18th March, 2011
As the ship approaches Ushuaia, we know it’s the time to say goodbyes. The 11 inspiring days’ trip is should be an everlasting brilliant memory for our life. And those friends we made here will never be forgotten. Robert inspired us with this amazing Antarctica Expedition and his spirit. Those days of seeing marvelous glaciers, hiking, and camping on the ice have been incited into my mind. The floating ice on the sea also intrigues us to think about how we can link our leadership and sustainability together to preserve the last wildness of human kinds. Now it’s our time to carry on the commitment not only for Antarctica but also for the better future of our planet. The inspiration need to be kept after this trip with the support of great networking of 2041 alumni. Being part of the excellent team, we will do the better job and keep team spirit forever. We will share our feelings, learning and experiences about Antarctica and sustainability to people in our communities and universities. We will work with our team to develop renewable energy to bring out a future without fossil fuels. Linking leadership and sustainability, we will be the ones that can change something to make our planet better and sustainable. As Robert says, “The greatest threat to our world is the belief that someone else will save it.”
17th March, 2011
It’s 2:00 a.m. and our second last day aboard the Sea Spirit is drawing to a close. I’m sitting in the lounge surrounded by discarded games and empty glasses and despite the drug-induced haze of countless seasickness pills, it’s been, as Graham (our expedition leader) in an awful rendition of me would say, an amazing day!
On our very first day in Ushuaia, the 2041 team outlined what they wanted us to achieve by the end of the trip. For me, the three key phrases were teamwork, leadership and sustainable inspiration. I’ve found all of these reflected in the people around me and my interactions with them. Teamwork – my home group helping me up the Martial Glacier when I was ill. Leadership – Gavin who will take time to sit with each team member to smooth things over on a rocky day. Sustainable inspiration – Darren who has pursued his dream of working in green IT and Ashe who cycled 2041 miles to fundraise for the trip. In the last two weeks, the people around me have transitioned from a motley group I vaguely recognized from the team members page on the 2041 site to my closest friends. Climate change, an issue I thought I was fairly well-versed with, has taken on whole new dimensions and the amount I have learnt in such a short time is incredible.
A month ago I would have said Antarctica will inspire me to write. But it’s stunned me into silence. I simply cannot find the words to describe the vast emptiness and its ringing message for humanity – to leave one place on earth alone.
Robert Swan, who runs 2041 and brought all of us here, is one of the most inspiring people I have ever had the privilege of working with. One of the things he keeps asking us to do is to tell the world our story and what makes us tick. I see now that my story began many years ago and that everything has built up to this moment – me leaving the last great wilderness on earth. The map on the wall behind me is a gloomy reminder of this – I am not ready for this adventure to end.
16th March, 2011
Perched on the slopes above Maxwell Bay at Bellinghausen Station lies a small, red and unassuming rectangular box called the E-Base. This building, which is devoted to educating young people about life at the bottom of the world, was to be the setting for Day 12 of our IAE 2011 journey.
At first glance, the E-Base looks like many of the other lego-esque buildings that are scattered on King George Island, but if one takes a closer look, big differences start to show. The first thing one notices is the small wind-turbine that furiously spins in the sidelines of the E-Base and provides it with electricity. The next difference is the array of solar panels that adorn the outside of the structure and provide the E-Base with heated water. As Rob proudly guided us through the other features of the E-Base it soon became clear to everyone that we were catching a glimpse of the future. The E-Base is real and tangible evidence of the capabilities of renewable energy and its message is clear: if renewable energy can comfortably power a habitable base in the most hostile environment on the planet, then it can do it anywhere.
After our introduction to the E-Base, our indefatigable 2011 Team Leaders took us on a hike across the island in search of elephant seals. As we’ve come to expect, the 2011 Team didn’t disappoint and we were fortunate to have a great sighting and interaction with a group of these spectacular and immense animals as they swam and rested on the beach.
