Beyond the Lemaire Channel
Remember that today is a day off from HB sessions. Enjoy the activities ashore!
08:00 Breakfast will be available
10:00 Ashore on Peterman Island
13:00 Lunch is served
14:40 Ashore on Pleneau Island
19:00 Dinner is served
[Sunrise 06:07 / Sunset 20.40]
Yesterday evening we had a fancy dress / costume party ahead of our one and only day off today. Today was a day to catch up on laundry, prepare for moving cabins and relax. The afternoon landing didn't happen due to the weather.
Port Lockroy and Beyond
Apart from humpbacks playing with our ship throughout the morning, a leopard seal playing with the zodiacs and near-perfect warm and windless conditions, it was a standard day in the Errera Channel and on Cuverville Island. And you have to love those Gentoo penguin chicks who don't know they are supposed to stay five metres away from humans. All in all, it was a glorious set of experiences. Can it get any better?
07:00 Breakfast will be available
08:30 Port Lockroy Presentation
09:00 Ashore on Port Lockroy and Jougla
Don't forget to take your postcards and letters to post at Port Lockroy and cash or credit cards if you want to use their shop.
13:00 Lunch is served
PM: HB sessions
If conditions allow, we might start our movement to the South, towards the Antarctic Circle.
19:00 Dinner is served
After Dinner. Fancy Dress Party.
Wiencke Island is named by De Gerlache (a Belgian explorer) after a young seaman who fell overboard in 1899. The island has a harbour on the West Coast where the tiny Goudier Island is situated. On Goudier, there is a cluster of buildings operated by the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust (UKAHT). The most famous is Port Lockroy, named in 1904 after Edouard Lockroy who was influential in gaining funding for Jean-Baptiste Charcot's French Antarctic Expedition. This was formerly known as Base A, a former British station, now home to the penguin post office, a shop and museum. The area was a major harbour for whalers until around 1930, evidence of which can be seen today with chains and moorings visible in addition to many whale bones.
The site has also had some contest, originally claimed by an Argentine navy ship, who left a cylinder and claimed the territory. However, during WWII, Britain plotted a secret naval operation, unofficially called 'Operation Tabarin' after a Parisian nightclub. This saw the removal of the Argentine artefacts and established Base A, staffed almost continuously until 1962 before falling into disrepair. In 1996, the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust (UKAHT) and British Antarctic Survey (BAS) completed a full renovation. Since then, the base has operated in the austral summer months as a museum and post office.
Since 1995, the UKAHT staff on Goudier Island have been conducting long-term breeding studies on their colony of 800 pairs of gentoo penguins. No evidence of discernible impact from tourism has been observed, however, impact from environmental conditions including snow cover and krill abundance have been found to be relevant.
Bransfied House displays the history of this station, including clothing from Operation Tabarin, a wind-up HMV gramophone and a restored 'Beastie' which was scientific equipment for early upper-atmosphere research. Inside, as well as a three-room museum, is the Penguin Post Office, responsible for around 70,000 hand-stamped items of mail a year (and a shop). All the proceeds fund the museum operations and profit goes to conserving British historic sites on the peninsula. In order to manage the number of visitors, the UKAHT allows up to 350 people to visit a day (with no more than 60 ashore at once). The station is run by three full-time members of staff, who live in the Nissen hut.
In the afternoon HB sessions we worked on our visibility platform and visibility goal. Most people chose to align this with their work pillar of their strategic plan. We worked in pairs to develop our strategy and importantly, only once this was developed did we think of platform (often though of first). A big part of science leadership is being visible and having the courage to do this, part of the inspiration behind this blog.
Our Palmer station visit was a fabulous success. Not only did we hear and learn about the station, but we drew their crew into the Homeward Bound worldview and they graciously opened up to us.
Overnight we have retraced our steps into the Gerlache Strait. Let's find whales!
07.00. Breakfast will be available
09.00. HB sessions
12:00. Lunch is served
14.00. Ashore on Cuverville Island, Errera Channel
19:00. Dinner is served
This morning we worked on our visibility: What was our story? How does this come across to others? Who are the audience? To be authentic, credible, strategic, humanistic and have courage. To this end, we worked on our communication. We learnt that improvisation is to listen and respond to what is in front of you and that the audience is key to your message: Be connected; Communication is not self serving; Have a meaning; Think about others; Show empathy.
We were in pairs (back to back). One person had a complex figure (a series of shapes) which they had to describe. The other person had to draw this from only the spoken description/instructions (we were not allowed to say the name of the shape). This was quite difficult. The moral was to start with the big picture: Where on the paper are the shapes? How big are they going to be? How many are there? The second time was a lot easier, as we had learnt from the previous example. Shapes were described as everyday examples, details like shading were not missed. Trust had been established; the big picture meant that details could be captured correctly and we had empathy for the person drawing (as we had swapped roles).
Communication is such a big part of being a scientist. As many scientists have said: You can make groundbreaking discoveries; It's pointless, however, if you cannot communicate these. In my research, this would often be about where antibiotics come from, what antimicrobial resistance is and why it matters that we discover more medicines.
We then got into peer coaching groups (of three participants) to put GROW (goal, reality, options and wrap up) into practice. This can be a useful method in leadership. It ensures a framework for discovering what warrants discussion and clarification.
For example: The goal is what a participant wants to be discussed. Sometimes a goal can be reclassified after the session. However, it is important to stay on topic. Therefore setting the main subject up front allows the conversation to be kept on track.
The Reality stage comprises of lots of open questions like 'Why and what would you do differently?', reinforcing goals, coaching, keeping the conversation on track.
Options stage : determine feelings, coach to alternatives.
Wrap-up stage: Review progress. Small scale steps for solutions. If not the coach or coachee, we were the observer.
When I was coached, it offered me a way forward for something I had identified during the HB journey (pre-ship) and had been working on during the past two weeks.
After lunch was a landing on Cuverville Island, which is 1.5-2 km long. We were instructed by Greig not to walk on the moss as it takes decades for plants to grow in such harsh climates.
Certainly not monochrome. Here we are. 78 women with a science background, selected from around the world. We have diverse careers, diverse knowledge, diverse expertise, diverse experiences. However, we all share a common goal, let's increase women in science leadership positions for the future of our planet. Also, 77 of my new best friends <3 (I am the third person up from the top right corner of the flag). Photo credit: Oli Samsom.
Cuverville Island is home to a large (thousands) Gentoo penguin colony. Under the Antarctic treaty you are not allowed to approach Antarctic wildlife and must stay at least 5m back. However, it is fine if they approach you. I couldn't believe how curious they were, in this photo my foot is just out of shot. There is our ship, the MV Ushuaia in the background between the icebergs.
An ambitious Gentoo penguin tries to collect a rock that's a bit too big
Gentoo penguins swimming
Light fading as we depart Cuverville Island, through the icebergs
Leopard Seal - these are the second top predators in Antarctica, after the Orca (killer whale)
Hard to believe this was all in one day, isn't it? Wonderful people, incredible setting.
Day 15 (Monday 26th February): Palmer Station, U.S. National Science Foundation Base, Anvers Island, Antarctica
Nestled at the foot of the highest mountain in the region and at the Southern end of Anvers Island is the US Scientific Station of Palmer. This is our destination for the morning.
