1st, 2004, four Israelis and four Palestinians (two women and six men) set off
on a sea and land expedition to the distant reaches of Antarctica. Their goal
is to summit and name a previously unclimbed mountain. Their expedition is
called : 'Breaking the Ice'. This journey combines the spirit of adventure
with a quest for understanding. It will force people separated by deep
political and religious differences to cooperate in pursuit of a shared goal.
Israeli-Palestinian Ice Breakers Scale Volcano (Expedition Log 5)
Island (63° S -- 61° W) January 5, 2004
four days at sea, the members of Breaking the Ice, the
Israeli-Palestinian peace expedition to Antarctica,
reached their first port of call. At Deception Island,
in a sea-filled volcano crater, Pelagic Australis tied
its mooring line to the rotting remains of an old wooden
boat, the remnant of an abandoned Chilean whaling
station that operated here from 1910 to 1931. Several
hours later, our sister ship Pelagic, carrying the
expedition’s team of mountain guides and its physician,
Arik Shechter, pulled into the same shore. After days of
rocking and rolling on the rough seas of the Darwin
Passage, the teams on both boats were happy at the
prospect of getting a peaceful night’s sleep,
uninterrupted by all-night watches on deck.
Before turning in for the
night, Dr. Shechter came aboard Pelagic Australis to look in on Olfat Haider,
the Israeli-Arab physical education teacher from Haifa, who was injured in a
fall during the ocean storm that rocked the boat on Saturday night. Suffering
from either a bruised or cracked pelvis, Olfat was in tremendous pain but good
spirits, doing her best to believe that within a few days she’ll be fit enough
to continue with our trekking and climbing mission to the peak of an unnamed
mountain on the Antarctic Peninsula.
After a quiet night and a
late wake-up call, the eight Palestinian and Israeli expedition members and
their mountain guides gathered on the shore for an inland trek, meant to help
prepare everyone for the physical challenges we’ll face in the days ahead.
At the team’s training camp
in Chamonix, France in early November, several of us had come to realize that
we had to get in better shape in order to succeed in our Antarctic Mission.
Today’s walk clearly demonstrated that there had been a lot of improvement.
Nasser Quass, the Palestinian from the walled Old City of Jerusalem, had
dropped five kilograms since Chamonix. Palestinian team member Suleiman al-Khatib
had made a New Year’s resolution to give up smoking – and was sticking to it.
Palestinian journalist Ziad Darwish showed no signs of the injured knee that
had given him so much trouble in the French Alps. On the Israeli side,
however, Avihu Shoshani was having problems with his right leg and limping
noticeably. While nursing his injury he decided to go ahead with the day’s
With expedition leader Doron
Erel in the lead we set off for the slopes near our mooring point. As soon as
we gained some altitude fantastic land and ocean vistas came into view,
revealing expanses of dark brown hills composed of volcanic ash, along with
blue-tinted icebergs hovering off Deception Island’s shores. At various points
along those shores the hot lava trapped underground produces hot sulphur
springs that heat the freezing waters to temperatures warm enough to lure in
bathers for a dip.
By the standards of
experienced mountain climbers, today’s trek wasn’t much of a challenge. In
fact, the professionals called it a recreational walk. But, for the expedition
team members, the 6 kilometer walk, with a 200 meter vertical climb over snow
and volcanic ash was no easy matter. Within minutes, we were huffing and
puffing and stripping off the layers of warm clothing we’d put on in
preparation for the hike. No sooner had we done so than the winds picked up,
snow began falling and we were all putting on our warm layers again.
The walk was more than
worthwhile. After about two hours it brought us to the island’s ocean shore,
where we encountered a colony of Chinstrap penguins. This is the southernmost
presence of this species on earth. These small birds, about 30 to 40
centimeters in height, showed no fear of us whatsoever, allowing us to wander
freely among them. They were more wary of a seal hovering offshore, perhaps
hoping for a penguin dinner. After taking a coffee and cookie break by the
beach, we followed the penguins’ lead up the slopes to their nesting colony.
There, we found hundreds of hens sitting on their chicks, keeping them warm.
Heskel Nathaniel, the originator of the concept for Breaking the Ice, was
impressed with the fact that the penguins seemed less fazed – and less
exhausted -- by the long walk up to their nests than we did.
we set sail again, headed southwest for the Bransfield
Straight and, beyond it, the Gerlache Straight and,
beyond it, the continent of Antarctica. It’s difficult
to believe, but it’s actually happening. The Breaking
the Ice peace expedition is on the verge of reaching its