Blancpain Gombessa III Expedition – Out In The Cold
PICTURES FROM THE EDGE OF THE WORLD
by Maripet Ledesma Poso
HE WENT UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL 400 FEET DEEP IN THE SODWANA BAY WITH THE COELACANTH, THE FISH THOUGHT TO HAVE BEEN EXTINCT FOR 65 MILLION YEARS. Then he documented spawning practices of sharks and camouflage groupers in French Polynesia. For his third Gombessa Expedition — a project sponsored by master watchmakers Blancpain as part of their Ocean Commitment programme — marine biologist and research diver Laurent Ballesta went deep beneath Antarctica.
Working with Academy Award-winning director Luc Jacquet, Ballesta described his expedition as “a pioneering exploratory, diving and photographic mission”.
In December 2015, after two years of preparation, the team of scientists and technical divers reached their base in the French Dumont d’Urville in Adélie Land — the headquarters of the Gombessa III Expedition. An endless sea of ice and columns of penguins greeted them upon their arrival. After settling in and doing a short reconnaissance, the team went for their first dive.
The water was icy cold yet clear — they could see to a depth of 20 metres below the ice. “The cold isn’t the problem”, the divers said. “It’s all these materials against the cold. The problem is balance.” But despite all this, the team managed to deliver captivating images and footage of the blue and green waters, made even more enchanting with clouds of ice above, capping the ocean’s surface.
Amazing phenomena were captured on camera, such as female Adélie penguins returning to shore after going out to sea to feed and regain their strength after laying eggs. Their black backs and clean plumage were a big contrast to the dirty and starving figures of their male counterparts, who were left to tend the chicks.
After all, Antarctica is an unforgiving place, even for its regular inhabitants.
Ultimately, the Gombessa III Expedition delivered “a touching testament to a territory threatened by global warming”. The team also hopes to create a series of campaigns to raise awareness among the general public, including several documentaries, an IMAX movie by Jacquet, as well as books and exhibitions.
THE GOMBESS A EXPEDITIONS ARE SPONSORED BY MASTER WATCHMAKERS BLANCPAIN AS PART OF THEIR OCEAN COMMITMENT PROGRAMME