King Penguins, vast stretches of ancient ice, sea lions and majestic albatross were all part of a profound and extraordinary experience for PSC Chairman Tony Armstrong and his daughter Nadine when they accompanied a group of New Zealanders into the Southern Ocean and Antarctica.
‘Our Far South’ was a Morgan Foundation exploratory journey made to raise awareness about the threats imposed upon Antarctica due to climate change and commercial industries such as fishing and tourism. It also aimed to highlight opportunities to preserve this precious landscape and the magnificent wildlife that call it home. With a keen interest in sustainability and renewable energy, Tony embarked on the voyage to enhance his knowledge of environmental issues. “As one of the founders of an organisation passionate about the energy industry, I felt it was our responsibility to take part in this journey to better understand what was happening to the environment there.” Tony says he and Nadine have always shared a fascination for Antarctica. “We were confronted with an astonishingly beautiful, yet fragile environment which demands our attention and protection.”
Setting off from Bluff on the Russian icebreaker, Spirit of Enderby, Tony, Nadine and a crew of 50 first headed for the Sub Antarctic Snares and Auckland Islands. “The Auckland Islands are famous for their nesting albatrosses, Yellow Eyed Penguins and a sea lion colony,” says Tony.” In fact, these sea lions are the second biggest sea lion in the world.”
This was just one of many breathtaking islands Tony and Nadine were to visit on the voyage.
On Macquarie Island they met, face to face, some inquisitive King Penguins.
“The penguins swam along in the wake of the Zodiacs, diving and jumping behind the boats. On land they were just as curious, and when we sat quietly they came along to check us out, poked their long necks out inquisitively and even pecked at our fingers! They were truly magical.”
After some of the wildlife populations were decimated by up to 70% for the oil and fur trades in the 19th Century, Tony says some of the species’ populations have substantially recovered. “It was quite an amazing sight to see around 300,000 King Penguins packed tightly around the old penguin boilers still sitting at Lusitania Bay,” says Tony.
During the long voyaging days when the Enderby was crossing the Southern Ocean, the crew were kept busy with lectures on topics such as biodiversity, wildlife and ocean currents: “You name it,” says Tony, “if it lives and is bigger than 30 microns, we learned about it!”
As an energy expert, Tony paid special attention to the power sources at McMurdo Station on Ross Island.
“Three wind turbines were installed recently by Meridian Energy and are New Zealand’s contribution to the alliance between the USA and NZ in Antarctica.”
Tony says the first power source in Antarctica was a small nuclear station installed by the Americans in the 1960s.
“But in accordance with the Antarctic Treaty, this was later decommissioned and replaced with diesel generators. Now, the main source of power supply is diesel generation, although the turbines have reduced the reliance on diesel, increased the supply and provided a renewable energy source for McMurdo and Scott base.”
“The trip was one I will never forget, and it has had a significant impact on my approach to my work, PSC and how we can continue to develop our emerging sustainable ethos.” He says it really bought home how important it is for PSC, and indeed all organisations, to bear in mind the global effects of our actions, even in an as isolated place as Antarctica. Tony says successful sustainability is about finding ecologically sound, yet commercially viable industry solutions to the causes of climate change.
“Successful sustainability requires environmental awareness, scientific excellence and the ability to take in the big picture. It’s about thought leadership on a global scale. And that’s exactly what the team at PSC is intent on.”