Shortly after the hike we were back on the Zodiacs and returned for the last time to the ship. Once our fearless safety officer and late night raconteur ‘Jumper’ lead us through the traditional ‘3 cheers for Antarctica’ the ship turned and set course for Ushuaia.
As I write this we have just entered the Drake. Although our first crossing of the Drake was relatively smooth, it’s already obvious from the twists in my stomach that the Drake is not going to be as forgiving this time around. Things are about to get interesting…
In 2 days we will be back in Ushuaia and the real work of preserving Antarctica through the promotion of renewable energy begins. As Rob would say, we must “attack at once!”
15th March, 2011
The 2041 Leadership on the Edge program is designed to arm us with the leadership, team spirit and positive attitude required to excel. For some it’s been invigorating, for others challenging. The two common threads that bind us all on this expedition are the good times we’ve shared and the fact that this stimulant will be a pivotal turning point in all our lives.
While on the white board the expedition seems regimented, in spirit, it’s far away from that. It’s about discipline and respecting time. Hiking up snow capped mountains, camping at -10C in the open and rough zodiac rides push us out of our comfort zone. It’s about developing mental and physical vigor. A sense of “I can do it” gushes through our bodies each time we face a challenging task here. It’s about keeping the faith in our capabilities and just going for it! We interact with people from all faiths & cultures. It’s about learning to be more sensitive with people with whom we co-exist. Everyday an experienced industry specialist helps us understand environmental issues plaguing and threatening existence and how we can play a role as global citizens to minimize that. It’s about making a start to become truly green. The Expedition staff is the best lesson on team spirit and positivity here – achievers, believers and go-getters! Despite an intensive schedule, never can you observe a hint of fatigue or miss-management. Together they ensure all 88 of us participate successfully and are there for us 24×7- picking us up on falling ice, boosting our morale, never letting us give up, keeping us well informed and encouraging us all the way. Often our itinerary changes due to sudden weather changes and we immediately move to Plan B. It’s about adapting to change typical of the dynamic environments we operate in. This opportunity that allows for absolute growth and development will play a vital role in the successes of all our lives.
The day kick started with presentations from Vitol, CLP & Coca-Cola. Vitol’s presentation explained to us the Carbon Trading process. CLP & Coca-Cola shared the best practices their companies are executing in the areas of reducing carbon foot print, waste management and water neutrality. This was followed by a presentation by team Canada on the remediation activities they are conducting in the Arctic region and other challenged areas in Canada with respect to soil & forest restoration. The presentations were very educating and enable us to return home with actionable green initiatives.
We welcomed the second half of the day clicking pictures of the rather differently appearing Deception Island. Contrary to the Antarctica we’ve experienced in the last 5 days characterized by shades of blue and white, Deception Island is a volcanic site thus rather dark in appearance. The zodiacs dropped us at the Whale Bay, traditionally used for extracting fossil fuel and whale hunting. Remains of the dilapidated tanks, huts, equipment & scattered whale carcass made for a rather depressing site – we saw the exploited side of Antarctica. The only consolation here was that these practices no longer exist but those remains cannot be removed as the area has been declared a heritage site.
The hike that followed made all the previous hikes seem like practice! We hiked up volcanic mountains laden with snow in parts. The terrain was rather uneven and often progress across the mountains called for leaps over slippery and narrow paths as steep as 350 in angle. I was sweating in Antarctica – unbelievable. At one point the wind and resulting sleet grew so strong that just standing firmly against it almost made me feel like I was flying! The hike back to the ship was equally challenging but the support from the staff and friends and the “I’m not giving up” anthem well engendered in our souls the last few days, we all made it safe and satisfied with our ability to accept challenges bravely.
When we reached half way into the expedition, I already started to feel that time was slipping by and fatigue notwithstanding I looked forward to every morning with even greater excitement. For, as Rob says, “Pick up yourselves, you have enough time to rest when you’re in your grave!