Celebrating 60 Years of Antarctic Exploration

6 minute read

2018 marks the 60th anniversary of the completion of the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition (CTAE) – the first ever overland crossing of Antarctica via the South Pole. We wanted to honour this iconic adventure, and figured we should do it the best way we know how to: so we made a jacket. Our design team put their heads together, and reimagined the iconic Fairydown Parkas that kept the brave explorers of the CTAE safe all those years ago. The result is the Limited Edition Fairydown 1958 Parka – a luxe winter jacket that is equal parts rugged and stylish, authentic and modern. We used the warmest materials we could get our mitts on to craft this homage to exploration, discovery and conservation. And if we do say ourselves, it’s pretty awesome.

We think that the real objective of adventures like the CTAE should be rooted in an understanding, and ultimately a protection of our planet’s wild places. So with this in mind, we’ve teamed up with the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC). The Macpac Fund For Good will donate $50 for every Parka purchased to ASOC, aiding them and their members in the defence of the Southern Ocean and those who call it home.

We sat down with Claire Christian, Director of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition, to get a better understanding of what the ASOC does, and why Antarctica is worth saving.

Can you give us a bit of history on the ASOC and how it got started?

The Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition was founded in 1978 during an important decade for the worldwide environmental movement. Public awareness of environmental issues was growing, and important legislation to protect the environment had been passed in many countries. In the mid-1970s, activists became aware that Parties to the Antarctic Treaty were secretly negotiating a framework for mineral and gas prospecting in Antarctica. As more and more environmental organizations connected and discussed this issue, it became increasingly clear that global action was needed to prevent the world’s last great wilderness from being destroyed.

So the initial objective was to put a stop to the commodification of Antarctica?

The initial objectives were to convince governments to conclude negotiation of the world’s first “ecosystem as a whole” treaty on fishing; prevent oil, gas, and minerals development in the Antarctic by blocking the ratification of the proposed Minerals Convention; and to open up the Antarctic Treaty System to include participation by NGOs and specialist international bodies.

ASOC’s early campaigns focused on dragging the secret minerals framework negotiations out into the open. We also drew attention to the sloppy waste disposal practices at scientific research stations, and to French plans to dynamite several Antarctic islands and displace many penguin colonies to build an airstrip.

Another major victory for Antarctic environmental protection occurred in 1981 when the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) was ratified. During CCAMLR negotiations, ASOC successfully worked to have a precautionary ecosystem approach embedded in the treaty. CCAMLR was one of the first fishery management organizations to put conservation of ecosystems ahead of financial concerns. Although ASOC never achieved its goal of having Antarctica declared a “World Park,” the Protocol and CCAMLR were important developments that ensured that the Antarctic Treaty Parties would finally make conservation a priority.

What are the key focuses for ASOC today?

ASOC has continued to be the NGO voice for Antarctic environmental protection, and has expanded its portfolio to include issues such as tourism, shipping, and climate change.

As we look to the future, we anticipate taking Antarctic conservation even further, working for the creation of a network of marine protected areas in the Southern Ocean, minimizing pollution from vessels, and mitigating the impacts of climate change.

Antarctica seems like it’s a world away. Why is it so important for us to protect it?

Antarctica belongs to everyone. We all have a responsibility to protect it. And it really is one of the last truly wild places on the planet, one of the few places where ecosystems operate largely without interference from humans. This is not only of tremendous environmental value, but also has a great benefit to science. Much of the research done in Antarctica couldn’t be done anywhere else in the world. Antarctica plays an enormous role in our global climate and ocean system. What happens in Antarctica could have drastic effects thousands of miles away. Similarly, what we do elsewhere in the world impacts Antarctica. Global climate change is clearly having a huge effect down there, and microplastics have been found in Antarctic waters as well. And on a less serious note, who doesn’t want to keep the penguins happy?

Macpac’s support makes it possible for ASOC to continue its work on Antarctic protected areas. We believe that setting aside ecologically important areas on land and at sea will help buffer these areas during a time of increasing climate change and expanding human activities. In 2016, one of the world’s largest Marine Protected Areas was created in Antarctica’s Ross Sea, and we will continue to work to ensure that other ecologically important areas receive similar protections.

How can your average outdoors lover help? Are there simple things that all of us can do to protect Antarctica and the Southern Ocean from afar?

A lot of change will have to come from the top in the form of reducing emissions, eliminating plastic waste, and implementing other global and national policies. However, perhaps the most important thing individuals can do is to rethink their relationship with the environment. Especially in developed countries, we’re often not in touch with just how much of an impact our lifestyles have on nature. Some people will say that individual actions don’t make a big difference, but to make any progress, we need a lot of individuals who are willing to vote for environmental protection policies, and who are willing to adopt behaviours that have less environmental impact. Nobody’s perfect, but grassroots efforts can have a big impact in changing people’s minds and changing societal norms.

What are the biggest threats to Antarctica, the Southern Ocean, and the animals that live there?

The biggest threat is climate change. If emissions continue to rise, and Antarctic ice sheets continue to melt, the environment will change dramatically and many Antarctic species simply will not be able to adapt fast enough. But it’s also a threat if human activities in the Antarctic expand without precautionary protections  – we need to ensure that habitats and species can remain as resilient as possible in a changing climate. While Antarctica is vast and remote; fishing, tourism, and scientific research activities can still have an impact on Antarctic species, many of which are slow to recover from disturbance. Setting aside areas with limited interference from humans removes at least one stressor, and has proven to help preserve habitats and species. We may not be able to stop climate change from having an effect, but we can give Antarctica’s unique animals their best shot at survival if we make sure to protect and preserve their home.