Training for Aconcagua

Hi all! we have just made it to Mendoza, and will be staying there until the 9th of January when our hike begins. I thought I’d share with you the training regiment I went through over the past year.

I have been travelling quite a bit in 2017 so my training has been through a lot of iterations to fit where I was and how much I could work out. The goal has always been to focus on cardio, and to train between 3 to 5 times a week.

Lots of running and crossfit.

At the beginning of the 2017, all the way to April-May, I would easily cycle 30 min every morning and continue with 10km of running three times a week before work. I was planning to run my first marathon in the autumn. Eventually I became a bit tired of this routine. My brother also advised me to join Crossfit, which I did in March-April. I absolutely loved the workouts, especially the atmosphere at the “box” but I had to stop as my knees, hips and shoulders were killing me.


Crosstraining, cycling and running on my tip toes.

From May to December I have been pretty much travelling non stop. And it is not easy to stay motivated to workout when you’re sleeping in hotel rooms and feel exhausted from the travels. Fortunately a few years ago I discovered an app called Sworkit. And it is amazing! It provides for free tons of body weight exercises that do not require any equipment. I would do this 3 to 4 times a week.

I still tried to incorporate a lot of cardio to my training, with 1h of cycling every day when I was working in Scotland, or running when I was abroad. But my knees were still struggling to recover, and I tried to find other ways to still incorporate running in my training regiment, without needed a knee or hip replacement. I started reading and learning about barefoot running. At first it really helped me to continue running despite my back and knee pains, but I started loving it so much that I went hard into this. So hard that I got a tendinitis on my left achille’s tendon and a weird tendinitis on my right foot, both of which still bug me 4 months later ☹ I had to completely stop running from September to December, but eventually drinking collagen every day for two weeks really helped the healing process..


Running on the Chariots of Fire beach in St Andrews 🙂

The last month before the expedition

A month before leaving for Aconcagua, I was starting a two week long trip to India with my mum. Not quite the ultimate training month I had in mind, and far from ideal for acclimatization or training. I was doing sworkit in hotel rooms, as I was too scared to go running outside on my own (and in the pollution). But luckily, after India I went back home to the French alps, and I could start training properly. There’s no better training to climb steep mountains with a heavy pack, that climbing steep mountains with a heavy pack. The only thing is, you have to train hard while being extremely careful not to hurt yourself. It’s all about finding the right balance 😊

So I would train every other day with a heavy pack (>17kg), wearing the boots I bought for our trip, and climb at least 1000m of vertical elevation on rocks or snow. The first days were brutal, I still very tired from my trip to India, and carrying this backpack was killing me, but my body rapidly got used to it, and the last few training sessions were actually quite enjoyable. Obviously, I was still training at low elevation (<2000m) but it’s better than nothing!


The last days before the expedition

We have actually just arrived in Mendoza, at the foothills of the Andes. The town is not very high up but we’ll try to make the most of the few days we have here to hike at higher altitude, and most importantly rest and relax before the big mountain!IMG_20180105_185026

The day has come!

Finally! Finally my bags are checked in, and I am waiting at gate F52 in CDG airport to embark on the first leg of our journey to Argentina, with the ultimate goal to climb Aconcagua.

I’ve had absolutely zero time to update you on my training, packing, etc. but I will write a series of detailed posts over the next few days while we settle in Mendoza before we leaving for the big mountain on the 9th of January.

I couldn’t be happier to surrounded by the nicest and most awesome people I could hope for, and it will be my pleasure to tell you all about them as our voyage progresses.

Watch this space!

And by the way, happy new year 😊


Beautiful pic by Patricia Villanueva

Time to start something new and trust the magic of new beginnings

Big changes are happening in my little life, and I’m trying my best to keep it all under control.

Next week I will be leaving the University of St Andrews where I have been working intermittently for the past year and a half. I am leaving first because my original contract is coming to an end, and because I have voluntarily not looked for any means to prolong it. After months and months of reflexion I have decided to leave academia, at least for a little while.