07:00 Breakfast will be available
08:00 Two leaders from Palmer will come onboard "Ushuaia" to brief us
08:45 Commence our visit to the station. We will go ashore in groups of 12, every ten minutes
12:00 Lunch is served
13:15 Eight to ten members of the station will come on board for a Q&A session
14:00-18:00 HB sessions
19:00 Dinner is served
The buildings of Palmer station were built on the South West coast of the comparatively large Anvers Island in the 1960s. The island was named in honor of American sealer Nathaniel B. Palmer (in fact, there is a ship with this full name). In 1820, he was part of the first group of Americans to see Antarctica (third overall) while trying to find new rookeries. The early prefabricated wooden buildings at Palmer station have since been replaced by the blue structures seen today, The station superseded Britain's Base N (1955-1958), which is no longer in existence. Palmer is quite a small station, accommodating approximately 40 at most and only about 24 people in winter. When we visited, it was very busy. The visiting dive/ecology team of scientists had just arrived, plus there was change-over from summer team to winter team (there's an overlap of key members of staff to ensure good communication). Unlike a lot of bases, Palmer is accessible year-round by ship with a visit for resupply scheduled around every 6 weeks. However, only 12 (non-government) ship visits are permitted annually to avoid disruption to research - and we were one of them!
Randy Jones the lab manager was one of the two leaders who came on board before we were allowed to disembark. Randy supports the research teams. He told us about the U.S. Antarctic program funded by the NSF (National Science Foundation). They fund around 150 grants per year, usually grouped into three categories: Research for fundamental knowledge of the Antarctic continent; Research on Antarctica's role in global systems and Antarctica as a platform (E.g. telescopes). Part of their work hosting these 10-12 ships a year, is to contribute to their science communication, education and outreach program. October to April marks their summer season `(so we were near the end). During the summer season they do a lot of work around the local waters and islands. They hosted 22 science projects this season, with three scheduled over winter. The chemical ecology team were there now, looking at marine natural products and benthic sessile organisms (i.e. sponges). Projects vary greatly and include Polar entomology (Antarctica's largest land animal - the wingless fly!!) to fish physiology (rock cod, ice fish). They also operate Palmer Long Term Ecology Research (PLTER), often looking at the whole ecosystem. The program has been running for 27 seasons, looking at everything from ice cover to species diversity.
Palmer station has Adelie penguins, although they had fledged around two weeks ago. It is recorded that in the 1970s, there were zero nesting pairs of Gentoo penguin (historically sub-Antarctic), however, as a result of climate change, they have been moving further South (commuting with Adelie penguins for space and food). This season they recorded 3800 nesting pairs of Gentoo at Palmer. Perhaps the most inspirational part of this introduction to life at Palmer station was meeting Jess Walkup - the base commander (and female base commander at that!). She has wintered three times in Antarctica and two of those were as base commander. It takes a talented leader to be the person in charge in such an extreme and remote location for those extended periods of time.
It's quite odd going somewhere as remote as the continent of Antarctica and meeting up with someone you know. The last time I had met up with Bill Baker, who's a professor in Tampa, Florida, was on the sunny island of Crete, Greece at the European Conference on Marine Natural Products and on a baking-hot day. At that meeting, we had both discovered that we would be in Antarctica at the same time, however, I was unsure if our ship would visit the Palmer Station. Palmer Station was the fourth (out of five) of the research bases we would visit on our expedition. Palmer station is the United States base run by the National Science Foundation (NSF). I have known Bill since my PhD days (the world of marine natural products is fairly small). For a very long time, he was the only person I knew that had ever been to, let alone worked, in Antarctica. Bill has been to Antarctica almost annually for the last 30 years, the first 20 at McMurdo Station (also a U.S. base) aka "Mac Town", due to it's size and population. For the last 10, he has been based at Palmer. Bill has spent his career focused on the ecology and natural products chemistry of Antarctic sponges, while based in Florida wearing Hawaiian shirts and sandals. On this note, I've never seen him wearing a jumper. Bill was part of a team of visiting scientists in the "drive team / chemical ecology" group. When I visited, they had only arrived a few days before and were still getting set up. What are the chances of all that working out? Since starting my own research group in Scotland, I've not only started working on Antarctic bacteria, I have a PhD student (Ally) who worked in Bill's Florida-based group for two years and a postdoc (Sylvia) who did her PhD with Bill.
HB sessions involved aligning our vision and values, working on our visibility and visibility strategy (identifying our goal, audience, message and platforms). We also worked on 4MAT-ing our message to build a meaningful dialogue.
An entire evening of humpback whales, watched them for hours, there must have been about 40 of them swimming all around the boat feeding
Everyday my bed got made up, the staff are so amazing, friendly, kind and attentive. Emma the penguin (Discovery Dundee) always got located in the cabin and put on my pillow. Every single day!
[Sunsrise 05:55, Sunset 20:49]
The beautiful Gerlache Strait at last. But we had learnt our passage during a bumpy night, rolling from Antarctic Sound into the more sheltered water of the Gerlache. It is named after the Belgian explorer Adrane de Gerlache. One of his young companions was a little-known Norwegian called Royal Amundsen.
Curtiss Bay was not the place for us, but Portal Point in Charlotte Bay certainly was.
We have travelled further South into Andvord Bay with a plan to land at Neko Harbour in the morning if conditions allow.
07:30 Breakfast will be available
09:00 Ashore at Neko Harbour in Andvord Bay
12:30 Lunch is served
14:00 - 17:30 HB sessions
19:00 Dinner is served
There was a ship in the way at Neko Harbour, therefore plans changed and we were landing on Danko Island instead this morning. Danko Island, situated in the central Antarctic peninsula, is only 1.5 Km long with a long cobblestone beach (where we were to land). Originally chartered by de Gerlache during the 1897-99 expedition, it was named after the geophysicst on board at the time, Emile Dance, who died in Antarctica. There had previously been a British base here (Base Q) until 1959, however it was removed in 2004 and only the foundations and plaque remain. There was a large Gentoo penguin colony, spanning both the beach and the summit (180m). The ice on the beach is from both the glacier and the ice-choked channels surrounding the island.
Penguin antics - I spent most of the landing watching their behaviour as they swam and navigated the ice on the beach
Science Symposium at Sea (part 3)
Jessica Brainhard - is a science curator in Perth, focussed on exhibition development and visitor engagement
Xuehua Zhang - after a career in academia, Xuehua wanted to know how we can learn from policy makers to inform the decision making process.
Elena Joli - is a physicist, using models to explain science linked to emotion. Elena is currently a high school physics teacher and is passionate about bringing current day breakthroughs and her passion in science into the classroom
Karen Alexander - is a social scientist looking at conflict in the marine environment, in particular aquaculture
Sam Nixon - is a PhD student looking at venom from spiders and its biotech applications of the chemicals within the venom to fight parasitic diesases
Natasha Wright -manages a large biophysics group which focusses on characterisation, everything from STEM cells, to XRD / crystallography to 3D printing of biomedical implants
Melissa Hart - looks at climate change within cities / urban environments including greenhouse gas emissions
Beth Christie - works on outdoor environmental education for a values-based education based learning for sustainability
Nina Earl - is a science curator at a museum of applied science and arts in Australia, she enjoys bringing the applied side of these disciplines together
Justine Barrett - is passionate about brining climate change education to schools and combining resources for teachers. She also is a researcher focussed on krill fishing in Antarctica
Following the second session of Science Symposium @ Sea. we then delved into 4MAT. 4MAT is a learning metric which focuses on learning preferences or types. We had previously (December) completed an in-depth questionnaire and listened to a video from the founder of 4MAT. The assessment is designed so that the individual can both identify and understand the differences in the way people learn. If we think of this in terms of leadership, this understanding and awareness can facilitate communication and human interaction. It is easy, I think, to default to 'everyone is the same as you', but really that is far from the case.
