‘A natural pilgrimage for me.’ That’s how intrepid Will Glendinning describes his journey to the world’s southernmost continent, Antarctica.
But Will wasn’t going there just to take a look and come home. He was going to freedive.
Freediving is a natural form of underwater diving which relies on lung power rather than breathing apparatus such as scuba equipment.
Having spent two years planning the expedition, Will, 40, along with two friends and three crew members, set off from Puerto Williams in Chile, and they sailed nonstop for six days and nights before they came upon the unrivalled majesty of Antarctica’s Marguerite Bay and its towering icebergs.
During the final leg of their journey, they could see no more than a couple of metres in front of them due to fog. But the magnificent views in daylight made the difficult journey worthwhile.
‘The scale of Antarctica is phenomenal,’ says Will. ‘With there being no trees or buildings anywhere, getting a sense of scale is tricky. What looks like cliffs towering above you just a few hundred metres away, are in fact a couple of miles away.’
Remote Antarctica is, according to Will, ‘brutal, beautiful and breathtaking’.
‘No photos, no videos, no words frankly, can do justice to the scale of these things… lumps of ice floating through the ocean,’ says Will.
The icy underwater landscape forms the backdrop for ‘the most bizarre, most ridiculous freediving I’ve ever done,’ he continues. ‘Tunnels of ice, caves of ice. Blue ice, clear ice, white ice… just incredible.’
It soon became clear that the biggest risk to the explorers was from the ice. Explains Will: ‘Icebergs are very delicately balanced, so if they suddenly decide to fall over, and you’re under one of them, it’s game over really!’
Antarctica is generally a silent place, but the noise of ice carving off glaciers into the ocean can be heard many metres below the ocean surface – and you’ll certainly know about it if you’re underwater at the time. ‘An almighty clap of noise wakes you up,’ says Will.
So incredible was the trip that Will insists he can’t wait to return. ‘I have a natural affinity with water,’ he says, ‘I’m much happier in water than on land!’