So what has made me come to this decision? Several things that became so huge I could not ignore them any longer. First of all, I want to say that glaciology is and will always remain my biggest passion. I have deeply enjoyed doing research in this field, collaborating with talented and ingenious individuals, and the experiences I have had the chance to live during my academic career have been nothing short of incredible.

Beside my work in St Andrews, I spent quite a large part of this year, and last year, doing a lot of science outreach, communicating to various audiences about our work, and the consequences of climate change on the cryosphere. And I truly believe that communicating our science today is more important than ever. The problem is, not everybody wants to do it, not everybody has time to do it, and not everybody can make science accessible. And this for me is what really tipped me to address these enormous elephants in the room: science outreach and science policy.

I am taking a break from academia to learn how our science is being communicated to politicians, to the civil society, and to businesses. And I am willing to work very hard to improve it!

One step in the right direction has been the publication yesterday of our work on surging glaciers in the magazine Science. I could not be prouder to see the research we’ve been focusing on for the past 6 years making the cover and a lengthy feature in the magazine. This is a fantastic example of how science can be explained in a super cool way. Check out the article here:





Let winter break. Let it burn ’til I see you again

Long time no speak! 2016 was a great year, but 2017 has been extraordinary! And the best part is that it’s not over yet. This year has been filled with new experiences, encounters, and travels. I feel luckier than ever to be able to do things I have always been dreaming of.

Among all the new adventures I got involved in this year, here are the most memorable/interesting/adventurous ones:

I started volunteering for the International Cryosphere Climate Initiative in March/April. The ICCI does science policy related to.. glaciers! I have been learning a huge amount by working with the so welcoming and caring ICCI team. Currently we are working on a project funded by the Climate and Clear Air Coalition of the UN, aiming to reduce emissions of short-lived climate forcers, and specifically black carbon through the use of wood stove. Check out our progress here.

During my time in Svalbard I was always so happy to welcome visitors to our beautiful university UNIS and tell them about the impact of climate change to my dear glaciers. At this day and age, science communication is more important than ever. It is our duty to be more approachable and to understand that publishing papers is not enough. I have never cared more about outreach and never more believed in its powers that today.

And when I got contacted by the high school of La Rochelle in France, and heard about their very ambitious scientific projects this year, I was more than happy to be their “skype scientist”, calling them every other week to challenge them to new and exciting experiments. The best part is their goal to travel to Svalbard next April, and I will have the great honor to accompany them, and tell them all about this place so dear to me.

Another awesome adventure took me to Pennsylvania this autumn! Last winter, while on Sea Spirit in Antarctica I met someone who really inspired me. Her name is Professor Hilde Binford. I had rarely met someone so driven, curious and who can make big things happen. Hilde is a Professor of Musicology at the Moravian College in PA, and started  with Dean Diane Husic, a course about climate change when none existed. And this September I got the great honor to be invited to give a series of lectures on my work as a glaciologist at the Moravian College, and also at the Moravian Academy. I had the best time the Lehigh county, met such motivated, smart and kind students and professors I which I had had during my studies! Thank you all for the fantastic time.

Finally, and I feel so proud to announce that I got the extraordinary chance to participate to two scientific documentaries for French national TV France 5! The documentaries will come out on the 12th of December, it’s all in French but tune in!! These have been such whirlwind experiences. We filmed the documentaries in two of the most beautiful, extreme and mysterious countries on Earth, Chile and Iceland. The theme is how populations have adapted to deeply challenging environments, and how scientists develop new techniques and technologies to make the most of the local conditions, no matter how hard they might be. Beyond the jaw dropping landscapes, filming the documentaries has been an extraordinary human experience, and I often think about those we met along the way, and the life lessons they shared with us. Thank you to the dream teams working on the documentaries, and congratulations for such a beautiful work.

How to train for Aconcagua?

Aha! I wish I had the perfect answer to this question. I’ve been hiking for pretty much all my life, but this challenge is on a whole new level.

Speaking on level I have a BIG problem. Sea level that is. The altitude of my apartment must be 6 m at most, my office might be at +10m with a push. This really does not help for a bid to climb almost 7000 m. But I do have a plan.


