Earlier this year, from February 28 to March 13, I was lucky
enough to take part in Robert Swan’s International Antarctic Expedition (IAE)
covering Antarctica and the surrounding continent. I have to say, this journey
was a completely new experience for me, as it was my first trip on a cruise and
a first for many things!
The aim of the expedition was to gain first-hand knowledge of the continent’s ecosystems, experience its unique wildlife and learn about climate change, so we can better protect our Earth. What I really liked about the expedition was the diversified group of people, as we had more than 80 people from 28 nations, ranging from Africa to the US to Europe and Asia.
As a large team we covered a lot of ground, including Mikkelsen Harbor, Lemaire Channel, Pleneau Port Charcot, Range Island, Neko Harbor, Portal Point and Spent Island, to name a few.
Every day we took a Zodiac raft to the island. Activities for each
day included hiking for a couple of miles, exploring the wildlife and training
our leadership and teamwork skills.
Camping under the antarctic clear sky
A small incident early on in the expedition gave me some real insight into what being on a team means. While we were in Ushuaia, Argentina, a participant, Miriam from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), fractured her ankle on our hike to the Martial Glacier. She had to go back to home and another participant, Joseph, who was also from UAE, offered to forgo his trip to return home with her as Miriam could not travel alone.
One of the most amazing experiences I had was when we camped out
in the snow under a clear sky. The serene atmosphere revealed the untouched
beauty of Antarctica. A few days later, on March 8, we polar plunged (meaning
we went into the icy cold water) just to experience what it was like. Now, I’m
proud to declare myself as an “Antarctica Camping and Polar Plunging Survivor!"
Every day we saw different wildlife. But out of all the albatrosses, whales, dolphins, seals, my favourite would be penguins. At one stage, while I was sitting on an island, a curious penguin came close to me, pecking at my boots and jacket as it tried to figure out what I was. When it saw its mother coming close by, it ran away. This was my closest experience of Antarctic wildlife, and something I’ll never forget.
As we hiked up a glacier (and we were the first 2041 team to do
this) during one of the days, we had to rely on our patience as we were all
tied together on a climbing rope so we had to be mindful of everyone’s speed,
pace and strength to make the hike a success. When we reached the top, it was
heartbreaking to see the retreated glaciers and huge iceberg pieces floating
away and endangering wildlife
As part of the expedition, we had to take part in the Leadership on the Edge programme. The programme helped change my perspective about a lot of things and made me more concerned about the environment. For instance, with the growing amount of receding glaciers and collapse of major ice shelves, I saw how our actions are affecting the environment. I started to understand the true meaning behind Robert Swan’s quote “the greatest threat to this planet is that someone else will save it”, emphasizing the importance of being active in saving our planet. Since my return home, I have been spreading the message to all those around me that every small action counts, so it’s time for us to make a difference, to ensure future generations can experience what we have.
Looking back at a group picture of our expedition family, I realise this journey has brought a lot of learnings, insights and friendships for life. I have changed my thought processes and ideas about the environment. The journey has taught me that we don’t actually inherit the environment from our parents but we borrow it from our children and we must save it. Every small initiative counts!
Swati Lohia is an associate at Bottlers Nepal Limited.