A remarkable friendship between Michael Steel, aged 40, and Pauline Bisson, aged 72, has led to an extraordinary expedition across Antarctica, aiming to create awareness about the dire impacts of climate change on our planet.
Pauline, a self-proclaimed adrenaline junkie, has previously conquered challenging adventures like Mount Kilimanjaro, the Everest Base Camp, and even a parachute jump, all in pursuit of her daredevil spirit. Now, accompanied by Michael, both hailing from Hampshire, she embarks on a once-in-a-lifetime journey to explore Antarctica.
For Pauline, a mother of six and a great-grandmother, this expedition is her most thrilling to date, including a daring Polar Plunge amidst the ice caps in freezing temperatures.
Recalling the experience, Pauline said, “I jumped and went right under, I drank half of the sea, it tasted salty and it was freezing. I’m terrified of water, so I wasn’t going to do the Polar Plunge – I didn’t even take a bathing costume. But it was absolutely amazing.”
The adventurous duo set off from Punta Arenas, Chile, in March 2023, flying across the Southern Ocean to reach Antarctica. Guided by polar experts, marine biologists, and historians, they sailed through icy waters, encountering spectacular sights such as penguins and falling glaciers.
However, amidst their awe, the trip also highlighted the distressing reality of Antarctica’s deterioration due to climate change, potentially causing severe repercussions for the ecosystem and its inhabitants. As Michael pointed out, marine life that relies on krill, living beneath the ice, faces challenges when the ice diminishes, impacting the entire ecosystem. Penguins, including Adélie, Emperor, and Chinstrap species, are particularly vulnerable to these climate change effects, as the ice serves as their breeding and resting ground.
Jean Pennycook, an ornithologist, emphasises that minimising damage to the ecosystem requires collective efforts to reduce, reuse, and recycle.
Their expedition also involved witnessing glacial volcanoes, humpback whales, and awe-inspiring mountain landscapes. Among their surreal experiences was a visit to Deception Island, sailing past Neptune’s Bellow, an entrance to an active volcano, and uncovering the remnants of a long-forgotten whaling station, like a time capsule.
The extraordinary bond between Michael and Pauline began in 2004 during their former job, though they didn’t initially get along. Their shared passion for adventure, however, brought them closer during a trip to Mount Kilimanjaro in 2008.
For Pauline, the trip to Antarctica deepened her understanding of climate change and its implications. Embracing a more adventurous lifestyle, she traded luxury for natural wonders.
Pauline said, “I never thought I’d take on challenges like I have; I was a person of luxury. But after my husband left me at 51, I felt sorry for myself. A friend suggested a 100km trek across the Great Wall of China, and it all started there. Now, I sleep on rocks and couldn’t be happier.”
The age gap between Michael and Pauline is irrelevant, as their unique friendship enriches their lives. Michael admires Pauline’s tenacity and determination, even though their love-hate relationship can be a bit chaotic. Ultimately, they stand united in their mission to explore the world, conquer challenges, and raise awareness about the urgent need to combat climate change.