Stuart’s Conclusion

David has done a fantastic job of summarising the activities each day so I won’t repeat them. I’ll reflect on the experiences and gains.

I must admit I went into the trip without any expectations, just an open mind and I stayed humble when I met my travel companions, ranging from the best and brightest from companies around the world to people so passionate about Antarctica they had saved their whole life to afford this trip. These people already knew everything there was to know about Antarctica before even making their first landfall; visiting was just the natural culmination of their life’s efforts so far. I learnt to admire the passion these people showed. It was infectious and I know understand why we must protect this last great wilderness.

 

IMG_0450I set myself a few goals on the trip:

  • To speak to as many of the participants as possible as head their stories from around the world
  • To volunteer first for every opportunity that arose during the trip
  • To spend as little time as possible in my cabin (why travel to Antarctica and stay in your cabin?)
  • Continue the development started during the 2041 lecture programme

 

DCIM100GOPROIn pursuit of the first goal I think I sat with 80-90% of the participants and guides. The stories are incredible, from Indians trying to breakout of the Middle classes and ending up to help govern their home provinces with 10millions inhabitants to sustainability leaders taking 7 years to setup an “environment base” to educate others about Antarctica to a guy who has visited North Korea.  The trip was replete with diversity – there were 3 film crews alone on the trip along with research scientists conducting pioneering research into the degradation and dispersal of waste plastics. Every story was fantastic and where else do you get to mix with such an eclectic group? Socially it was exciting – I’ve never danced a tradition Indian dance to Bollywood music….

In respect of the second goal I did EVERYTHING, from the polar plunge to being the lead of the lead rope team down a glacier… I loved every second.  I went on every excursion, every landfall, the survival night and more…  Here I am leading the rope team (we are tied together in teams of 8 for safety in case the lead (me) falls down a crevasse)…

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I am so happy I had the third goal as this meant I spent the most time on deck and consequently I was one of only 5 people to win a prize on the trip from Rob Swan… The ‘on deck’ prize – for the person who made the most of every second possible – coming from such an inspirational legend this is something I will cherish forever. Truly I wish I didn’t need sleep so I could have spent more time outside.

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I enjoyed the lecture programme Rob had arranged and I learnt a lot about how to present as well as soaking up the actual content of the programme. I think I continue the leadership programme which was based on a book called “finding your true north”.

IMG_0179(Please visit the ‘2041’ website for more details on the team who organised the expedition – www.2041.com)

I’d like to think I achieved all the goals I set all plus I have two more goals now…

  • Visit Antarctica again in my lifetime
  • Work to protect it

I’ve made some lifelong friends, forged in the Antarctic desert. When you experience something like that as a team you can’t help but end up permanently bonded and I already have invites to visit my new friends in Monaco, India, USA, UAE and more…

IMG_0418Lastly where else can you be metres from whales, seals and penguins in the wild?

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Thank you to Kevin, Dawn, Shaun, Phil, Rob Swan and everyone who made this possible and encouraged me to go and Dave for keeping me sane on the immense flights to the end of the world.

Lastly thank you to my girlfriend for putting up with all my stories that now start “when I was in Antartica…”

 

 

Final Post

We leave the fringe of the inhabited world for the Antarctic today and the price we pay for entry is the drake passage – YouTube it!

The risk of incident in Antarctica is low if you follow safety procedures but if it occurs the consequences are extreme, for example if you fall in the water you can be dead in seconds depending on how your body reacts to the cold shock.

All communications cease as we leave Ushuaia when we lose satellite coverage so most likely this will be the last blog entry until we return to Argentina in 9 days but the 2041 team will keep their blog updated and you can track the ship as well from www.2041.com

Hasta luego

Stuart

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First Hike

The programme started today. We had a morning of keynote speakers ranging from carbon emissions experts from Royal Dutch Shell to motivational gurus like the ex head of HR at the Adidas group. On top of it all Robert Swan himself delivered a masterclass in audience captivation with the tales recounting his altruistic projects over the past 3 decades.

After the morning of talks we set on our first trek, in Ushuaia , to the glacier that sits in the mountain above the city. This is receding each year due to global warming. This hike served to test our kit and give us our first experience of the conditions we would face as we depart for Antarctica tomorrow. It didn’t disappoint – we had four season in forty minutes atop the mountain – from sun to cloud and fog, onto hail and wind so vicious it hurt your face and left you raw then back to sun in under an hour.

Weather closing in fast - Hail and Wind

Weather closing in fast – Hail and Wind

When we returned we were given the first of our safety briefings about Antarctica – the quote that sticks in my mind is that “Antarctica wants you dead”. Only if we work together as a team and support each other will we survive it.

There are more photos on the official blog at http://2041.com/expeditions/blog/latest

Spot the photo of me talking about leadership.

 

Day 0

Arrived safely and on the first shuttle to the 2041 base. As one of the first we’ve started by helping Rob Swan coordinating the bringing of the team together.

The official programme starts tomorrow with opening conference and beginning of safety training and preparation to cross the most feared stretch of water in the world… The Drake Passage less than 60 miles from Cape Horn.

Here is a taste of the view over Ushuaia and its bay.

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Hot hot hot

I spoke too soon about the flights… That was a long 12 hours on the Madrid to Buenos Aires leg. Finally at Buenos Aires where I flew through passport control and David had 50 questions from security – this is after setting off every metal detector and scanner between Heathrow and Argentina!

When you walk out of the airport in Buenos Aires you are hit by a wall of heat… 28C at 9pm,real contrast to the sub zero temperatures we’ll be facing in a bit. It stays sweaty when you take the taxi transfer between the Argentine airports – the roads definitely have rules just no one obeys them, and there see to be police every few hundred metres.