The results put us into quadrants: The first are imaginative learners; they like to seek meaning and learn by listening and sharing for example, pictorial, brainstorming or stories. This links their strong areas of feeling and watching (why?). Quadrant two learners are analytical learners linking watching and thinking. They seek intellectual competence. They like to observe and carry out research, deconstructing and analysing (what?). Quadrant three learners are common sense learners linking thinking with doing. They are problem solvers, they act and do, they like to practice techniques (how?). Quadrant four learners are dynamic learners, linking doing with feeling. They seek hidden possibilities, they believe in taking risks and trying new things, they like being given a difficult task (if?).
That was just a short summary. Good leaders understand all learning styles and recognise that no-one is just one 'type'. I'm more of a quadrant 4 than anything else, meaning I enjoy creating, strategisting and vision - I'm a 'big-picture' thinker. On the ship, we all got into the quadrant that we most identified with. It was approx. a 25% split into each corner. I very much identified with the quadrant fours, it was interesting to see how much the learning style affected interactions, up-take of information, enjoyment and value. Fabien '4MAT'd' a presentation, starting off with a story (quadrant 1), what was done, how it was done and finishing in a big picture question - we were all asked to think about this going forward and how it would apply to us. Easy to think that a lecture would be a perfect testing ground to ensure maximum learning from the class.
We then got into peer coaching in triads, using the questions from before, one the coach, the second the coachee and the third the listener / to provide feedback. I was with Laura Wells and Rachelle Balez - we all shared some common themes about our inner and outward self-perspectives. A great end to the day with new friends.
Northern Gerlache Strait
Having gingerly put our noses into the head of the Weddell Sea we were rewarded with the delights of Paulet Island; Now we have turned our noses towards the Western side of the Peninsula and into the Gerlache Strait. It is a more intimate environment than the Weddell Sea. Enjoy!
07:30 Breakfast will be available
09:00 There are several great places for us to get off the ship this morning. Final choice will depend on wind direction and ice. We may land or we may get into the zodiacs amongst the ice.
12:30 Lunch is served
14:00-17:30 HB Sessions
19:00 Dinner is served
What a rough night of rolling! It turned out yesterday that we went the furthest South into the Weddell Sea that the ship had been that year but had to turn around due to excessive ice. After departing the sheltered seas of the South Shetland Islands we had headed back into the open Southern Ocean across the Bransfield Strait as we made our way to the Western Side of the peninsula and turned our backs on the ice-filled Weddell Sea. This was the start of our journey South, through the iceberg-filled waters off the West coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. The rough seas continued through most of the morning, meaning that our plans for a landing had changed (everything is subject to the mercy of the cabalistic winds in Antarctica). Luckily, we had plenty of Homeward Bound program content to be getting on with, therefore, this was moved forward.
Symposium at Sea (part 2)
Ellen Moon - looks at how trace metals move through landscapes, i.e. Lead, Arsenic and the risk to health that this causes, in particular Ellen looks at how metals are bonded to soils for remediation strategies.
Isabel Zhang Zhang - is a equity research analyst looking at the economics of capital allocations within the private sector of the world bank, specifically Isabel focuses on climate investments.
Jessica Kretzmann - is a PhD student in Perth looking at the genomic engineering for breast cancer applications, in particular polymer design.
Uxua Lopez - is an engineer in the telecommunications sector building systems support control rooms for renewable energy, managing servers and database. In her spare time she is part of a team of friends building an eco village in Spain.
Sarah Lucas - is a paediatrician in Australia, currently a Junior doctor.
Yiting Wang - works for the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) on NGO strategies to alleviate China's impact to climate change and global policy.
Sandra Velarde - is an economist in New Zealand focused on forestry, carbon biodiversity trade-offs, knowledge management and adaptive governance to address future issues now
Elisa Harvey - is a vet, she has worked as an FDA scientific reviewer, a biotech consultant and currently volunteers as an international vet bringing her expertise to a One Health approach
Amanda Kirk - is an environmental and humanitarian engineer working in the private water sector in New Zealand. Amanda looks at technically challenging water irrigation and pipeline issues to bring solutions. Amanda has considerable experience as a volunteer on islands through her work with Engineers Without Borders.
Marie Clarke - is a secondary school science teacher from Australia, passionate about engaging children in STEM subjects and interactive classroom experiences.
Ana Chang - founded Seafood Legacy through her passion social and cultural motivations for behaviour. She also set up a consultancy to align with her passion for global sustainable seafood.
After lunch, Sara, one of the visibility / PR team, worked with us on our visibility goals. These are part of the Personal Strategy Map which we started in Ushuaia. We could choose to work on personal, professional or collective visibility goals. We worked on clarifying these in pairs by setting long-term and short-term goals that would improve our visibility. Most people focussed on professional goals, I set myself personal goals.
We then had a second science lecture on the Antarctic Terrestrial Conservation work by Justine Shaw.
Justine told us about the Antarctic climate, characterised by cold air, dry air, snow, seasonal daylight, catabolic winds and low temperatures. In particular, the Antarctic peninsula (where we had just arrived), is comprised of the peninsula itself and a series of archipelago islands. Amazingly the ice-free land is only 0.3% of the total land mass of Antarctica, however this is where approx. 99% of all the biodiversity lives - what an incredible fact. These species include endemic species, i.e. they occur nowhere else on Earth. These environments can include moss banks and plants. They have evolved to live under these extreme conditions, with exceptional limitations including isolation, space, dispersal, and islands in the ice. Taxa include moss (over 130 species, drought tolerant, still photosynthetic although in winter they are covered in snow), lichen (over 250 species, non-vascular, slow growing, fungi can adhere to rocks), rotifers, collembola, targigrades "water bears", nematodes, mites, algae, plus only two flowering plants (the plants are not endemic). Physiological stress, such as desiccation, high irradiation, low soil water and low temperatures mean that cells are often high in chemicals (secondary metabolites) to protect them from rupture or freezing.
Designated Antarctic Protected Areas (ASPARS) encompass bioregional diversity. These areas have been defined in the last 10 years to ensure no mixing between different biodiversity regions within Antarctica. Currently there are 16 Bioregions, there are currently seven high risk ASPARS on the Antarctic Peninsula. These protected areas try to minimise non-native species, for example there are three grass species which have already invaded (some of these are from the dog-sledding times). Pathways for invasions are usually people -> ship/aircraft -> land. Hence the vacuuming of pockets and scrubbing of boots at each landing. One way to tell if a species is invasive or not is if it is not native in South America but native in E.g. Europe. To ensure compliance of all people to ASPARS, there is a limit of 100 people per landing and inspections of research bases by treaty member countries.
