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Not For Everyone – Freediving Antarctica

Will Glendinning has led a very busy and interesting life.  He is a published author and well-known speaker.  After university he started a career in the event industry, and was involved in major events such as the Millennium Dome, the bicentennial of the Battle of Trafalgar, and the delivery of Le Grand Depart (when the Tour de France was in the UK in 2007).

Will founded Allium, a live event and professional services firm, in 2008. Allium, which became a multi-million pound company, worked on the 2012 Paralympic and Olympic games, as well as coordinated the hosting of 50 world leaders at the NATO summit in Wales.  All of this high profile exposure has led Will to be featured on mainstream TV and radio, in print and online.

Shoehorned into this busy schedule has been trips snowboarding on Canada’s glaciers, exploring the back-country of Utah and Switzerland, and chasing whale sharks as part of the Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme.

And yet he wanted more…

As of December 31, 2015, there have been seven British cosmonauts/astronauts.  There has been 1 British Captain of a FIFA World Cup team.  No Britons are believed to have ever free dived in the Antarctic.

That all changed this past February.

Following two years of planning, a year of training, and a six day sail with a crew of three on the 54’ sailboat “Pelagic”, Will Glendinning and T.F.B. accompanied by friend and fellow sailor Dave Crump became the first Britons to join the extremely small fraternity of people (approximately 10) to have free dived in the brutal, yet beautiful Antarctic.


© Freedive Antarctica


“To sail, silently, through breathtaking scenery. To free dive the depths of never before seen underwater cathedrals of ice. To swim and free dive with Antarctica’s wildlife.”

The group chose freediving as opposed to scuba diving for three major advantages.  Number one, freedivers can freedive all day long without worrying about gas laws.  Number two, freedivers can access caves and tunnels that might otherwise be impossible to access with bulky scuba equipment.  But most importantly, freediving is silent and less intimidating to wildlife, resulting in more opportunities for wildlife interaction.

The team’s ability to interact with underwater creatures was limited by the summer plankton bloom, which turned the visibility of the water “to soup” 10 metres down.  However, there were seals and 1000s of penguins on the ice to see.  Of course, when a pod of humpback whales cruised by, it was a phenomenal feeling sharing the water with them. In the end, the lack of visibility didn’t matter because the real story was the ice, clearly visible underwater. The ice provided some of the most bizarre and phenomenal free diving they had ever experienced.

We caught up with Will after he returned to the UK.

Freedive Antarctica - Will On Ice Looking At Glacier
© Freedive Antarctica – Will On Ice Looking At Glacier

DeeperBlue.com: What lessons have you learned from your travels?

Will Glendinning: You can’t control anything. Whatever we might have wanted to do or whatever we thought we were going to do – nature has a way of dictating what will be. We went thinking the expedition was going to be all about the wildlife: whales and penguins. Whilst they were there – the real story was the ice and the environment. We knew, of course, we were going to see ice, but hadn’t really realized the scale and beauty of it all. Stunning to look at and dive in and around (with caution of course).

DB: Where are you planning to go next?

WG: Space. Although not to freedive – clearly. Freediving wise, there are no plans yet although going back to Antarctica is a must as our time there was scandalously short. I’d like to spend more time free diving with mega fauna – be that in warm or cold water . . . so who knows where next will be – Ascension island maybe.

Freedive Antarctica - Will G On Iceberg
© Freedive Antarctica – Will G On Iceberg

DB: What do you think was the hardest thing about this expedition?

WG: Aside from finding the money, nothing was really “hard” as we had prepared extensively. It would have been nice to have stayed in the water for longer periods at a time. Two and a half to three hours really was the limit. A month and a half back and my toes are still numb. For an hour to two hours – you really are absolutely fine in water down to -1.4 C. Beyond that you’re into risk and endurance.

DB: What is a typical day on expedition like?

WG: Wake up, breakfast, asses the opportunities and risks of where we are and where we might dive and come up with a plan. Get kitted up, get in the water – free dive – stay in as long as possible, get out, then some lunch. Sail to the next location, maybe an afternoon session in the water, then dinner. Sleep! Repeat!

Freedive Antarctica - Divers Head
© Freedive Antarctica – Divers Head

DB: What was the most memorable moment on your trip?

WG: Seeing icebergs for the first time. Seriously – these 10, 15, 20 story lumps of ice some the size of small countries and sailing past them in our little boats . . . we’ve all seen pictures but nothing really prepares you for their scale. Imagine walking past a skyscraper or entire city block – but made of ice. And then to see that whole block suddenly collapse – without warning . . . it’s awe inspiring.

Freediving wise, the most memorable thing was freediving under the ice and in the amazing caves / tunnels and sculptures of ice. It was like the world’s biggest sculpture park. Just stunning.

Freedive Antractica was supported by DS-48, the global emergency response company.

For more information, check out the expedition’s website at http://www.freediveantarctica.com

Freedive Antarctica - Will G On Iceberg
© Freedive Antarctica – Will G On Iceberg
Bruce Zahn
Bruce Zahn
Bruce Zahn is a non-profit executive in the Great Lakes area of the U.S.A. When he is not traveling or drinking wine and rum with the love of his life Jacki, Bruce enjoys riding his Harley and scuba diving.