Where I currently live, in St Andrews, Scotland. Pic taken last week.

Climbing Aconcagua is facing two challenges at the same time. First it’s a long hike. 21 days on average, hiking pretty much every day, carrying between 10 to 15 kg on our back (that is if you can pack light!). Second, it’s extremely high. So I have to take these two aspects into account for my training.


The normal route day by day. From Aconcagua Trek Expeditions.

Cardio is the answer to the first challenge. There are many ways to increase your cardio capacity, and I found that cycling and running works well for me. I cycle every day to work, and run typically three times per week. I am hoping to run my first marathon this year in preparation for Aconcagua. As recommended by my brother, I joined my local Crossfit Box. They’re called Functional Fitness St Andrews and they’re amazing! I have survived to 9 sessions so far and am looking forward to doing a lot more in the months to come.


My new addiction! Crossfit.

The second challenge is a lot trickier to address. In Scotland where I live, the highest mountain is Ben Nevis, culminating at a mere 1345 m… I miss my Alpine peaks! So over the summer I am hoping to spend more weekend bagging some munros (hills higher than 1000 m) and to organise one or two weekends in the French Alps to test myself at much higher altitudes.

Hiking Ben Macdui about a month ago.

But there are cheap ways to simulate high altitude. I’ve been a pretty big fan of the Elevation mask over the past few years. I used it in the weeks before climbing Kilimanjaro, wearing it while hiking in the French Alps. It looks like you’re wearing a gas mask, but all it does is restricting how much air you breathe. Pretty efficient especially because I only have the valves stimulating 16 000 ft, go big or go home!

Training in the Alps was definitely easier.

Aconcagua: normal or Polish?

Finding the next challenge, the next mountain you want to climb is only a very small part of expedition planning. Once the “goal” has been agreed upon, the real work begins. With this kind of mountains you can’t really freestyle it and intuitively follow random paths that seem to be going up. First, you have to decide on the route. I’m always tempted not to take on the normal route but I also don’t want to bite more than I can chew.

The route matters enormously. It is like choosing a friend to go on an adventure. There’s the friend you know well,  who is quite predictable, and there’s that more mysterious, erratic friend that is picking your curiosity, and that you know will make the trip more exciting.

On Aconcagua, trips with local companies are offered along two main routes: the normal route, and the polish route, with small variations of both. Let’s take a look at their pros and cons.



Normal route:

Also called the North West route, is typically done is 18-20 days. The normal route is composed of three to four camps in total: base camp (plaza de Mulas), plaza Canada, nido de Condores and Berlin/Colera.

The pros:

  • Medical services: staying at base camp has numerous advantages. And one that is significant is the presence of a doctor. At this kind of altitude, this is certainly something not to take lightly!
  • Rescue patrol: due to the popularity of the route, a rescue team is always available.
  • Not technical: the normal route is the most popular one due to the fact that the distance between the camps is manageable, and the routes does not require any technical abilities.
  • Porters, mules and helicopter: if your bag is too heavy you can easily find an array of services to help you along the way!

The cons:

  • Packed: it’s a popular route, therefore expect crowds and traffic jams along the way!
  • Wind: the high camps are known to be very exposed to wind storms
  • Approach: long and not particularly scenic (although opinions differ on that!)
  • Going up and down the same route

Take a tour along the normal route HERE


Fake polish route:

The fake polish route is actually composed of three different itineraries: the direct polish glacier route, the polish traverse route (also called fake polish or 360), and the guanacos route. So far, the tour operators I have contacted did not propose the direct polish glacier route, which is quite technical and requires special guides. No matter the itinerary, the polish route rejoins the normal route for the last kilometre to the summit.


  • Scenic: the polish route is known for its impressive landscape, especially on the way to the first camp.
  • Less crowded: because it is a little more technical, the polish route is rarely as congested as the normal route.
  • A loop: the ascent crosses the polish glacier, and the descent follows the normal route. This route is best to see two different sides of the mountain!
  • Easier start: the approach start at a lower altitude than the normal route, and the ascent is more gradual.


