Nearly Back to Dry Land

Do not tell people what to do, inspire them to change.

Rebecca and Helen

The night’s crossing had been turbulent but the seasickness pills and patches had done their job and we slept through most of the night OK. Every so often you were woken up when a particularly big wave rolled the boat and you felt like you were sliding down your bed! It was another slow start to the day as first lecture was not until 9.30am.

On route to breakfast, I went upstairs and for once Robert wasn’t surrounded by lots of people wanting his attention, so I got my chance to have a very special half an hour chat with him. I am glad that I was able to have this time with Robert, we talked about what Rebecca and I would do when we got back to Bangkok. I completely lost track of time and was lucky enough to just get to breakfast before it finished. By the amount of food left, I guessed many people didn’t make it to breakfast!

After breakfast, Miko gave his lecture on living on Antarctica. As a Polish Scientist he has spent a lot of time observing and monitoring the elephant seals – his stories were fascinating. He had lived at the station for three years; he told us that ‘life was easy all you had to do was to remember each day not to die’. Some of the photos he showed just emphasised how powerful nature is.

Several people from 2041 who already have steps in place for a ‘sustainable future’ then shared their ideas with the rest of us.

One message was:
Always be conscious and mindful
Food is needed for 7.2 billion people so don’t waste it
Let us not take resources for granted
Be knowledgeable about where things are coming from

Mallika from India asked if she could video me discussing what we were doing at Bangkok Patana that she could then share with her students in India. I talked through about the SEC, all of our recycling initiatives, the solar panels and how we are trying to prevent only using plastic once by trying to ban plastic water bottles and plastic straws. She then shared with me what she gets her students to consider when buying something:

Do I really need it?
How long am I going to use it for?
When I am finished using it, where will it end up?

She then goes on to challenge them further by asking them:

Do you know where it was made?
Where has it come from? 

Later on, we went for a disembarkation meeting, explaining what will happen tomorrow when we get back to Ushuaia. It will be sad to leave this ship as it has truly become home to us over the past eight days. The first thing we were told it was going to be another seven hours until the waters were going to level out and calm down!

Going for a walk around the deck before lunch it was noticeable how many more birds were with us compared to our previous crossing. The albatrosses and petrels were enjoying flying in our wake. Up on the bridge I asked the captain how big the waves had been last night, he said around 8m but now we were back down to 4m.

After lunch we watched the documentary ‘Black Fish’. It was a very powerful film looking at  why the killer whales behave how they do in captivity. It made me think once more how grateful I am to have seen the orcas out here in the wild in Antarctica. I would strongly recommend the documentary to others to watch.

In the afternoon there was a lecture on the Antarctica Treaty. It was very interesting to see which countries have put a territorial claim on Antarctica. To begin with the countries included Chile, Argentina (we have seen lots of Argentina huts on this trip), New Zealand, Australia, Norway, France and the UK. Some countries have painted their flag over each other’s flags to try and claim new territory! This has particularly happened between UK and Argentina. Interestingly the USA are not listed as the small piece of Antarctica they could have claimed is so small they didn’t want it – it will be interesting to see if the USA claim on Antarctica in the future.

The Antarctica Treaty:

Antarctica should be used for peaceful reasons only 
Scientific programmers are allowed and cooperation between countries needs to happen
No nuclear weapons allowed in Antarctica
The treaty is valid south of 60 degrees
Everyone can check on each other that they have no weapons
Any dispute between nations needed to go through the International Court of Justice
Treaty to be held for 30 years.
Twelve original members signed the Treaty but now up to 41 countries have acceded to the Treaty. 
Treaty members need to approve who is allowed a base here. Today the treaty has developed making lots of other policies e.g. Looking after and protecting the seals and albatrosses. 

Is the treaty under pressure? It is doing quite well as it grows up and shows it works. Challenges in the future will be to deal with countries who say they want to mine the resources to help their people. We are being asked to return home as an ‘Antarctic Ambassador’ – to help protect it against exploitation – from krill fishing to mining. We need to prove to everyone that Antarctica has value in itself and not through mining.

We have just heard that we are currently 18 nautical miles from Cape Horn (which would take us an hour and a quarter to reach) due to the journey we have taken to avoid storms. The captain is contacting the Chilean authorities to see how close we can get maybe see the Cape Horn coastline. I headed straight up to the bridge where I was rewarded with several albatrosses gliding on the wind in front of the boat! They looked like they were putting on a display for us with their impressive 3.5m wingspan. Then three Peale’s dolphins came right up to the front of the boat. Looking ahead through the grey, we saw a large rock emerging in front of us – welcome to the Cape Horn! It seemed even more dramatic seeing its outline against the grey background. When you add the fur seals and whales around us it was yet again another very special experience. A huge thanks to the captain for going out of his way to show this to us.

Back indoors, the crew and captain gave their closing farewells – it was a special moment for them as it was their last expedition of the season.

After dinner that evening, we had our closing 2041 speeches. Robert Swan gave us some public speaking tips, but his key message was ‘do not tell people what to do, inspire them to change.’ Other topics included how to raise awareness, increase engagement and create action. Another key quote we heard that resonated with us was from Bill Gates ‘People often overestimate what will happen in the next two years and underestimate what will happen in the next ten years.

We were asked to think about:
Which people and experiences in your early life had the greatest impact on you?
What are your most deeply held values?
What motivates you intrinsically? 

It left us with an awful lot to think about as we begin the long journey back to Bangkok soon!

The evening ended in style with a slide show looking back over our amazing expedition! A great way to end the day and ultimately end our trip.

 

Helen and Rebecca landed in Ushuaia yesterday evening and took a flight back to Buenos Aires where they are for the next few hours before they leave for London Heathrow.

*Front image courtesy of 2041.com

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