Adventure in extreme conditions

We met the leader of the FINNARP-expedition last year. We spoke about watches and we got the idea to test an Adventurister watch model in extreme conditions. This was the start for the partnership.

Kalakoski has done multiple Arctic Exploration missions and has been an expedition leader for years. Mika Kalakoski is an Adventurister by definition. Read the story of the exploration in partnership with Rohje.

200 Years since discovery of Antarctica

200 Years ago - 27.1.1820 the first explorers known by history that found were Fabian Gottlieb van Bellingshausen and his crew. 3 days later 30.1.1820 Edward Bransfield, a British explorer with his crew reported seeing the continent from afar. 

This continent the size of the United States and Mexico combined, that could fit every European nation and that could easily fit the entirety of Australia was to be truly explored at the end of the 19th century. This boom of exploration is called The Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration (1897–1922) when 17 significant south pole explorations were launched from ten different countries. During these exploration missions the goals of reaching the magnetic pole and the geographical South Pole were met.

Antarctica is barred from military use and is reserved for only scientific and peaceful purposes with the Antarctic Treaty System. There are currently 70 permanent research stations from 29 different countries. Including the Aboa research station (73°03'S, 13°25'W), where the newest Rohje Antarctica -prototype was on a modern day exploration mission.

Expedition leader Mika Kalakoski in Cape Town. Photos: Pasi Ylirisku / FINNARP 2019

Research today

Research is done in 70 research stations. Studying Antarctica tells us much about the history of Earth, life sciences, physical sciences, humanistic and social sciences, than you would first expect.

For geosciences is notable that the Antarctic and its surrounding oceans are and have been a significant part of Earth's history. The outcroppings of its crust on and around it can offer key insights to understand Earth's history, natural variability and changes of the arctic environments and the biota that depends on it.

Studying the ice sheets and their development from their inception will make it possible to predict their movements in the short and long term. In addition the Antarctic ice have preserved much climate data, that can be analysed to research the history of climate change.

Antarctica as a cold, untouched and isolated environment represents biologically the center of divergent evolution and adaptation to the extreme environmental polar conditions. The research done gives us a better picture of the changes in biological diversity in the past, present and future. It also teaches us what effect on the health and wellbeing the cold, darkness, isolation and environmental pathogens have on the researchers and supporting staff.

The focuses of physical sciences are mainly how the ice, sea, earth and atmosphere interact. Understanding these interactions is critical for our ability to describe and predict the response to climate change. The research helps us understand the continental ice sheets, clarifies the processes and changes with sea ice and ocean circulation, and assists us in studying the atmospheric dynamics, chemistry and what affects the ozone hole has on the continent. For physical science research Antarctica is significant with its unique properties for Space research and observing the interactions between Earth and the Sun.

Finally humanities and social sciences research the way humans interpret and make meaning of and relate themselves and the world around them. Antarctica is the only continent without permanent human habitation. These sciences can answer questions about how this continent should be governed, who should be able to visit it and with what term. Questions like how do people behave in extreme isolation and hostile environments. Answering these questions will guide us on how we should interact with the continent in the future.

FINNARP research station Aboa. Photos: Pasi Ylirisku / FINNARP 2019

The Finnish Antarctica Research

The field operations of Finnish Antarctica research projects are done by the Finnish Antarctic research program logistics FINNARP . FINNARP also maintains a permanent research station in the Antarctic called Aboa.

The Finnish research station Aboa was opened in February 1989 and the first Finnish Antarctic exploration mission was done during the same year. Ever since the Aboa research station was built, Finland has done periodically exploration missions to the Antarctic.

The latest Exploration crew, FINNARP 2019, departed from Helsinki the 15th. of December and returned the 3rd of February. The main goal of the latest expedition was gravitational and seismic measurements on the ice sheets near Aboa research station, cosmic radiation measurements on the French-Italian Dome C -station and also measuring the water, ice and temperature at the Schirmacher Oasis lake in the Russian research station. You can read more information about the FINNARP 2019 exploration mission on their website.

Alongside the FINNARP-2019 exploration mission Rohje was tested in true extreme conditions. For the mission we developed its own Rohje Adventurister limited edition model Antarctica, that was field tested by the expedition leader Mika Kalakoski. To suit the cold environment the handmade Finnish reindeer leather strap was the optimal choice.

We spoke with Mika Kalakoski after they had returned to Finland. Mr. Kalakoski has two decades worth of experience on exploration missions. We wanted to know more on what it's really like to work in the Antarctic.

Does Antarctica had native plants or life? This was answered exhaustingly well by Mika “Grass based plants grow in the peninsula. Where we worked there was a little bit of moss. The moss grows wherever animals leave droppings. The life there is mainly microscopic arachnids and tardigrades. The melting pools also have string like algae.”

What kind contraptions do you get to move around with? “ We used snowmobiles a Toyota Hilux with 44 inch wheels, and also a military grade all-terrain tracked vehicle called The Sisu NA-110 articulated tracked carrier.

Many ma also wonder how modern exploration missions are funded and how often do scientists actually get to go to the Antarctic? Mika told us that the research grants are for four years every time. First year begins with the planning of the trips, which research group is the smartest to send and then the it is about preparing the expedition crew. Medical examinations are done to the crew, clothing and everything is prepared. It is also possible that the group has one or two “field seasons” during the for year period. A lot of work is done even before embarking and a lot of work time is spent analyzing the data collected.

Mika had an interesting take on modern day explorers.

“Methods do evolve. You can’t really say you are an explorer, although the research is done in the same environments as the first explorers. The meaningful findings are done when the researchers return back home and start analyzing the data.”

Mika Kalakoski emphasized, that science in the world is about increasing our common understanding: “It’s not enough that one researcher or the researchers of one nation do it, but that it requires a lot of people and information. People think that, in a way we are helping a shared goal for humanity -  It would be absurd to suddenly think we aren’t going there together, it would be like saying “let’s just abandon humanity and isolate ourselves completely: this doesn’t concern us!” 

As it has been 200 years since the discovery of Antarctica and we had the chance to join this amazing expedition, we decided to bring forth a limited number of Rohje Antarctica-model watches, the same model that was with the expedition. The product is limited to 200 pieces to honor the 200 years since discovery. We also donate 20 euros from every one sold directly to support science with the University of Turku Natural Sciences. This way we can directly support science and research.

So, how did the Rohje Adventurister work in the Antarctic?
“The watch worked the entire time and it was a good testing experience. A stylish watch! - Mika Kalakoski

Limited Edition

Adventurister Antarctica

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Sources:
  • Mika Kalakoski interview, 03.03.2020
  • https://www.antarctica.fi
  • https://www.scar.org/science
  • https://www.irishexaminer.com/breakingnews/ireland/armys-top-man-to-lead-ceremony-for-edward-bransfield-the-corkman-who-spotted-antartica-976861.html
  • https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/abroad/edward-bransfield-the-corkman-who-discovered-the-antarctic-1.3034958
  • https://www.webcitation.org/67Z0HPi6X