Carbon Footprint of Antarctic Quest 21 Equipment Transport

blue sky with aircraft 'vapour' trails


Everything we do has a footprint and it is appropriate we, the Antarctic Quest 21 Team, consider the sustainability and carbon footprint of all elements of the expedition, from communication and equipment to transport and diet. I will report on our efforts to minimise and mitigate our impact on the planet with a series of blogs, which serves to share our experience with this process and be transparent about our commitment to sustainability.

The carbon footprint of long-distance transport of cargo varies considerably between modes of transport. For example, the carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) of 1 tonne cargo transported between London and Glasgow by rail is 11 kg, by road is 78 kg and by cargo aeroplane is 298 kg (calculated with CarbonCare).

We minimised the carbon footprint of transporting the expedition equipment and food to Antarctica with the support of the company Polar Latitude, who agreed to allow us to store our kit, packed in dozens of barrels, on deck of their vessel MS SeaVenture. SeaVenture makes her way from Bremerhaven, Germany to Ushuaia, Argentina and then to the Antarctic Peninsula as part of her annual cruise plan. Nevertheless, we treated this in the same way as cargo shipped by a commercial container ship. To meet the ship, the equipment was driven by two team members from the Southwest England to Germany, a distance of around 1400 km. It will be returned via the same route.


The carbon footprint was estimated using the CarbonCare CO2 calculator, which is based on the EU EN16258 standard and reported here as ‘Well-to-Wheel’ CO2e values, meaning that the total energy required and greenhousegas (GHG) emissions from the oil well to burning of the fuel in the vehicle or vessel are accounted for. Details can be found here.

Calculations, which include an element of extrapolation for routes not listed in the CarbonCare calculator resulted in a total of 560 kg CO2e for the return voyage of our expedition equipment. This may be a slight over-estimation, as we won’t be returning much of the food. Three elements were included one-way:

Road Travel from Southwest England to Bremerhaven by small van: around 1400 km and 195 kg CO2e       

Ferry from Dover to Calais: around 100 km and 1 kg CO2e

Sea Cargo from Bremerhaven, Germany to Ushuaia, Argentina and on to the Antarctic Peninsula: around 17000 km and 84 kg CO2e.

Concluding Remarks

To put our footprint of 560 kg CO2e for equipment transport into perspective, it amounts to around 5% of the footprint of the average British citizen (around 8000-12000 kg CO2e) and to 3.8% of that of the air freight from London Gatwick to Ushuaia, Argentina (27000 km return, 15000 kg CO2e).

We will compensate for this footprint and report on that in due course.

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