Journey Towards The Unknown
Travel journal by Olle Nordell
Tretorn photographer Olle Nordell joined the Antarctica 2020 expedition with the new Tretorn Eco Essentials ARCH Jacket. The purpose of the expedition was to raise awareness about the area’s vulnerability and climate change, focusing on seeking increased protection for South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, which together represent a unique biodiversity - threatened by overfishing, climate change and plastic waste. The ARCH jacket is made out of Tretorns Eco Essentials fabric, OCEAN-SHELL®, a new three layer fabric made from recycled polyester with membranes made from recycled PET bottles collected from the oceans outside the coast of Taiwan, made to be recycled again.
How do you pack for Antarctica? I randomly started to fill the living room floor with gear, and the space was quickly covered with down, wool, fleece, cameras, boots, tripods, rain gear and a huge pile of adapters, cables, chargers and batteries. I’d have to pack for sub-zero degrees, high winds, snow and ice - but also for laboring hard, hiking and moving around. Plus, I needed to be able to carry all of it in one go. As usual, the layering principle dictated much of my apparel - with wool next to skin, and mid-layers in fleece, possibly a padded ’puffy’ on top of that – before adding the shell layer which should be able to take a beating from the elements. For this excursion, I packed the Tretorn Ghost Net Jacket, and the brand new Arch Expedition Jacket. Then mittens, balaclava, boots. Yeah, the list was long – but eventually I stood there with a large duffel bag and camera pack. I was ready to go.
The theme for the trip is the unknown. Tretorn had never tested any gear this far south, and would the new shells prove themselves worthy? Can brands and governments stop the frantic pace of climate change – with wider international legislation and innovative research & development? Simply, is what we do together enough: as companies, countries and individuals?
I flew south with an international team of explorers, heading for South Georgia and Antarctica. The route passed the RAF base Brize Norton outside Oxford, where I boarded a military plane to the Falkland Islands. In Port Stanley, the quaint little main community of these gorgeous islands outside the southern tip of South America – we all got on a ship that took us straight out on the legendary Southern Ocean. We were on our way.
Almost exactly 100 years ahead of us, Sir Ernest Shackelton made the same journey – with the aim of crossing Antarctica from sea to sea, passing the South Pole on the way. With 27 brave men, his ship Endurance got stuck in the pack ice of the Weddell Sea, was crushed and eventually sank – leaving the men stranded on moving ice, out at sea, with slim chances of survival.
The team and I had a more comfortable trip, on board a modern ship with warm food and bunks. But the Southern Ocean did not let us down, as the first storm immediately wiped out almost all of us in seasickness. Two days later, as we sighted the first rocks of South Georgia - all were good, and we prepared for a landing that would take our breath away.
South Georgia is a biodiversity hotspot far away from anything. It is governed by the UK, and only inhabits a handful of British scientists. In the olden days, the island was an active whaling outpost with Norwegian stations along the north shore. But as whaling was banned in the 1960’s, the settlements were abandoned and remain today as toxic ghost towns - telling the cruel story of 20th century whaling. It was to one of these whaling stations, that Shackelton and five men succeeded to reach and get help at after navigating 1000 km over stormy seas for 16 days in an open life boat from Antarctica – where his crew was left on the inhospitable shores of Elephant Island.
A feat of epic proportions, which to this date is almost incomprehensible. We completed a short portion of the island crossing that Shackelton had to complete, since they arrived from the south – and help was in the north. Immediately as we set foot on shore, we were greeted by thousands of King Penguins, Fur Seals, Elephant Seals and Giant Petrels. The wildlife was nothing I had ever seen in my life. Waves kept crashing in on the coastal rocks and small stretch of sandy beach under our rubber boots, with snow in the air and magnificent turquoise glaciers rolling down the hills around us. The hike took us from Fortuna Bay over a mountainous ridge, past an alpine backcountry, and down through a rugged river delta toward Stromness – the station where Ernest Shackelton, Tom Crean and Frank Worsley stumbled in half dead over hundred years ago.
