarcity of resources. You have to immerse yourself in the environment to recognize the significance of what’s being asked of you and be humbled to the fact that nature doesn’t need us, but we sure as hell need it.
The Ross Sea is the last and most pristine eco marine system left on Earth. You can literally smell the purity and feel yourself unwind. The stresses and strains of the world have no place here; the only existence is in the moment—peace of mind, body and soul rule. You feel vulnerable but without fear—a diametric contrast to the way we live our ordinary everyday lives. My fear is that this global treasure will become spoilt if decision makers continue bickering about what their individual economies stand to loose if it’s made into a marine protected area. Decision makers are, in my humble opinion, lacking any notion of common sense. For starters, how can the fishing industry justify their continued allocation of certificates, when there’s irrefutable evidence that their so-called sustainable regulations have resulted in almost 60 percent of fish stocks being over exploited, while others have collapsed altogether.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a place for policies and regulations, but I think we’ve come to a point in history where there’s so frickin’ many of them we’ve tied ourselves in knots! And, if you add social conditioning to the mix, we’ve become a race of ‘PC People Pleasers,’ which is ironic because people are discontented and the planet is disintegrating. The solution is simple: Work collaboratively as a global community. Invest our time, energy and resources into creating regenerative solutions where the only risk for protecting this sacrosanct place is that we’ll be in danger of enriching the life of all living organisms, which will go a long way to creating a regenerative ecosystem to support us all.
I did not set out to rant, but, like my ancestor, my voyage was one of discovery. I experienced how respectful man can be of nature—how trusting and accepting wildlife are of us. All I want is for it to be replicated the world over to honor Mother Earth—the home on which we all live—so she can continue to house future generations.
Hope is a powerful virtue that both Mission Blue and the Ross family hold in our hearts as a means to protect what we care for. The Ross Sea is one of Sylvia Earle’s original ‘Hope Spots’ and my family crest carries the motto ‘Hope Lightens Difficulties.’ With the recent signing of the Climate Change Agreement, we can only hope that the same global consensus is applied when CCAMLR convene in October so they finally grant marine protection. It would be a spectacular climax to the 175th anniversary as the decision will be close to the time James first set sail. I very much hope to be around to return for the 200th anniversary in the year 2041—an auspicious time since it’s the same year the Antarctic Treaty comes up for renewal. If we don’t step up now, nature will have the last word.
The Ross Sea’s pristine ecosystem could soon be lost to industrial fishing. But if 24 countries agree, the Ross Sea could be safeguarded from this threat by becoming the world’s largest marine protected area. Twenty-three countries are onboard, but one isn’t: Russia. Sign this petition to urge Russia to protect the Ross Sea.