  • More technical: this route is not recommended to those who have never walked in crampons or used ice axes. The fake polish route avoids the steepest portions, but some sections are steep (40-50 degres).
  • Less medical services: as the route is not as popular as the normal route, rescue services and medical assistance isn’t quite on the same level.
  • Difficulty: the distance between the camps is greater and steeper.
  • Rivers: it takes 5 river crossing to reach the first camp, which can be a great challenge after heavy rainfalls.

Take a tour along the polish traverse route HERE

The Sentinel of Stone

As we are progressing in the organisation of our expedition to Aconcagua, let’s take a look at some fun – and less fun – facts about our next challenge.

The origin of its name is contested. Aconca-Hue from the Mapuche language refers to the Aconcagua River. If we look at the Quechua language, Ackon Cahuak means Sentinel of Stone, or Anco Cahuak the White Sentinel. Quite romantic.


First ascents

The first known attempt to climb Aconcagua was made in 1883 by German mountaineer Paul Gussfeldt. He managed to hired some local guides by telling them about a treasure at the top of the mountain. Way to go! He made it to 6560 m.

Many Europeans attempted to reach the summit in the late 19th century. The British Mountaineer Edward FitzGerald tried 8 times between 1896 and 1897 but eventually his main guide Matthias Zurbriggen made it to the top before everyone else, on January 14th 1897. The route they took is the normal route that most use today.

The east side of Aconcagua was conquered by a Polish expedition on March 9th 1934 following what is now known as the Polish glacier route. And cocorico the south face (known to be the most difficult one) was climbed by a French expedition in 1954.


Aconcagua is located in the Southern Hemisphere, in the Andes, in Argentina. It is just one degree of latitude further north than Cape Town.

Contrarily to what is usually thought Aconcagua is not a volcano. The mountain is covered by a few glaciers, the largest one being Ventisquero Horcones Inferior, a surging glacier! The Polish Glacier on the way to the summit was first crossed in 1934.


Aconcagua is constantly lashed by strong winds from the West. Many many videos show tents being blown away, crazy winds hitting the high camps . In the summer, the temperature at night at 5000 m high can be down to -20c (-0.4F). At the summit -30 is the norm. But that’s in good weather. The conditions can be a lot, lot tougher. Unexpected blizzards are not a rarity on the mountain.



At sea level, we breath about 20.9% of oxygen. At the top of Aconcagua this number will fall to 8.7%, which is a considerable difference. I have never been above 5895 m, the altitude of Kilimanjaro. Aconcagua is in a completely different category.

Natural Hazards

Beside the challenges caused by the weather or the altitude, Aconcagua often makes the news because of the accidents related to natural hazards. The first challenge hikers face are the rivers. A couple of rivers have to be crossed to reach Base Camp on the normal route, while a total of 5 rivers must be crossed for the Fake Polish/Direct Polish Route. Having crossed many many glacial rivers in Iceland with a heavy pack a few years ago, this is not something I particularly enjoy, but this time I won’t be on my own.

No matter the route, rockfalls and landslides are the biggest danger. This video is one of the examples frequently seen on the mountain:

For those who decide to go up the technical Direct Polish Route, crevasses often cause their share of trouble…

Fast, Faster

The youngest climber was 9, oldest was 87 years old. While a typical trek up and down Aconcagua takes about 17-19 days, Kilian Jornet did everything in 12h49min. But two months later Karl Egloff broke the record with 11h52min.



The odds are against us. About +3000 attempt the summit every year between December and March. About 2/3 to ¾ of them fail, either from bad weather, exhaustion or altitude sickness… Aconcagua is not to be taken lightly and on average 3-4 people die every year on the mountain. As it is a non-technical mountain, many underestimate how dangerous the mountain can be.  It is said to have the highest death rate of any south American mountain.

My next adventure!

“The biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams” said 21st century philosopher Oprah Winfrey.

And going up mountains has always been my biggest dream. When people ask me what make me become a glaciologist, it’s always been because it would bring me closer to the peaks, closer to the mountains.

