Things were heating up at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town this weekend as 50 scientists from around the globe prepared for the groundbreaking three-month polar expedition – the Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition (ACE) – due to set off from the Mother City on Tuesday.
Young and old gathered to listen to 49 singing scientists and a celebrated “funky” Swiss horn player at the House of Switzerland exhibition on Saturday evening.
One could almost see the steam coming off the 49 young scientists as they sang a song about their time on board the Russian scientific research vessel Akademik Treshnikov.
The students from around the world had been selected to take part in the ACE Maritime University on board the vessel on its journey from Bremerhaven in Germany. Their intense course, conducted under the auspices of the Russian Geographic Society, ended when the vessel arrived in Cape Town on Thursday.
The youngsters seemed to glow as they sang to a small crowd on a luminescent evening at the V&A Waterfront. If the maritime university was an an ice-breaker of sorts for the groundbreaking Antarctic expedition, the singing scientists seemed to warm up the crowd for a performance by the celebrated Alpine Horn player Eliana Burki, who had flown in from snowy Switzerland.
Playing her own special brand of “funky” Alphorn, Burki and her speedily assembled local band delighted young and old with a combination of traditional and modern music on a stage outside the House of Switzerland.
Visitors to the House of Switzerland exhibition got a preview of how this soon-to-depart expedition will expand knowledge about the region that plays a crucial role in regulating the world’s climate.
(And of course there was chocolate, thank you Lindt, thank you Switzerland!)
ACE is made up of 22 projects to be conducted by research teams from six continents during the three-month circumnavigation of Antarctica. The 22 projects focus on different areas of study, all of which are fundamental for a better understanding of the largely unknown continent’s ecosystems.
The projects, which were chosen from more than 100 submissions, include mapping threatened species such as Southern Ocean whales, albatrosses and penguins, trying to understand the “calving” of a giant iceberg, and a bid to uncover the mystery of the ocean’s “false bottom”.
ACE is the first project of the Swiss Polar Institute, a newly created public-private partnership that aims to enhance international relations and collaboration between countries on Antarctica. It also hopes to spark the interest of a new generation of young scientists and explorers in polar research.
The expedition was initiated and sponsored by leading industrialist and philanthropist Dr Frederik Paulsen, who has a well-established track record in polar exploration.
The House of Switzerland exhibition, free to members of the public and running until Tuesday, also showcases the Swiss spirit of innovation and Switzerland’s contribution to polar research. It is set up in containers next to the Swing Bridge at the V&A Waterfront.