Now we get to place our well scrubbed rubber boots (supplied by the ship) on Antarctica, this is our first landing on the continent (all previous were the South Shetland Islands). Greg and Juileta, our expedition leaders decide that Poral Point would be our landing for a couple of hours during the late afternoon. At the entrance of Charlotte Bay, Portal Point marks the start of the central peninsula. They bay itself is often filled with recently-calved icebergs. Portal Point is the site of a former British Antarctic Survey base. The remnants of the hut, built in 1956 were just visible beyond some Antarctic fur seals. The hut has been moved to a museum on the Falkland Islands. There was not very much wildlife here, the odd chinstrap penguin (skidding down the hill on its tummy!) and a group of Antarctic fur seals. The location itself consisted of a small rocky landing (where the seals were), a snow dome hill and the amazing views from it which included spectacular Antarctic mountains and the giant icebergs in the bay.
Antarctic Sound / Weddell Sea
At last! Our first iceberg has appeared out of the cloud and snow of a lively Bransfield Strait. Having left the South Shetland Islands behind we have entered a new world at the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula.
07:30 - 08:30 Breakfast
09:00 Ashore on Paulet Island (weather and ice permitting)
12:30 Lunch is served
14:00 HB sessions (Commence World's First Antarctic World Café, Gender in Leadership and STEMM, Science lecture 2 - Mary Anne, Fronts and Zones/Habitats)
19:00 Dinner is served
Paulet Island was discovered upon the expedition led by James Clark Ross in 1839-1843 and was named after a captain in the Royal Navy. Paulet is a circular volcanic island only 2 km in diameter with a cone 353 meters high. In some ways, it is dwarfed by Dundee Island; a snow-covered, larger island 5 km Northwest of Paulet (discovered by the whaler Captain Robertson and named after his home town in Scotland). Fast forward to 1903: In February, Nordenskjöld's ship "Antarctic" was crushed by the Weddell Sea ice pack for many weeks. On the 12th, it sank 40 km from Paulet. 20 men sledged for 16 days and upon reaching the island they built a 10 m x 7 m hut. They must have done quite well in building it as all but one of the expeditions survived and you can still see the hut today, albeit in ruins. Aside from the hut and the volcanic cone, what immediately strikes you is the colonies of Adélie penguins, the hundreds of blue-eyed shags and the growlers (ice chunks) by the shore. Today they were glistening in the sunshine, Greg Mortimer (our expedition leader) said today was one of those rare blue sky days.
Following lunch, we had a science lecture by Mary-Anne on "Fronts and Zones/Habitats".
This included some definitions; that Fast Ice is ice connected to the continent, Pack Ice (also known as sea ice) is seasonal and moves, Marginal Ice, which is rich in krill, is pushed away from Antarctica during global warming.
The Polar Front (we crossed it somewhere in the Drake Passage) is defined by a dramatic change in temperature, salinity and nutrients, characterised by the Southern Annular mode (low pressure around the pole and high pressure circulating). The front can concentrate oceanic activity into regions. Fronts can also happen, for example, at coastal shelfs often characterised by areas of high productivity (nutrients) and often you can see plankton blooms on satellite images in these areas.
Mary-Anne then spoke about the rate of warming of our air and seas and the response of glaciers to this warming. This includes ice shelf collapse, such as the Larson B ice-shelf collapse on the peninsula (i.e. www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-40321674 ).
Krill are the keystone species in Antarctica, supporting whales and penguins as a result of their huge biomass. CCAMLR (Convention for the Conservation for Marine Living Resources) - which is part of the Antarctic Treaty (1982) oversees all ecosystem monitoring programs (CEMP) to detect significant changes in critical components of the Antarctic ecosystem and potential climate change impacts for predators and the movement of prey due to direct (foraging success/ habitat loss / unseasonal weather) or indirect /long-term (changes in breeding time / demography / range expansion) effects.
We then started Session One of the World's First Antarctic World Café - topic Gender in Leadership and STEMM. For those not familiar with World Café you can find out more here www.theworldcafe.com/key-concepts-resources/world-cafe-method/
Prior to attending, we had been given two documents, including "20 Things You Should Know", compiled over many months with facts about gender in leadership and STEM. This information was introduced to us by the people who had worked hard putting it together - a subset of our cohort - who had volunteered to lead this group (instead of being involved in a science theme - more on that later). Following a presentation, we had three perspectives to address, the role of the individual, the role of the organisation and the role of bigger programs (such as HB). It was brainstorming with guidance from facilitators at each station, 78 women, several hours and lots of ideas on paper. I don't want to write too much about the outcomes here as I believe this will be desalinated elsewhere, plus this was only Part One of three of the World Café Sessions on board the ship.
"Potter Cove and the weather gods smiled at us during our visit to Carlini Station. Now we are surrounded by the many scientific stations of Maxwell Bay, including the Chilean base of Frei, which is home to a major airfield, linking Antarctica to Chile."
07:30 - 08:30 Breakfast will be available
08:45 Short briefing about the landing at the Chinese Station, Great Wall
09:00 Ashore at Great Wall
12:00 Lunch is served
PM Cruising South East across the Bransfield Strait towards Antarctic Sound and the Weddell Sea
19:00 Dinner is served
We were granted permission to visit the Great Wall Station (China Base) on a restricted visit - meaning no buildings were accessible and we had protocol to follow. There were eight Chinese representatives to welcome us. They had arrived in early January and were stationed there until the end of the year. We were allowed to walk around the main square area, which contained traditional monuments, including a bell, modern buildings and a helipad. Once we returned, our HB Chinese participants relayed some information from our guides for us. They appreciated us adhering to the rules, with about 10-12 staff year round, they can usually expect up to 60 seasonal staff. The last of the scientists were leaving the base that day, possibly a reason for our restricted visit. The base was established in 1985. The scientific research conducted on base fluctuates with the scientists hosted. It can include anything from algae to wildlife (i.e. seals) to climate change effects. Sometimes the staff visit other stations for fun, especially during the winter when there is only 10 or so of them left. The base consists of recreation areas and accommodation blocks. They did have a wind turbine, however it broke as there was too much wind! The old building (est. 1985) was now a museum, although it was structurally unsafe, so we couldn't visit. Natasha, one of our expedition guides, said she'd been in it last year before it was closed. One of the things that resonated with me was that the base used to be covered in snow and a stream ran from the glacier and was a supply of drinking water for the base. Now though, the glacier had retreated so much that the landscape was rocks and the stream was no longer there.
The base had four large red symbols near the landing area (I was not sure if we could take photos at that point). The symbols are the Chinese words for Patriotism. Practicality, Innovation and Hard Working. The base has seen an increase in Chinese tourist visits..
The start of the much anticipated Science Symposium @ Sea, an opportunity for us all to present ourselves and our research / science / work / career. Now to meet some of the amazing scientists I'm sharing this journey with. In addition to the HB participant biography details here: homewardboundprojects.com.au/participants/2018-participants/
Symposium @ Sea: Session 1 (brief summary based on my notes from each presentation*)
*may include inacuracies, from illegible handwriting due to being on a moving ship!