After a very adventurous 2016 I found 2017 looking rather dull and empty. It’s kinda hard to top Kilimanjaro, the Arctic, the North Pole, Svalbard, and Antarctica but it’s not about making 2017 better, it is about discovering new places, experiencing new regions and travelling with friends.

I like mountains, but I like tall mountains even more. Kilimanjaro last year was “just” one step among many to keep testing my body at higher and higher elevations. And I remember at the end of the hike telling my brother (who had summited with me) that in 2017 we had to try even harder, and go even higher. And that’s what we’re going to do!

We’re going to try to climb Aconcagua, 6961 m above sea level (that’s 22 838 ft) in December 2017/January 2018!!

Aconcagua is the highest mountain in the world outside of Asia. It is the top of “the Americas” and even more interestingly it is one of the seven summits.

I’ve always dreamt of hiking in the Andes so there we are. Now I have about 9 months to train, find money/sponsors and all the equipment needed for the climb! Watch this space, I will update you on my progress on a regular basis!


The beast by Matan Sagi.


Two months on the Larsen C ice shelf


About 14 months ago, I got the incredible chance to take part in the MIDAS project, focusing on the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica. After four years in Svalbard and my PhD diploma in the pocket, it was time to follow the path of the terns and migrate south.


A field campaign in Antarctica is not to be organised lightly. Luckily, I was joining a greatly experienced team, among which scientists who had already been down to Antarctica several times. Before heading to the southernmost continent, the British Antarctic Survey, an organisation that was in charge of all the logistics of our project, led an Antarctic Survival Course in Cambridge.

Spending 6 days in Girton college was already quite an exotic experience for a cold Svalbardian like me. We learnt more about BAS’ role and structure, as well as the ins and outs of polar photography, and the essential first aid. Team building and good communication was also a key part of the course.

Finally, by October 2015 I met with the rest of the team in London Heathrow. We were five glaciologists, two from Aberystwyth, one from Swansea. They were not hard to find, we were the only ones wearing huge boots and holding our massive down jackets at the airport.

The journey to Antarctica is a long one, obviously. After a flight to Madrid, we reached Santiago in Chile, and finally Punta Arenas. A few other members of BAS were travelling alongside, some electrician, bulldozer drivers, cook, etc. It felt so surreal that travelling to Antarctica seemed so normal to them. In Punta, we were briefed about the final flight to the white continent. The dash 7 was ready, and the weather for the next day looked good.


Today, most people travel to Antarctica by ship. To be, this feels more natural, more gradual, than taking a 5h flight from South America to the Peninsula. In the air, you barely blink and boom you are already on another planet. The first sight of the Peninsula hit me like a slap in my face. He pilot told us to look on the port side to see our destination, the British station of Rothera. A dot lost in a tower of glaciers, sea ice and mountains. The adventure begins.

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We were the first scientific team going to Rothera that year after the overwintering. We felt extremely welcome. Our schedule was busy, a week of organising and testing the equipment that we would take with us, and some training for the newbies like me. Time flew by, and finally we got the green light to fly to the Larsen C ice shelf. This is the largest ice shelf remaining on the Antarctic Peninsula, and it only takes about one hour to reach it using a twin otter. In total, we needed eight flights to take all of our equipment and us to the ice.

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Luckily, we had to badass and extremely experienced and skilled GA’s (for General Assistants) to look after our logistics, safety, and camp organisation. This is a luxury for scientists like us. We can totally focus our attention on the science, while we are in absolute trust of the decisions of our GA’s.

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Like on the ice shelf was busy! Of course, you want to make the absolute most of every minute of good weather Antarctica gives you. We were dropped on the shelf on the 29th of October, the earliest anyone had been there before. It was early, the winter was ending, and hence the conditions were cold. This caused some trouble for us who were working with liquid water. However, a field campaign is not a race it is a marathon. Moreover, we always waited for the weather to be in our favour do use certain field techniques and prevent any loss of equipment which would be disastrous so far from anything.

