80 Female scientists discovering the sound of silence in Antarctica

Homeward Bound expedition members explore Antarctica's Danco Island on Jan. 12, 2019. EFE-EPA/ Yalimai Jimenez

Homeward Bound expedition members explore Antarctica’s Danco Island on Jan. 12, 2019. EFE-EPA/ Yalimai Jimenez


The 80 female professionals, many of them scientists, from all around the world who are participating in the Homeward Bound expedition to Antarctica are learning about climate change’s effects in the south polar regions but also getting in touch with themselves amid the “sounds of silence” and the variations and intensities of the color white at the bottom of the world.

On Day 12 of the expedition, Danco Island was the destination of the members of the Homeward Bound tour, an Australia program supported by the Spanish firm Acciona that seeks to push female leadership and visibility on global issues.

Dando Island, is a bit of land just 1.6 km (1 mile) long located in the southern Errera Channel, on the western coast of Graham Land.

The site, which has been the target of territorial reclamation by Argentina - where it is called Dedo Island - along with Chile and the United Kingdom, hosted between 1956-1959 Britain’s Station O base, a scientific research facility focusing on geological studies but now it has been transformed into a silent spot, albeit one where dozens of vessels touring Antarctica during the present Southern Hemisphere summer stop.

Upon arrival, the expedition members first encountered a stone beach, with a cliff rising to the island’s frozen peak.

Over the roadway on the island, penguins of many different species waddle, and Antarctic doves fly here and there.

After ascending the peak, the summit becomes a place of reflection for the travelers, who gaze upon the forbidding landscape amid a silence that seems almost unreal.

“In Antarctica, there’s a countless number of tones and intensities of the color white to which we’re not accustomed” and a “great range of silences which our ears are unable to perceive,” Costa Rica’s Christiana Figueres, a key negotiator for the Paris Accord on climate change who is participating in the expedition by special invitation.

“Especially for one who has not been in Antarctica, the experience is unique in one’s life because it’s the most untouched part of the whole planet. It’s the point where, although we’re doing damage, it’s still the most virgin with respect to the impact of human beings and where nature has displayed everything of which it’s capable,” she added.

The Homeward Bound expedition set sail on Dec. 31 from the far-southern Argentine port of Ushuaia and among the stops the vessel has made so far are Argentina’s Carlini Base, Paulet Island with its colony of thousands of Adelie penguins, Hydrurga Island and now Danco Island.

“We had the good luck to climb to the island’s peak ... and to have this majestic view of the Antarctic continent. That, for me as an oceanographer, is a great reminder of the role the sea plays in the world,” said Melania Guerra, also from Costa Rica, who has focused part of her studies on acoustic pollution in marine environments.

“This is not an issue of activists against climate change, of activists against deforestation or against plastic. It’s a matter for everyone to take care of the planet, it’s our responsibility because there’s nobody else who’s going to come from outside and help us save ourselves,” Homeward Bound founder Fabian Dattner said regarding climate change during the trip, which will last until Jan. 19.

Homeward Bound, with its backing by Spanish infrastructure and renewable energy firm Acciona, is a global initiative for women in the STEMM fields (i.e. science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine) with an eye toward boosting female visibility as leaders on matters of global import.