Anais Pages - studies astrobiology, in particular stomatalites - microbial ecosystems that are 3.7 billion years old (!), they look like rocks. They only exist in two places, Barbados and the West coast of Australia. Anais uses non-destructive mineral exploration technologies to looks at the microbial communities
Maddie Brasier - just finished her PhD studying animals on the Antarctica sea floor, specifically Antarctica as a biodiversity hotspot, shaped by ice regions, ice-retreat and physical barriers. Maddie focused on the evolution, biochemistry and role of these animals in their ecosystems.
Rebecca Waddington - is based in Florida, Rebecca is a NOAA core pilot! Specifically she flies planes to track hurricanes and extreme weather systems.
Rebecca (Bec) Doyle - is a PI (principal investigator / group leader / lecturer) in cognitive behaviour and animal welfare
Rachel Zombor - is a neuropsychologist who focusses on dementia and traumatic brain injury - specifically cognitive impairment and how this can impact the decision making process
Megan Oaten - is an experimental psychologist, focussed on our disgust reaction and how this stops us from harm, in particular from contamination / disease
Émille Lefol - studied king penguins, spending months on an island in the East sub-Antarctic, looking at the impacts of climate change, fuel and human trash. She is currently a PhD student at the University of Sherbrook, Canada studying the Tree Swallow (bird), in particular the UV colour observed by this bird species and how it is useful for their commuication
Gaia Dell'Ariccia - studies seabirds, in particular penguins and petrals and how they orient in the ocean and swell. This involves combining her passions with work and ovecoming the challenges of field work in nature by adapting lab experiments to the field.
Kate Clarke is a small animal vet, and has been for the last approx. 20 years, she is currently based in Melbourne, Australia and illustrated that work very much was about people skills and mangling values and expectations.
Following on from today's leadership program, we move to emotional agility defined as the distinguishing components and skills of highly effective leaders for both short-term and long-term effectiveness. Why this, why now? Developing strategies to protect ourself form inner dialog / critics, to allow us to get on with it, to show up (less abidance and self-sabotage to more positive outcomes). This involves addressing our triggers by slowing down, taking time, opening up and pursuing to go from stimulus to response by recognising, using, understanding and managing emotions. A tough session but interesting how many of us have that inner dialog and ignore rather than deal with it.
The iceberg on Tuesday has now been put into perspective. The afternoon program was occasionally interrupted by these huge pieces of ice floating by our ship, they really are beautiful. After living in Canada for four years, I thought I had seen my fair share of snow and ice, however, the powerful landscape here has shaped these floating sculptures into quite mesmerising objects. Now we get to learn a bit about ice. To be perfectly honest I had no idea there was such a vocabulary to explain "icebergs". To begin, icebergs are technically ice larger than 5 meters (16 ft) - the smaller parts are known as "bergy bits" (smaller than 5 meters, usually an iceberg broken up) and "growlers" (less than 2 meters with under a meter showing above water)- and yes, those are the scientific terms. Another important fact is that icebergs are formed on land and "calve" from an ice shelf or ice sheet into a body of water (in this case the Southern Ocean). They then travel with the current, causing navigational issues to marine traffic, did you know that the Titanic disaster resulted in the `International Ice Patrol to be formed. The IIP uses satalite data to track icebergs, but these are only for large icebergs, greater than 500 meters squared. All icebergs are defined by their shape, caused by either their formation or deterioration. Two broad categories exist, tabular (can be seen in the two pictures below) or non-tabular (pictured above), non-tabular can be further categorised, but for me, that's a bit challenging (unless it's a dome or wedge).
Dining room with a view - In reality, the windows were quite high up which meant that if you were next to one, many dinners were spent repeatedly standing up!
Dinner was rushed, this sunset was too good to miss, over our first sighting of the dramatic Antarctic Peninsula
Day 10 (Wednesday 21st February): King George Island, South Shetland Islands.Carlini Research Station, Argentinian Base.
"Overnight we travelled northeast, along the South Shetland Islands and into Maxwell Bay in King George Island. Maxwell Bay is the most populated place in Antarctica and during the next few days we will get a glimpse into its complexity and geopolitical importance."
07:00 - 08:00 Breakfast is served
08:15 - 08:45 Presentation by Justine Shaw "Antarctic Protection and Governance"
Dr Justine Shaw is a Research Fellow at the University of Queensland, Australia in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions. Justine's research focuses on the conservation decision-making in the terrestrial Antarctic and in sub-Antarctica. In particular, she looks at how species interact in the absence of humans (wilderness) and the impact of this.
A few facts from Justine's talk:
Antarctica, is the last true wilderness, with approx. 90 percent of the Earth's ice, 70 percent of the Earth's fresh water and 10 percent of Earth's land. The Antarctic Treaty system is a protocol on environmental protection for the Antarctic Treaty (1951), which designates Antarctica as a "natural reserve devoted to peace and science". It has 29 signatories (countries) involved in the decision-making about Antarctica plus a further 21 consultations (which take part but do not vote at the treaty). The treaty oversees all conservation and science in Antarctica and includes a committee for environmental protection (Madrid protocol, 1993).
Justine also talked about the threats to biodiversity in this continent, including pollution, invasive species and climate change. There are approx. 30-40,000 Antarctic tourist visits per year. That's more visits than the from scientists, however the scientists stay for longer. Most tourists stay about a week.
With only a staggering 0.3 percent of Antarctica being ice-free, the tourists are often concentrated to these areas for landings, which can potentially affect the these biodiversity hotspots (due to it being ice free). The Madrid protocol is responsible for environmental impact assessments including the flora and fauna, waste disposal and waste management, the prevention of marine pollution and the management of protected areas in Antarctica. Currently there are 75 Antarctic specifically protected areas (ASPAs) and 7 Antarctic specifically managed areas (ASMAs).
09:00 Visit to the important Argentinian scientific station of Carlini
13:00 Lunch is served
14:30 - 17:30 HB sessions
19:00 Dinner is served
Inside the labs we were greeted with a selection of early career scientists, who are currently researching on site. They were telling us about their research, from parasitic worms, to fish ecology. We also got a chance to ask them questions. One opened up the microbiology lab for me (pictured above) - including a biosafety cabinet and autoclave.
Inside the recreation building, we were given cured meat, biscuits and cake with apple juice. This is where the staff have meals, relax and also talk to people outside of Antarctica on a video link up (as was happening at one end when we visited).
Following lunch the HB leadership program was focussed on peer coaching session 1 (set up and practice). The purpose of this was to enable us to constructively support each other on the journey, to ensure we are equipped to encourage and guide, not tell each other how to manage. This is a crucial and frequently undervalued leadership capability. Helping others to help themselves, instead of mentoring (sharing wisdom, often relevant), in some cases, coaching (catalysing insight, reflection, awareness, not showing the way) is more relevant.
First addressing aspects like what was the cost of coaching not taking place (negative), what was the benefit (positive) and what is / could become possible that was not possible before?
Being aware of "task needs" - agreeing purpose of feedback, focus on topic or issue, exchange information and reaching agreeable decisions and "emotional needs" - 'respectful', 'listened to and understood', 'engaged and involved', 'trust and trusted'.
This involved triads (groups of 3) and putting "GROW" into practice, Goal, Reality, Options, Wrap Up.
To learn to reduce mentoring and increase coaching - a bit more challenging than I thought (especially as I'm such a problem solver!)