As a human and a photographer, I was in paradise. Apart from the stunning landscape, and untouched coves and peaks around me – South Georgia truly represents a unique place in the world in terms of biodiversity and proof of our planet’s greatness. But still, after all these catastrophic lessons learned from hunting fur seals and whales to the brink of extinction. From industrial fishing, plastic waste and global warming. Suddenly the shells I was wearing felt so in place – as the Tretorn jackets had already proven themselves in terms of ruggedness and weather seal, but also since they’re built with recycled polyester with total sustainability in mind. They’re built with an attitude that we can fix this! If governments, brands, corporations, NGO’s and private citizens work together – there is still time.
South Georgia and the South Sandwich Island are today part of a bigger plan to secure total protection of this region by 2020, supported by the United Nations Environment Program. The focus of this work has shifted from future generations, to actually doing this for us. That’s how fast things are changing. That’s how critical global warming and ocean waste have become for the human race.
We spent days exploring inlets and coves, from kayaks, zodiacs and also in water from the surface - wearing dry suits. As I was in the zero degree water with my camera and housing, I had one eye looking through the viewfinder - and the other scouting for the occasional Leopard Seal. It was breeding season, so we knew the big fur seal males could be grumpy too, and if an Elephant Seal wakes up on the wrong side, he (the males can weigh up to 4.000 kg) can easily snap you in two. Oh and Orcas. Let’s not forget about the Orcas. The water was a shade of black I had never seen, almost hypnotizing. But the instant I neared a floating ice berg, the deep became crystal turquoise - and these contrasts was like a theme for the maritime landscape around me. Everything was white, black and blue in sharp layers.
The ship steered south, and we eventually passed the convergence zone and after a day’s dull sailing through fog – it was like someone opened a curtain on the other side. Sky cleared, sun beamed and our eyes adjusted. Antarctica! As we passed Elephant Island, it felt like another world. Maybe humankind won’t have to explore other livable planets? Maybe we should just care for the one we have.
My eyes wander, a flock of penguins breaks the surface and a whale blows a fountain of water in the distance. At the bridge, we’re chatting away with the captain and the plotted course passes mystical places straight out of boyhood imagination - with names such as Snow Island, Deception, and Half Moon Bay.
A cocktail of ambition, possibility of fame, and some undiagnosed letter combination probably drove the explorers of the past. Undoubtedly, they also searched for the advance of mankind - through new routes and discoveries. For the team, and me this Antarctic journey proved that the next frontier is about sustainability. That’s where the big unknown lies, how to start collaborating as humans and how to be innovative in terms of what we wear and use. How we use it, and how we discard it once the product’s life is over. Wherever we’re born. Because regardless if you live in Milano, Stockholm or London - what you do, the choices you make, and the products you consume - will all affect the environment, and the seas. And as Antarctica is such a unique continent, representing the world’s fresh water reserves, its oceans have to be a top priority for all of us to keep clean, and keep alive.
Olle Nordell is a Swedish adventure photographer testing and documenting for Tretorn. The expedition to Antarctica went through the Falklands and South Georgia, together with an international team from South Africa, England, Kenya and New Zealand. The expedition was carried out with representatives from the United Nations Environment Program and the Lewis Pugh Foundation. Whose mission is to provide total protection for the region by 2020.
Tretorn ARCH jacket is a Winter Rain Parka; made out of the new Tretorns Eco Essentials fabric, OCEAN-SHELL®, a insulated three layer fabric made from recycled polyester with membranes made from recycled PET-bottles collected in the ocean outside Taiwan, made to be recycled again. Tretorn ARCH jacket and the fabric OCEAN-SHELL® is part of Tretorns next generation of functional rainwear invented within the Eco Essential initiative.
+ 10 000 mm waterproof
+ 10 000 g/m2/24h breathability
+ Fluorocarbon free
+ PVC free
+ Wind proof
+ Winter Insulated
FIND ARCH JACKET HERE