The bilogo, photographer and underwater cameraman Manu San Flix recounts his experience as director of the underwater filming of the team 'Pristine seas', the star project of National Geographic of which he has been part of for a decade and which has now taken him to Antártida. After covering the first stage of the trip with the trip to King George Island, on January 10th the expedition executed a dip in the Glacair de Caleta Potter in extreme conditions: temperature is -10 centigrade but the thermal sensation of -14 due to the freezing wind.
This morning we had to dive under harsh conditions. Wind of 20 knots and snowing intensely in some moments. The temperature is -10º Celsius but the thermal sensation of -14º due to the freezing wind. While we sail our pneumatic towards the glacier that is a mile from the boat, I watch as the snow accumulates on our diving equipment, which rests on the floor of the boat, and how my companions are covered in white by the snow and ice.
This is the second dive of the expedition, and we are getting used to the heavy equipment. When I jump into the water I carry around 80 kilos between the camera, the lights, the bottle, the lead belt, etc. One of the most important things is to overcome the burden that involves the complex equipment that we carry on and that limits our movements: arms, hands hardly touch the thick gloves, it is difficult to turn the neck, the field of vision is very limited, etc.
For everything it is very important to put meticulously all the elements that we will handle in the dive so that without looking at our hands find and access the valves that you have to handle during the dive: two valves for filling the air, another three for purging, can look at the computer, control the manometer that gives us the level of air that we have left in the bottle, have access to the decompression buoy, turn on or off the two heating systems that we carry in order to maximize the durability? n of our immersion … And, of course, to be able to handle other elements that we carry for our safety.
The main one is a radio beacon that, in case of getting lost, sends a signal that provides the boat and dive tests our position. It is the invisible umbilical cord that connects us with our ship. In these harsh conditions we can not afford to lose that connection, since we know that the survival times of a human being in freezing waters are minimal. I always concentrate a lot before immersions to do everything related to immersion automatically and concentrate on the use of the two cameras I have to record, a complex RED Dragon that records in 6K and a Canon.
The place chosen for the immersion of today is a spectacular and huge glacier of intense turquoise blue color, where the Chilean biologist Cristian Lagger has been working for years studying the effect of climate change. We start the dive on a small islet located 230 meters from the glacier. I am impressed by what Cristian has told me at breakfast. That this islet until 2009 was covered under the ice of the glacier and now the glacier is 230 meters away. It impresses and in a way scares when one sees in situ the effects of global warming, when they perceive it in the first person. According to Cristian, the glacier has retreated one kilometer in the last 40 years. It is difficult to feel the effects of global warming in the first person, a problem that we often hear but that can be felt as an abstract concept. But here in Antarctica the consequences of the change to which we are subjecting the planet can be seen clearly. Jumping into the water worried, with his head spinning around this problem.
Pain in the face
The first two minutes dominates the sensation of pain in the face by the water at zero degrees. Then the pain passes and we begin the immersion. In the first 15 meters visibility is almost zero for all the sediment that reaches the sea due to the effect of the glacier. From that depth improves visibility, but the environment is very dark, since the surface layer barely passes the light. During the immersion I dedicate myself to recording the work of Cristian, who registers with his camera how life is colonizing the background that in these years the glacier is leaving exposed when the ice melts. His work is of enormous importance to help predict the consequences that we still do not know about how the increase in temperatures in the nature of the Antarctic continent will affect it.
The Argentine Chilean expedition travels on a ship of the Chilean Navy, and its mission is to provide scientific data and graphic testimonies on the disappearance of species, with which to give arguments to governments to protect the most sensitive and virgin areas of the planet. The objective is for administrations to create marine reserves.