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On the shelf, we collected an array of geophysical techniques. I was mostly helping with the radar data collection, along with Dr. Adam Booth and Dr. Suzanne Bevan. Ground Penetrating Radar measurements allow us to investigate the structure of the shelf, have an idea of the ice temperature and water content, and of the density of the ice/firn. Most days we would relay each other driving a skidoo to which the equipment was attached. The name of the game is to drive very slowly over long distances.

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We established four different camps on the shelf. We spent about 2 weeks at the first one. We needed time to get into a routine, but most importantly, we needed time to calibrate our instruments, and make sure everything was ready to rock and roll. The cold delayed our drilling operations but patience was key.

Our camp was very well organised thanks to our amazing GA’s. We had one 3-person tent, and two two-person tents for sleeping. One large mess tent was erected to store equipment and occasionally cook for the group (but it was always too cold inside), and finally we had the toilet tent that we broke 3 times. We slept in what BAS calls Scott tent, an almost identical replica of what our great hero was using on his trip. These tents weight a ton and are extremely resistant to wind. I was sharing my tent with fellow scientist Suzanne, and our sleeping quarters were super nicely arranged. Suzanne had already been to Antarctica with BAS the previous year, so she guided me through the BAS’ ways to do everything. And indeed it is very specific and precise.


Every day we would wake up around 630 and try to be ready by eight or nine. It takes a little while to boil water for our breakfast, to have a little “wash” with thawed wet wipes and get ready to face the day. Food was surprisingly ok. Most of what we ate had to be rehydrated with boiling water. In the morning we would usually have muesli, coffee, and boil at least 3 litres of water to survive the day. For lunch, the French person that I discovered in horror that all we had was biscuit, peanut butter and jam, but actually it tasted amazing was was quite filling. We also had plenty of snacks, chocolate bars, to compensate for all these calories burnt by the cold. Dinner would always be a calorie heavy pack of dehydrated food. Thai chicken curry was my favourite. After a few days of eating pretty much the same thing every day you learn how to pimp your food. I ended up adding either raisins or mash to everything, with pickles and lots of spices carefully brought with our scientific equipment. Halfway into our field campaign we got a resupply flight, which meant freshies! Fresh food is a luxury in the field and we sent to BAS a long list of goodies such as: more booze, more raisins, bread, pickles, cheese and fresh vegetables. It was better than Christmas!

When not helping with the radar we would join the other group in charge of the drilling operations or the seismics array. The day would end whenever what we set out to do was complete, or when the weather was turning bad. It could be early or very late. One day as I was returning to camp with our GA Al, after having collected a few dozens of km of radar data, we literally had 3 min to unpack our equipment before being hit by a full blast blizzard that lasted for 3 days. Lucky we had made it back just in time.

As the weeks were progressing, we were becoming more and more efficient, in our work and camp relocations. The data was pouring in, and the weather was becoming easier and easier on us. The clock was ticking, and we decided to make one last migration to camp D to try to get as much data as possible. I only got to spend two nights at this scenic camp as Rothera had decided to evacuate us because a strong storm was coming, but most importantly, the 6 weeks budgeted for the field campaign was coming to an end. The team did a splendid job of collecting data until the very last minute on the shelf.

In all fairness, none of us were excited at the thought of going back to civilisation. After 6 weeks without a shower, you can just keep going for another few weeks. The equipment was still in perfect order, the data was becoming more and more interesting, but we had to go back. I was the first one of the team flying back to Rothera. How surreal. The snow and the ice around the station had melted quite a bit, and the station was buzzing! Its population went from 20 to 200 in only two months. After three or four showers, I felt ready to make my way to the canteen, and finally after 6 weeks of dehydrated food, eat the most scrumptious food of Rothera. My teammates came back the next day, I was already missing them!

Although we had planned for two weeks in Rothera, we got the chance to leave after only 4 days. Our tired bodies kept going hard to finish packing and saving the data right in time for the plane to take us to Punta Areas. And there marked the end of two amazing months studying the Larsen C ice shelf.