Open questions, a whole toolkit for each of the "GROW" model - and then feedback for each of our triads (one coach, one coachee, one observer), this is going to take practice. Surprised at how the HB ground rules mean that we all feel we can really share and enable each other to provide a safe space to do so, what a great community we have built over the last 11 months.
Day 9 (Tuesday 20th February): The Drake Passage, Southern Ocean then landing on Half Moon Island, South Shetland Islands
From now on you'll see the "Daily program" at the start of each day. This was usually posted the evening before and always subject to change (such is the nature of sailing in Antarctica). They are written by our expedition leader Greg.
"This morning, we are approaching the South Shetland Islands. Today you will see many dramatic changes as we close in on the South Shetlands. These are the Northern bastions of the Antarctic Peninsula".
08:00 - 09:00 Breakfast is served
09:00 - 10:30 Mandatory IAATO - guidelines for visitors mandatory before going on shore. Mandatory zodiac operations briefings
11:00 - 11:45 An Introduction to Seabirds and Penguins by Dr Mary-Ann Lea
12:00 - 13:00 Lunch
13:00 - 13:30 Cleaning of shore clothing and backpacks
Pictured on left: Dr Mary-Anne Lee. part of the HB leadership team (Science Program Co-coordinator)
Dr Mary Anne Lea www.utas.edu.au/profiles/staff/imas/mary-anne-lea is an associate professor and depute head of the ecology and biodiversity centre at the University of Tasmania, Australia. Mary Anne is an expert on Antarctic wildlife, specifically vertebrates (esp. seals) and how their ecology and environment affects them. What a great person to learn from. What surprised me is the effect of climate change recordings of long-term ecology population studies of penguins - some were moving into new territory further south (i.e. gentoo penguins) as their previous homes further North (i.e. the South Shetland Islands, where we were landing this afternoon) was no longer cold enough With this expansion of gentoo penguin colonies further South came the decline of more established colonies (i.e. Adelie). I guess most of us are pretty aware of climate change and it's impacts - but being so far from civilisation, amongst penguins which don't know humans are bad (a weird wildlife experience in itself) and yet realising that we've affected their life and entire population dynamics is really eye-opening.
Daily Program: "If the weather continues to be kind to us we expect to approach the South Shetlands by approximately 15:00. The islands are often eshrouded with fog and clouds but there is some chance that we will see our first icebergs. We plan to slip in between the islands along the McFarland Strait."
16:00 (approx.): Ashore on Half Moon Island
We can see land, arriving at the South Shetland Islands, in thick cloud and rain, we were happy to be out of the Drake Passage and anticipating what we would see on our first landing
Half moon island is crescent shaped and only 2 Km long, it lies in the entrance of Moon Bay on Livingston Island - which is part of the South Shetland Islands
Time to meet some of the continent residents - Antarctic wildlife section
Why are there no penguins in the Northern Hemisphere? Well penguins cannot survive in warm seawater - their extreme limit is when the mean annual air temp. is max 20C (surface waters warm accordingly).
Chinstrap penguins (Pygoscelis antarcticus) in height vary from around 68-77 cm and weigh around 4 kg; this makes them quite a bit smaller than Gentoo and Adélie penguins (we'll see them later). They are characterized by blue-black backs, white underneath and white cheeks and of course, their thin black line which runs under their chin and eyes - giving them their name. They eat mainly crustaceans, so this is largely krill - which they catch during diving in the sea. Chinstraps are mainly found in vast colonies on the islands, especially the South Shetland Islands (here), South Orkney Islands and South Sandwich Islands. They like climbing up rocks, so if they live in association with other penguins, their colony is normally up higher. They normally lay two eggs in November / December so when we visited, the chicks were pretty large and fully fledged (they usually fledge in 2 months). They go to sea when the adults start to moult (which was around when we visited). The second most abundant penguin species in the world - although sadly in decline.
Chinstrap penguins, South Polar Skua (bird bottom left), four Antarctic Fir Seals
South Polar Skuas (Catharacta maccormicki) have a wingspan of 50 cm they are also known as McCormick's Skua, named after Robert McCormick, the naturalist (and surgeon) who sailed with James Clark Ross. These are the most Southernly species of bird in the world and are circumpolar! South Polar Skuas are birds of prey, as well as being opportunistic feeders, they also eat sea fish (mostly Antarctic herring) and krill. They are enthusiastic hunters of penguins (picking on vulnerable chicks especially).
Antarctic Fur Seals (Arctocephalus gazella) were called sea bears by earlier mariners. Because they can deploy their hind flippers in forward or backwards fashion, they can walk and run on land as well as swim well - meaning that you have to give them a wide berth - I was surprised how quickly they can move! They also have some pretty sharp looking teeth. They mainly eat krill, fish, squid and sometime penguin - although the penguins next to this lot didn't seem so worried. They only exist South of the Convergence.
This well-preserved wooden boat has been here since 1961. When the vessel Lapataia which was damaged, 21 tourists used it as a landing craft and they were stranded on Half Moon Island for three days. It is against the Antarctic Treaty (more on that later) to remove anything from Antarctica - including artefacts, therefore often even derelict buildings or artefacts have been preserved by the climate and location.
A couple of gentoo penguins on the ice
Gentoo Penguins (Pygoscelis papua) are slightly larger than chinstrap penguins, ranging in height from 76-81 cm and 5.5 - 6 kg in weight. Apparently, they become smaller the further South they live. With a black head, they have white markings by both eyes and a bright orange bill. They also eat fish and krill, and breed on rocky, flat ground. They are seen less often in colonies and don't mind being only a few (as pictured above). These penguins hang around to be fed longer than other penguin species, often well into the moulting period for the adults - which is March - Gentoo chicks in later posts.
The Argentinean Navy operates a summer-only base here called Càmera Station- it was built in 1953. We were welcomed by the staff stationed there - they were exceptionally welcoming, with biscuits (cookies) and apple juice after our walk across the island (and around some fur seals).
20:00 Dinner is served
Dinner was always three courses: usually a bowl of soup followed by some kind of meat dish and some kind of pastry/cream desert.
Every morning Greg Mortimer greets us / wakes us up with "Good morning possums" over the tannoy system. I'm not entirely sure what a possum is, an Australian later explained to me that it's a kind of giant rat...however, this wake-up each morning is completely endearing. This address is usually followed up with a fact about the day, what is outside, where we have been sailing and what time breakfast is on at (usually in 10 mins). Most of us are up and out of bed as we can't get ready for a day in Antarctica in 10 mins, let alone having a shower in Drake Passage conditions!
So the Drake passage. Well, I didn't sleep well last night; most people that had taken a phenergan (Australian antihistamine) before going on the ship, plus one of the doctors blue pills didn't sleep sleep well (if at all). Perhaps it was the creaking of the ship or the fact that the beds in our cabin went across the ship, so the rocking from the waves was head to toe instead of from side to side. Either way, it didn't matter because the Drake Passage has the roughest seas in the world. The Drake Passage is categorised as the part of the Southern Ocean between Cape Horn and the South Shetland Islands. Youtube will show you some of the worst crossings ("Drake Shake") we however, were exceptionally lucky ("Drake Lake") with 1-4 m swells. This is as good as the Southern Ocean gets.
