In a world-first, a towering portal has appeared in London’s iconic Trafalgar Square bringing the Antarctic to the heart of a major city in real time. The huge structure (4m tall and weighing almost 4 tonnes) is broadcasting live from remote penguin colonies in the Antarctic Peninsula, where a Greenpeace International expedition last week discovered a new penguin colony, offering people the unique opportunity to see face-to-face the beauty and wonder of this fragile region. The initiative, run by Greenpeace UK, is part of Greenpeace’s Protect the Oceans campaign which is calling for ocean protection in the Antarctic and beyond through a Global Ocean Treaty which could be agreed at the UN in March.
“During the pandemic, most of us have felt pretty cut off from nature,” said Will McCallum, head of oceans at Greenpeace UK, speaking from next to the Portal. “But the world around us is still going on and places like the Antarctic are declining fast: we can’t afford to look away. This Antarctic portal is like looking through a window. We’re bringing the remote and fragile Antarctic straight into the heart of a bustling city over 8,000 miles away. We see these places on nature documentaries and they seem like another world, but they’re not, they’re our world. What happens in the Antarctic affects us all. Hopefully people being able to see life going on in the Antarctic first hand, like these penguin chicks waddling across in front of me, will bring home how real and urgent the plight of the oceans is ahead of crucial government negotiations at the United Nations this March.”
Greenpeace International is in the Antarctic working with scientists from Stony Brook University in the US conducting research on the decline of penguin populations in the region. Last week, the expedition discovered a breeding colony of gentoo penguins further south than ever recorded – a sign of the impact of the climate crisis transforming this region – where until recently it was far too icy for the more temperate Gentoo penguin to successfully raise chicks.
“Climate breakdown and industrial fishing are driving penguin populations into decline and the Antarctic’s ice is vanishing at an alarming rate,” said Louisa Casson, Greenpeace UK Ocean Campaigner, speaking from the Antarctic expedition. “This portal is a reminder of what we could lose if we don’t act to protect our oceans. We need urgent action on climate change and we urgently need a Global Ocean Treaty agreed at the UN when world leaders meet in March. That’s the critical first step to creating proper protected areas – ocean sanctuaries – which are free from harmful human activity and give nature a chance to heal, and in turn help our planet to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.”