Saturday, April 20

Inmost Dive Under Antarctica Reveals a Vibrant World

This story appears in the July 2017 concern of National Geographic publication.

In the early morning, when we get here on foot from Dumont d’Urville, the French clinical base upon the Adélie Coast of East Antarctica, we need to separate a thin layer of ice that has actually formed over the hole we drilled the day in the past. The hole goes right through the 10-foot-thick ice floe. It’s simply large enough for a male, and listed below it lies the sea. We’ve never ever attempted to dive through such a little opening. I go.

Pressing and pulling with hands, knees, heels, and the pointers of my swim fins, I vibrate through the hole. As I plunge at last into the icy water, I recall– to a sickening sight. The hole has actually currently started to close behind me.

The bottom surface area of the sea ice is a thick slurry of drifting ice crystals, and my descent has actually set them in movement. They’re assembling on the hole as if it were an upside-down drain. By the time I thrust one arm into the icy mush, it’s 3 feet thick. Getting the security rope, I pull myself up inch by inch, however my shoulders get stuck. All of a sudden I’m shocked by a sharp blow to the head: Cédric Gentil, among my dive friends, is attempting to dig me out, and his shovel has actually struck my skull. A hand gets mine and transports me into the air. Today’s dive is over– however it’s just one of 32.

I’ve come here with another professional photographer, Vincent Munier, at the invite of filmmaker Luc Jacquet, who’s dealing with a follow up to his 2005 victory, March of the Penguins. While Jacquet movies emperor penguins and Munier pictures them, my group will record life under the sea ice. In the winter season the ice reaches 60 miles out to sea here, however we’ve been available in October 2015, at the start of spring. For 36 days, as the ice separates and retreats to within a couple of miles of the coast, we’ll dive through it, down as deep as 230 feet.

(Read more: Get an Amazing Whale’s-Eye View Underneath Antarctica)

I’ve worked for years as a deep-diving professional photographer, in the beginning in the Mediterranean Sea, where I found out to dive 30 years back. Later on, a yearning for brand-new secrets took me in other places. I’ve dived to 400 feet off South Africa to picture uncommon coelacanths, and for 24 straight hours off Fakarava, in French Polynesia, to witness the breeding of 17,000 groupers. This exploration to Antarctica is unlike any other. Here we’ll be diving much deeper than anybody has actually dived before under Antarctic ice– and the conditions will be beyond severe.

In your home in France we invested 2 years preparing. On a map of the Adélie Coast pinned to my wall, I selected dive websites that had a variety of bottom depths and were within 6 miles or two of Dumont d’Urville.

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