[Art, Interviews]
19 March, 2012

Antonio Mirabella and the precarious balance of Antarctica

Antonio Mirabella in Antartica

He traveled in 2010 and could touch the effects of climate change with his own hands. On his return he felt a responsibility to show the world the results of his research. “Antarctica, a continent in precarious balance”, is displayed at the Oceanographic in Valencia.

Antonio Mirabella is a naturalist who works at the Department of Environmental Biology and Biodiversity at the University of Palermo in Italy. For his commitment to the disclosure of issues related to climate change he was awarded with the “Medaglia della Repubblica di rappresentanza”.

Mirabella was working in the Alps on lichens and ice, and felt that he needed more to understand what is happening globally, so he developed a project in Antarctica. Finally in 2010, through the Chilean Navy, he did it.

They left Punta Arenas on the Chilean Navy ship Almirante Oscar Viel. During February and March they studied 187 areas, including King George Island, South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula.

His trip to Antarctica saved his life. If not for the expedition, on February 27 he would have been in Santiago, Chile when the earthquake that killed more than 700 deaths took place.

The exhibition

Anthony Mirabella was privileged to make this expedition as he could study and understand a bit more about nature. That’s why we felt a great responsibility to tell the world what he had learned and disseminate information on global warming, climate change and the need for a more sustainable life.

Back in Italy, he set up the exhibition “Antarctica, a continent in precarious balance”, to disseminate and raise awareness on what is happening in Antarctica through photos, videos and descriptions. The exhibition was shown at the Botanical Garden of Palermo in the Universita ‘degli Studi di Palermo in 2011 and is now in the Oceanographic in Valencia until 31 August.

Antonio Mirabella Antartida

In the center of the exhibition stands a conceptual installation that is the reconstruction of a piece of ice that melts and falls into a container. A microphone across the room playing the straw that echoes for 30 seconds. At the end of the show a panel that says: “The ice of consciousness” right above an emergency button.

This is an invitation to think that Antarctica is disappearing every moment of our livesand if we all have a more sustainable behavior, we can help to take care of it.

In the exhibition there are some samples of volcanic rock, lichens and mosses collected by the naturalist from the expedition. There are also fossils of forest cover and two mineralized wood of coniferous species, parts of a fern, starfish and mollusks from the Antarctic seas.

The book

Together with the exhibition a 200 pages book was published with photos of his unforgettable experience on the White Continent. The first part is a presentation of Antarctica; the second is a travel journal.

“The idea of the book is the same as the exhibition, hold hands and tell people what it means to live as a scientist that experience,” he explains.

The book can be purchased at bookstores in Italy, at the OCEANOGRAFIC in Valencia and in the Internet, in Italian.

The expedition

The project was based on botanical study of the behavior of lichens over the centuries to understand what was happening in Antarctica and the effects of climate change.

For instance, he found that two plants that can be found further south in the world, in sub-Antarctic islands, had changed its location. The Deschampsia Antarctica and Colobanthus quitensis and moved south to find colder. “There is a real change that you could touch with your hands and see what we have done to the planet,” said Mirabella.

Antarctica has an intense activity, both scientific and touristic. A South African study found that people who visit Antarctica carry on average less than 10 seeds each. However, many non-native species are already underway in the Antarctic Peninsula.

With respect to the number of people visiting the White Continent each year, Mirabella says that scientific research has to be made there to be able to obtain  information and to understand it. However, he saystourism should be regulated as it is the only place that still has little human impact.

The experience of living two months in Antarctica changed the look of Mirabella about certain things: “Seeing the sun in the summer never sets, makes you think that everything we take for granted, which is normal, there is only one form of manifestation of nature.”

As anyone who travels to the White Continent, the botanist would return there in order to deepen some research: “Nature never stops. Antarctica is 1.5 times larger than Europe; it is difficult to know it entirely. ”


- What things would you have liked to take to Antarctica?

- I think the Antarctic is much more than fantasy. The one who goes to Antarctica should not take anything, you have to leave everything at home, also metaphorically and go to that extreme adventure.


Es periodista, tiene 22 años y desde 2009 se desempeña en distintas áreas del periodismo. Es Editora de la sección de Arte de Antártida Urbana.


2 thoughts on “Antonio Mirabella and the precarious balance of Antarctica

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