The Southern Ocean is the only Ocean not interrupted by land mass and it's span is the whole way around the globe. Therefore, it is defined by katabatic winds making the swells high and providing very rough sailing conditions. Despite having Drake Lake, the current was unpredictable (I can't remember the term Greg used, but it meant the rocking was not steady, but a bit all over the place, changing directions). Combine this with us all getting our "sea legs" on the first few days plus the strong anti-sickness medication, it meant that the Drake pass was spent lying on bed listening to podcasts and having the odd snack (although eating for me was limited, due to queasiness) - mostly fruit, yogurt (breakfast) and the starter for both lunch and dinner.
The Convergence (AKA The Polar Front) moves each year. It's where the cool waters of the South meet the warmer waters of the North but it affects not just temperature, but salinity and density too. This great mixing means that nutrients from the sea floor are brought up to the surface - making it a highly productive area. The only way you know when you cross this would be from the temperature readings of the ship (it's not any more rough that other areas of the Drake Passage). In summer, it can vary from the North being almost 8C while South of the convergence the water temperature could be around 3.9C.
Drake Passage "Drake Lake"
As stated on the Homeward Bound website homewardboundprojects.com.au/about/ "The project is supported by a world-leading global faculty who are experts in their various domains including a filmed faculty with contributors such
Dr Jane Goodall (primatologist and environmental campaigner);
Franny Armstrong (film maker behind ‘The Age of Stupid’, 100 most influential women);
Dr Sylvia Earle (global leading Marine Biologist, explorer, author, and lecturer);
Christiana Figueres (Former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change);
Dr Amy Edmondson (Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at the Harvard Business School);
Dr Susan David (Co-Founder and Director of the Institute of Coaching, awarded speaker and coach, Harvard A-lister);
Clare Bowditch (award-winning Australian singer and activist);
Dr Robert Kaplan (developed Balanced Score Card strategy execution methodology);
and Valerie Taylor (shark expert, known for her conservation advocacy and films)."
This afternoon we had a video message recording from Dr Sylvia Earle. No other program is scheduled (planned this way in advance) due to the sailing conditions as even in good conditions, the crossing of the Drake Passage, plus the first 2 days at sea means that no-one is able to do much.
After squashing everything back into our backpacks and checking out of the hotel, we had a full morning of program content. This morning we looked at our Life Style Inventory (LSI) results and then did an individual LSI survey on our ideal leader - what traits would we like them to have? How would we like to be treated by them? We then revealed the results and shared in groups. Despite our hugely varying backgrounds (country, age, career progression, current job etc), we were all surprised how similar the results were. Blue is a "constructive" leader - we then averaged our scores for each attribute and charted this for each group (seen below). We then compared these results to our own LSI results (from the previous 11 months + life coach sessions), we had two LSI results, the first being how we viewed ourself, and the second, how others viewed us.
Life Style Inventory (LSI) charting
Ready to go! Left: our sponsorship gifts from Kathmandu, our jackets, transfer packs (hat and bottle not pictured), plus Emma the Penguin from Discovery Dundee. Right: team HB2018 Scotland, Beth Christie (University of Edinburgh) and I - ready to board the ship
Our ship (note, it's not a boat because a ship is a vessel that is large enough to have boats on it) is called Ushuaia (the same name as the town we are currently in). The leadership had two options, one to use a scientific research vessel for three weeks, or to use a tourist ship. The pros of using a scientific research vessel is that, with the correct permits, we could have collected samples or carried out experiments. The cons: not all scientists on board did conventional science i.e. they may work in scientific policy, as vets, in education, as doctors etc. and even of those traditional scientists, some were social scientists. Even of the physical scientists, many did research that couldn't benefit from samples or measurements collected in Antarctica. Such was the diversity of the HB team (which was amazing). Of the tourist ship option - The cons: no samples or measurements. The pros: using a vessel that would be going anyway (with tourists). The company offer 7-10 day expeditions to the public; they do the Drake passage, the South Shetland Islands and the top tip of the Antarctic Peninsula before the 2 days home over the Drake) This would be environmentally preferential; we could hire the boat completely (and therefore tailor it solely to our expedition, i.e. research stations). We could have our own expedition leaders and program. We wouldn't be using three weeks time on a scientific vessel which could be used for round the clock science samples and measurements. Needless to say, we took the tourist ship. As a research scientist who could have benefited from the collection of samples (with the correct protocols and paperwork) I was initially disappointed but really, when you weigh up the pros and cons and the fact that it may have detracted from the experience of being there and the leadership program, I'm actually glad this decision was made.
Today is a Scottish rain kind of day, low clouds and rather grey. Upon arriving at our ship in the dock, we checked in / registered - this meant giving up our passport for the duration of the journey (as is normal on ships) and getting assigned our cabin number. I was in a 300 number cabin, which was colloquially referred to as 'second class'. 'First class' or the 600s was upstairs with square windows, single beds and an en-suite bathroom, 'second class' downstairs with porthole windows, single beds and an en-suite bathroom, 'third class' or the 400s, was downstairs (near the engine), porthole windows, bunk beds and a bathroom between 4 people, i.e. between two rooms. So off I went to my 'second class' room (photo at end of today of bed). I was sharing with Maddie, an Australian plant biologist, based in Canberra (turns out she did her PhD in Oxford, so had lived in the UK for three years). Maddie and I got on great, we got organised and unpacked (advisable before the Drake Passage) then went upstairs for our welcome champagne (!) and to meet the crew and make introductions.
It felt quite odd being on a ship in the Beagle Chanel, after all, as a scientist who studies evolution, I was aware of Charles Darwin's sailing here and his book "The voyage of the Beagle". This was named after the HMS Beagle, a ship that Darwin was on during a hydrographic survey of the Southern part of South America from 1826 - 1830. The channel, much like Darwin's book is also named after HMS beagle (the ship). Darwin was self-funded under captain FitzRoy as a naturalist on board the voyage. Self funded, scientist, Beagle Channel - almost 200 years later, on the Ushuaia, with 79 other women scientists we are the largest expedition of women scientists to Antarctica that there has ever been.
Dinner in the galley was interrupted with the ship doctor giving us all sea-sickness medication. Whilst meeting the crew, the doctor has introduced herself and insisted that none of the medication we had spent ages researching and planning and getting was any good. None of it; not even the patches. She then stated that she would give out medicine at dinner. These were 5 blue pills (75 mg antihistamines apparently) which we were to take one every 8 hours, starting at dinner. Needless to say, it was an early night for all.
Kit Jackson is a global strategy map leading expert. She runs companies and in her spare time, like the rest of the dedicated faculty (pictured above, except Hayley - she's paid), she volunteers her time to the Homeward Bound program. She was on the ship last year but this year we get a day and a half of personal strategy maps (i.e. intensive) with Kit before we depart.
Well to be honest, I knew companies had strategy maps but I didn't know there was such a thing as a personal strategy map. These things looks terrifying, all planned out, across the three pillars 'relationships', 'self' and 'work' with things like 'vision' and 'mission statements' - seemed impossible!! Luckily this was going to be a three week work-in-progress. We started with value cards. These were as you'd imagine, a pack of cards with a bunch of values written out; there were quite a lot of them, maybe 100. We found a space, spread them all out and then ranked them into the three categories on how important they were to us personally, in order, top 10 values for relationships, self and work. I'll share my top value for each; relationships - sharing, self - integrity, work - purpose. This was all part of a personal strategy sprint, including interviewing each other on 'why' we applied for HB (and other tough-to-eloquently answer questions). Perhaps more questions than answers at this stage!
