Painting the Antarctic
My decision to paint Antarctica came about through a number of reasons, I started fundraising in 2011 but only really got serious about painting in 2012, when looking into what we’ll be seeing in Antarctica a recurring theme was the glorious blue glow from within ice-bergs and that it is impossible to capture with a camera. So a solution? Paint it.
I’ll be going back to the roots of documenting adventures. Artists were charged with the task of portraying the beauty of the landscapes discovered by their exploration team.
My three favourite painters all focus on the stunning natural world, so to go to such a mysteriously beautiful place as Antarctica armed with my camera and sketchbook I hope to get all the materials I need to try and inspire people about Antarctica as I was inspired.
When it comes to education on my return, by doing it through art I give people a chance to connect with the landscapes because they are creating images of it themselves. It is also such an open format, there are so many different styles and materials to use to create a piece of art, that anyone can try it and get involved. Hopefully people will be inspired to try the arts, and at the same time learn about and connect with the environment.
I hope to capture our story through a series of paintings, maybe starting with my first sunrise in Ushuaia which I managed to photograph from the roof of the hotel and ending with the last sunset of Antarctica.
below: Mravik’s Canada 2012 oil on canvas and Eden 2012 oil on canvas- Oli Wheeldon
Its not the end but the beginning
As I sit on the Club lounge, the 4th deck of the Sea Spirit ship on the last night that we leave the continent, entering the Drakes’ Passage on our way back to Ushuaia, I am just soaking in all that has happened over the past few days with the International Antarctica Expedition “Leadership on the Edge” programme. Everyone in the lounge is preparing to say their last goodbyes for the next two days as the expedition comes to an end. It is a little bit sad for others but as for me it is not, I am happy!
As I am sitting down looking around the room with all these beautiful young people that I have come to know and cherish as a family over the last couple of few days, I do so with a smile. For me this is only the beginning of lifetime friendships that I have established on this journey, hence my happiness.
This experience has been a serious eye opener for me— my first international travel, touching snow for the first time, hiking on glaciers and drinking glacial water, camping on the cold ice, seeing penguins, albatrosses, leopard seal, polar plunging…the list is endless—all of this—first time to experience—- never in a million years have I ever thought this would happen to me this year—indeed the saying that ‘dreams do come true’ is true!
Being the first woman from my country, Botswana, to visit Antarctica it is indeed an honour, I am looking forward to going back to work with the youth on environmental awareness projects, leadership, teamwork and action as this expedition has best guided me.
I would like to thank Robert Swan and his fantastic 2041 team leaders for having made these past few days informative, fruitful and above all fun— great memories I will treasure forever; to the Antarctica Youth Ambassador Programme participants, thank you for inspiring me with your powerful stories and helping me shape up my project; to Bain & Company consultants for motivating me to be a change agent; to Shell’s John for teaching me about Climate Super Hero Powers, energy ninja…. and how can I forget the lovely Stephenie for powering my mind with “Sustainability” ideas. To all the 2041 participants I say “SALUTE!” for being my source of inspiration, I have learnt tons and tons from each and every one of you and I look forward to continuing our discussions from our respective countries (I hope to visit some of you soon. To my wonderful room-mate from India, Sonal Asgotraa, thank you for staying up late most nights sharing your thoughts on culture, tradition, family and helping me accomplish my 007 mission.
To my sponsors—Ducere Foundation and CITI Bank, thank you for making my dream come true, your support will forever be acknowledged.
Last call, Last call for Antarctica
Today as we began to do things for the last time, there was a sense of somberness in the atmosphere. It was our last time that we would hear from John and Stephanie about climate change and sustainability, our last time learning about change from the Bain team, our last time photographing the projectile poop from the penguins but most notably, our last time wrapping ourselves in ‘layers, layers, layers’. For the next few days as we venture back through the Drake Passage, our newly united 2041 family will be our source of warmth.
I found myself this morning at breakfast sitting at a table with a bunch of warm, open- hearted individuals – all of which have arabic as a first language. Thankfully, for my sake they all also spoke english. Two weeks ago, I probably would have chosen the empty seat next to a familiar Australian face, but the ear to ear smiles and roars of laughter that surrounded the table were too hard to resist. As we sat there comparing languages and cultural differences, the word family was mentioned several times. It stuck to me then, but little did I know that it would end up being an underlying theme of the day.
Disembarking the zodiac’s for the second last time into a sea of slippery ice, Rob welcomed us to the Russion station on Antarctica known as Bellinghausen. Before hiking over the hill to see the magnificent sight of four elephant seals, we were given the opportunity to visit the 2041 E-base station that currently runs on 100% renewable energy and has done since it’s establishment in 2007. Powered by fierce antarctic winds and energy from the sun, this foundation is a shining example that renewable energy is possible and plausible, for if it can be done in Antarctica then it can be done anywhere in the world.
As Sky, the E-base caretaker, presented the grand tour, he pointed out the surrounding Chilean, Chinese and Korean stations . He also mentioned that despite the time zones that separate the nations(on the same island), in any emergency situation, everyone comes together and works as family to resolve the situation.
And right now as I sit here in the lounge, I am once again surrounded by 2041 team members, leaders and ship crew that I now know as my family. Sharing music, stories, photos and contacts – it’s almost time to say goodbye and head home to our own families.
Antarctic waters are not renowned as a must visit destination for those who love to swim in the sea.
Yet after a week of mostly ignoring the actual waters of the continent in favour of the countless icebergs and islands 70 slightly crazy people rushed up onto deck three in dressing gowns to throw themselves overboard.
The famous and perhaps feared polar plunge had been playing on many peoples minds since we first left port in Ushuaia.
We always knew that the day would come, but we did not know when it would occur.
The morning started bright and early as always with a lovely wake up call blasting across the ships intercom, and soon we were suited up and ready to jump into zodiacs and land on the continent of Antarctica.
We were organised into groups and went through a wilderness survival course on the ice learning a crash course in first aid, survival skills and ropes.
This was incredibly useful and should have been a warning about the activity that awaited us on our return.
As we disembarked from the zodiac and re entered the ship there was a sign posted across our daily itinerary.
It read: polar plunge, NOW!
It was chaos as people ran to change into a strange array of bathers, thermals and the odd penguin outfit for the plunge.
Those opting to stay warm and dry stood out on deck watching everyone jump into the freezing waters of Antarctica.
I was hesitant to jump, and originally stood on deck and decided against what I thought seemed like a mad idea.
Yet slowly the fun and adventure took hold and I raced back to my cabin with Lillian from Botswana to find out how cold it really was in the water.
Lets just say, it was cold and over so quickly that I hardly remember it.
The highlight of the day certainly was running up the stairs onto deck 5 and jumping into the Jacuzzi that was warm and watching ice bergs float by.
Jumping from a ship into dark blue waters with ice floating past might seem a little mad, but coming down to Antarctica in the first place is an adventure and why not take every opportunity to experience this marvellous place, even if it was colder and wetter than usual?
What whales can teach us about energy.