Expedition Antarctica 100

On December 24, 2014 the Antarctica 100 expedition of the Russian Geographical Society’s Branch in the Republic of Tatarstan returned from the Antarctic.

Russian divers led by Dimitri Schiller went to the South Pole. The project's objective was to develop relatively safe methods of deep diving in the Antarctic conditions to improve the effectiveness of underwater exploration. In addition, the team was testing Russian diving equipment.

Antarctica 100 is the third stage of a large-scale research project called "Cold Pole" conducted by Tatarstan branch of the Russian Geographical Society and the Federation of Underwater Sports of Russia.


Deep dive
Deep dive

Due to a number of factors diving in the waters of the Antarctic belongs to the category of baffling complexity. Among such factors are: cold water (2 C degrees below 0), strong streams, icebergs which can collapse any moment even because of air bubbles exhaled by a diver, strong waves, etc. In case of emergency it is difficult to provide any medical help because of the remoteness.

Dives to a depth of less than 20 meters are considered relatively safe. In scientific purposes experts dive up to 65 meters risking their lives. But works at greater depths are carried out with the help of a variety of remotely operated equipment.

On the 5th of December, 2014 at 11 am Moscow time, Antarctica-100 put out to sea from the Argentine port of Ushuaia on an ice-class yacht and headed for the South Shetland Islands. They had to overcome one of the most difficult routes for navigation - the Drake Passage.

Ushuaia is a city and a port in the south of Argentina, located in the archipelago of Tierra del Fuego. When tourists arrive there they receive a special stamp in their passports: fin del munro (end of the world). It is the southernmost place and the closest city to Antarctica.

December 10 Dmitry Schiller dived in the Antarctic waters near Deception Island. The maximum depth of his dive was 97 meters.

Right after the members of the expedition returned to Moscow they held a press conference at the Headquarters of the Russian Geographical Society in Moscow and told the journalists about their travel.


From left to right: Michael Shkolnikov, Deputy Executive Director of the Russian Geographical Society for Regional Development, Ivan Tyagin, Dmitry Schiller
Left to right: Michael Shkolnikov, Deputy Executive Director of the Russian Geographical Society for Regional Development, Ivan Tyagin, Dmitry Schiller

- To begin with, passing the Drake Passage on a 16-meter ice class sailing yacht was not the most pleasant event in our lives - says Schiller. - Almost all the time the yacht literally went at an angle of 35-40°. 24 hours a day. The team kept ice watches tracking ice blocks in the sea and dodging them. It was always snowy or rainy.

We rested for only a few hours a day, if it can be called a rest. Because we were almost flying - from one wall to the other, and in the moment of flying we were resting.

Moving on to the dive. We planned to spend three days to get ready. But almost at the very beginning of the route a storm hit. Thus, the weather gave us only one eight-hour "window" near the island of Deception. It was enough to carry out one dive. Or two rather: one deep dive to the depth of 97 meters and one to the depth of 45 meters.

So without any estimations we started working. We planed to dive to the depth of 100 meters. However, the depth was only 97 meters. We  reached the bottom.

At the depth we were using a Russian regulator (a thing divers use to breathe, says Dmitry. - Comm. Ed.). Also, we had a Russian computer. The equipment did very well.

We rose to the surface according to our plan, we spent five minutes at the depth, and the rise took 71 minutes. Right an hour later we started the second dive. Then, after a short rest we ate soup - it was our first hot meal in 5 days.

Then we went to visit the "Bellingshausen" station. We talked to our colleagues and gave them the gifts: fresh fruits and vegetables. And after that we moved in the opposite direction.

In short - it was very hard. Perhaps it was my most difficult mission for the last five years.


Deception Island is marked on the map with a red dot
Deception Island is marked on the map with a red dot

Deception Island is part of the South Shetland Islands. It is a ring-shaped caldera of a struck volcano. Despite the volcanic origin and periodic eruptions, the bays of the Islands are considered the safest natural harbors in the world. There formed a safe natural harbor in the center of the island; ships go in through the destroyed part of the caldera.

 - Of Course, everything we are doing now has a lot to do with the history. - Vice-president of the Federation of Underwater Sports of Russia, Chairman of CMAS Michael Shkolnikov said. - The first underwater dive in the Antarctic was carried out in 1902. On April 16th a man wearing the diving equipment of that time dived under the ice of Antarctica.

In the next 50 years there was no plan to study the underwater of Antarctica. 

In 1965, as part of the 11th Antarctic expedition a hydrobiological team consisted of three hydrobiologists was created. In 1965-1966, using scuba gears, costumes and underwater cameras available at the time they made over 150 dives. The maximum depth they reached was more than 50 meters. The names of these people went down in history: Mikhail Propp (the initiator of the idea of using SCUBA for the study of Antarctic Hydrobiology) and his colleagues: F. Alexander Pushkin and Evgeny N. Gruzov. After that and up to this day Russian scientists has been conducting permanent studies of Antarctica.

The Antarctica 100 expedition had different goals: the object of the study was not the waters of Antarctica or Hydrobiology of the oceans surrounding Antarctica, but themselves. Their goal was to develop deep-sea diving techniques using conventional equipment in extreme conditions ...


The expedition team
The expedition team

10 people participated in the expedition. The youngest participant is 18-year-old Valery Saleev, the oldest participant is 48-year-old Andrei Filippov.

At the end of the press conference, to the applause of the audience, Michael Shkolnikov presented CMAS certificates (World Underwater Federation, the first president of which was Jacques-Yves Cousteau) to the team, confirming a world record the team had made during the second stage of the expedition: the deepest ice diving into a pond located near the cold pole of the northern hemisphere of the Earth - Lake Vorota in Yakutia. The depth was 59 meters 60 centimeters.

On topic