Just like that, it was 6pm and we were meeting our expedition leader. If you have never heard of Greg Morimer, let me introduce you: He's Australian, fearless and has infectious enthusiasm for all things adventure. He's also won the Medal for the Order of Australia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greg_Mortimer. Here he is explaining the Drake Passage (tomorrow).
I'll leave you with the words of Greg "Once you come to Antarctica, Antarctica never leaves you"
I didn't know what that really meant a month ago, this blog won't capture it, but at least it may give you a small glimpse.
Now I feel mostly anxiety about the Drake Passage, will I be able to repack my backpack, who will I be sharing a cabin with and why won't the hotel wifi work well so i can get all my last minute goodbyes done? Tomorrow Antarctica, beyond excited.
It was an early start: breakfast at 7am and the first full day of the Homeward Bound program (the expedition part as we've been on the HB journey for 11 months). LA was our MC today, she's the only one not pictured below (far left, sorry for not getting you in shot LA). LA is a LSI coach (and fun, brilliant person), LSI stands for Life Style Inventory and it's part of Human Synergistic's. We had done both a 360 (full profile) on both ourselves (LSI 1) and we had selected 8 people to review us / provide feedback on us (LSI 2) prior to HB. The important thing to note was it was not based on "us" but our leadership style; how did we see ourself, how did others see us? The feedback was vital, as often leadership courses provide the self (LSI 1) option, but rarely do we get anonymous feedback normalized against other leadership profiles. This process (over the space of around 6 months) included us having a 'life coach'. Mine was based in Australia. I'd meet with him (over Zoom) four times in total, usually for about 1.5 hours, and discuss pre-any results, after LSI 1, after LSI 2 and before the journey. These talks were invaluable in having time to reflect and process the huge amount of info and it also gave time to make some adjustments pre-ship and most importantly, to really consider that not everyone is like you, or in the same space as you, and really that's all about respect, for yourself and others.
It made sense then, along with our code-of-conduct (based on feedback from HB2016) that we established some "ground rules" for both the next two days, the ship, and beyond. We were in groups, this is our group making a start. It surprised me that even though we're all different (country, age, background, career stage, etc etc), it's surprising how similar our values are. The ground rules are:
1. Be kind to yourself and others
2. Respect yourself and others
3. Be open and curious
4. Look after yourself and others
5. Have fun
6. Be present and exercise mindfulness
7. Listen to all voices
Lunch was in a hotel, even further up the mountain (nearer the glacier) than we already were! After lunch, we got into groups of 3 and walked together with the aim of getting to know each other in small groups, we had to walk with people we hadn't already spoken to in the last 24 hours and swap groups at the top of the hike (half way). I loved hearing about Helen's PhD project (pictured nearest camera). She is based in Australia, and studies the restorative powers of nature on people and how they perceive nature, focused on rivers in urban areas.
In the afternoon we worked on creating a learning framework and learned about the four perspectives of awareness (1st - person, 2nd - empathy, seeing from the other persons needs 3rd - thinking about feelings, needs, thoughts (meta) 4th - bigger picture, synthesizing new patterns, future landscapes. After 10 hours we were all exhausted - dinner at the hotel then an early night!
It turns out that many of us have arrived 24 hours before the Homeward Bound program starts this evening. Fellow participant Karen Alexander and I worked together at the Scottish Marine Institute during my second postdoc from 2014-2016. She is now based in Tasmania, Australia. Over dinner last night and breakfast/lunch this morning we had met a fair few new faces. Knowing that the welcome dinner would be the start of an intense few days, Karen and I decided to walk down the mountain into town to explore - the city is small, with one main street and mostly tourist shops.
And so it begins, the Antarctica part of the year-long 2017/18 Homeward Bound program. Homeward Bound is a global women in science leadership platform. 1000 selected women will take part over a decade (2016-2027). We are the second cohort; the largest all-female expedition to Antarctica (78 women scientists).
We first met in January 2017, a year ago. It was our first monthly Zoom call (like Skype). We've seen each others faces, often over coffee, sometimes wine. The global time zones meant joining from bed, on the train to work or at 10pm after a long day, each for an hour. There was often so much to think about or do between the daily demands of work and life. The month between them passed quickly.
There we were; tired and enthusiastic all over again. Often it was overwhelming; so much to do, so little time, so many faces. Would we ever know everyone? There were triads, teams of three or four grouped together for meetings between the monthly Homeward Bound calls. This sometimes worked, but often didn't due to geographic regions and there not being a purpose. There was so much other program content to do (coaching sessions, life style inventory, science themes, visibility writing) This was just a chat so it often got pushed.
When we started sharing our various Homeward visibility stories, how we would describe ourself, our logisitcs (fundraising, travel plans etc), or excitement (visiting research stations, the wildlife, the time away from email, scientific collaborations) or fears (how were we going to find the money, 4 weeks was a long time to be away from home, what did we have to pack, would our insurance cover us?)
We got to know each other and better than that, we had created a safe space. No-one knew what we were going through but each other, and from this shared experience, we grew a network. 80 women scientist selected from across the globe, at different career stages, different backgrounds, different stories but oddly united. It was still overwhelming. Who signs up for this crazy experience? They must all be fearless and maybe loud and bold - would being on a ship with everyone be too much? I bought noise cancelling headphones. And now was the day we would meet up.
It was overwhelming to meet in a small room (prior to entering the function room) Putting 80 people in there at the best of times would have been intense. Add excitement, nerves, reunions, familiarity, travel stories and anticipation and the noise was deafening. Once we were seated in the big room (pictured above) for dinner, with 77 strangers (and two friends), it seemed more manageable. Everyone has worked an entire year to get here, said goodbye to loved ones, travelled many miles to the 'end of the world'. We recognized some, connecting previous stories with current faces and for many, including me, I couldn't believe how many people I didn't recognize! Dinner wasn't long enough, not even to get the introductions and questions asked for the 10 of us at each table, yet we are all exhausted - and tomorrow is the start of the first full day.
Wing and I then met up with some more fellow TeamHB2018 participants in Buenos Aires including Beth Christie (Scotland, UK - the only person of our 80 person cohort i'd met prior), Catherine Sorbara (UK), Hilary McManus (USA), Maddie Brasier (UK), Hannah Laeverenz-Schlogelhofer (UK) and about 4 participants from Australia - we took up a fair part of the plane from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia, traveling the length of Eastern Argentina (3 hour flight).
The region at the tip of Argentina is called Tierra del Fuego, the mountains were spectacular coming into Ushuaia
Ushuaia will be home for three nights. It's where we will all be together after the 11 month leadership program and where our ship will depart from on Sunday!
Arrived in Chile after a 14.5 hour flight from London at around mid-day. Santiago airport was busy and hot! After three hours in the airport and a full bag search in Santiago it was nice to relax (and have coffee) in Santiago, Chile and enjoy some sunshine before staying overnight.
First flight Glasgow - London Heathrow, then at 10pm I board my flight to Santiago, Chile. Where I join another fellow HB scientist for the day (it's the morning on the 13th when I arrive)..