Think I’m missing the relatively comfortable warmth at home at most.

The Spanish I haven’t practiced for 10 years seems to be holding up ok which is good but I do remember that a number of standard words in mainland Spain like to “TAKE a bus” mean something very obscene in South American Hispanic countries with colloquial variations.

21 hours without sleep now – just another 8 to wait for the next flight with no where to sleep but this flight will will get us to our final destination…

@severn – can someone comment and talk me through today’s fruitbowl?

@optimisation – is Sutton coming back on Monday? #Mondaycoldstart

 

First Leg

As ever I was awake one minute before my alarm…it was 04:29 when I looked at my watch. Even with only fitful sleep over the past week the anticipation has warded off any fatigue. David and I were both tempted to ring Kevin’s room as we checked out at 05:00am just to thank him once more for the opportunity to die in the cold on the trip of a lifetime.

Gathering up 25kg of baggage each we headed to terminal 5 at Heathrow which as Dawn quite rightly said looks more like a shopping centre than airport terminal.

Terminal 5

Quick trip through security and onto the hop to Madrid – which has passed really quickly. I must say I have not looked forward to the flights due to the seat pitch etc but it’s been an easy first leg.

Those that know me well from the office will understand when I say I had to endure a soft cheese croissant on the first flight… Hoping Iberia serves chicken salad for lunch on the next leg to Buenos Aires.

Only having shared a few hours with David we’ve already learnt so much about each other’s roles. There is so much we take for granted, so much we assume and so many opportunities we haven’t yet uncovered for synergy but it all starts with the most basic appreciation of what the other person does and why and how our actions affect each other.

“Where are you flying to sir?”

A bag laden and slightly tired Stuart here…

I think yesterday it truly hit that this journey has begun as I got up to leave the MPF office at the end of the day and spontaneous applause broke out… I realised I was about to undertake a unique journey.  This realisation cost me last night’s sleep as I mentally inventoried my equipment over and over again.

This morning I said goodbye to my girlfriend as she went to work and was left in the house for a few quiet moments of absolute calm before snapping out of the trance to realise I had to pack my final sundries. Even though I’ve packed a lot I’m leaving a lot behind for a few weeks. Family, girlfriend, training buddies, friends, colleagues, and soon… all contact with the outside world.

That being you can track the ship we will use as a base at www.2041.com – there is a GPS Feed and updates from the organisers.

Before I lose contact I realise that I need to thank Martin and Sophie at Cotsworld Outdoors Cardiff for their extensive help and fitting of the immense list of equipment I have procured over the last few days. I still find it odd that clothes I buy in Cardiff city centre will protect me the rapidly changeable and arduous Antarctic conditions but their support and expertise has removed so much of the angst around whether I have enough appropriate kit.

I’ve now made it to Heathrow to begin the first leg of the 30 hour chain of flights that will deliver us to the southern most city of Argentina, Ushuaia. As I check in at the hotel where I will say farewell to Kevin I’m asked the ultimate destination of my journey by the receptionist… “Where are you flyng to sir?” And again like at the start of this blog entry as I utter the word “Antarctica” and see the startled facial expression it hits me that the journey has begun…

 

Leadership Challenge

Challenge 1: You receive a phone call, you have exactly 10 days in which to prepare for a trip to Antarctica for which you have absolutely none of the equipment and initially no guidance on how to prepare…. Slowly elements of guidance and support appear and you must co-ordinate these to achieve your first goal… Get to the Southern most tip of Argentina, a settlement called Ushuaia to join the 2041 expedition to Antarctica.

So why is the expedition called 2041 and why is Antarctica Special?  Well in brief…

  • Antarctica does not belong to any one country or even to a group of countries
  • It’s lands (and ice and snow) have no nationality in the way that we understand it in the rest of the world.
  • There is no “Government of Antarctica” in the way that we understand it in the rest of the world. This is largely as there are no indigenous peoples and no-one lives there permanently, the only habitations are scientific stations that people visit for short time periods, usually from a couple of months to just over a year.

How did this come about?  Representatives of the 12 nations met in Washington, D.C. in 1959 to draft and sign the Antarctic Treaty. This agreement dedicated the entire continent to peaceful scientific investigation. It came into effect in 1961 and all historical territorial claims were suspended. In 1991, 24 nations approved a protocol (addition) to the treaty that would ban oil and other mineral exploration for at least 50 years, this is up for negotiation in 2041.

The key objectives of the Antarctic Treaty are:

  • To keep Antarctica demilitarized, to establish it as a nuclear-free zone, and to ensure that it is used for peaceful purposes only.
  • To promote international scientific cooperation in Antarctica.
  • To set aside disputes over territorial sovereignty.

The result is that Antarctica is one of the few places in the world which has never been affected by war, where the environment is fully protected and where the priority is scientific research. What a unique arrangement which shows Man has it within him to put something about his own selfish desire.

So with a clear goal I set about researching the kit I would need while Dawn, best described as superwoman, worked on the almost insurmountable problem of getting Dave, my travel partner, and myself to Argentina with similarly short notice.  There aren’t enough superlatives to describe someone, like Dawn, who works so hard and so selflessly on your behalf to help you take the first steps on your journey safely.

As for procuring the equipment required… I think I am ready with 36 hours to go to check and re-check…  The most frightening thing is that I don’t know what I might be missing and I will only find out when I am there.  I get the feeling this won’t be the only time that the test will come first, and the lesson afterwards…

So… Challenge 1 accepted Kevin… I’m looking forward to the next obstacles on the road to Ushuaia and beyond the fringe of the inhabited world.

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Kit Laid Out for Inventory and Packing