The carbon footprint of my trip to Antarctica

No joke, these trips to the other side of the world have a significant impact on our planet. As a glaciologist, I thought it was only fair to calculate the carbon cost of my voyage to Antarctica, as well as the emissions of our ship.

The idea does not come from me, it actually come from one of the most inspiring person I met on the ship last year. This person has been “carbon neutral” for a few years now. Way to go. So my plan for 2017 is to embark on the same journey. I’ve always found it a bit ironic to teach about the impacts of climate change on glaciers while flying around the world, driving snow scooters and taking helicopter trips. But it’s never too late to act!

Back to my calculations. Today, all the tools are available to calculate roughly how much CO2 are emitted by cars, busses, planes, …  For this little exercise, I’ve used the following websites: for the flights for the distances by bus

Things got a little more complicated when it came to calculate the emissions from our ship. Turns out that the ship burns about 6.5 to 7 tons of fuel per day. CO2 equivalence depends of course on the type of fuel. MGO (Marine Gas Oil) is what our ship uses, and the calculation is quite simple, 1 ton of MGO corresponds to 3.082 tons of CO2. Why do carbon emissions weight more than the original fuel you ask? Well it’s fairly simple. During combustion, each carbon atom in the fuel combines with two oxygen atoms in the air to make CO2 (source: .

Here is the final result: The carbon footprint of travelling to Antarctica and spending 52 days on a cruise ship:

CO2 (tons)
Busses 0.01
Flights 6.42
Ship 5.69
Total 12.13

So 12.13 tons of carbon dioxide. Is this big or small? Just to give you an idea, the emissions for one full year of an average person in the UK amount to 7.13 tons (Data: world bank). So emitting this in two months is definitely a lot.

What really surprised me is how much the ship emitted over these two months. The ship burnt about 364 tons of MGO, making a total of 1200 tons of CO2. This is equivalent to what an average car would emit in…. 188 years. A recent study from UCL ( showed that for every ton of carbon dioxide we emit, 3 square meters of arctic sea ice melt. Glup.

What can we learn from this?

Well it is no surprises that tourism in the polar regions has a significant cost on the environment. And I am “only” talking about CO2 emissions. I do strongly believe in the role that these cruises play in communicating and informing the guests about the impacts in climate change in these fragile environments. We can only hope that once our guests return to their home country, that they would themselves become the ambassadors of these regions, spreading the word on climate change and its impacts to their families and friends.

What is the future of tourism in Antarctica?

No matter how exclusive and remote this region is, the tourism industry is investing massively in the region. A total of 52 cruise ships (registered by IAATO: ) travelled to Antarctica in the summer 2015-2016. A whole new fleet of ships is currently being built especially for gaining access to these challenging and icy places (eg:

Some silver lining in this, the norwegian company Hurtigruten will get the first hybrid cruise ships travelling to the polar regions: but this is not going to solve the problem of guests travelling to the port of call, and the increasing emissions coming from an increasing number of ships going to these regions.

 So what are the solutions?

Before booking a cruise you can actually check which ships are the least polluting (in terms of water and air pollution among other things): although most of the small cruise ships we met in Antarctica (

In general, cruises are more polluting per kilometre than flying on a large aircrafts. So if you’re looking into sustainable tourism, cruises are probably not the way to go.

What can we improve? Well I believe that putting a price on the carbon emissions is essential. Just like airlines are working hard on reducing carbon emissions, or on including the carbon emissions of their flights in the price of their tickets, cruise operators should follow suit.

Is reducing tourism in the polar regions a solution? Tourism is already regulated in the region by IAATO. Cruise ships with more than 500 passengers for example cannot do landing. But in addition to limiting the number of people who can go on land, limiting at the base the number of ships allowed to travel on the Antarctic Peninsula would be a much stronger, and much more efficient move.

There is a lot we can learn from another fragile place, namely the Galapagos Islands. There, the number of tourists is highly regulated, and tourism helps to fund research. Tourism could help funding research in Antarctica, how cool would that be?!

These are just some ideas, but if we want to combine sustainability and tourism in Antarctica, we have to act now.