Drawing parallels between two historic female expeditions, co-founder Fabian Dattner shares a glimpse of the magic of Homeward Bound

In 1969, Sylvia Earle was part of the Tektite Project, an alliance between an entrepreneur and General Electric. She led a team of women, perhaps eight including herself, on a 28-day underwater expedition. The women lived together in a purpose built ‘home’ (bedrooms, kitchen, bathroom and research lab) at 70 meters (saturation level). On average they spent about 8-10 hours in 24 working outside their life pod, doing research in the surrounding waters.

At the time, it was predicted that the women would have problems living underwater, isolated, together, for 28 days (compared to the 19 teams of men doing the same thing over the two years of the experiment). What actually happened was very different from what was predicted. Media hyped up the likelihood of ‘bitchiness’, ‘cat fights’, issues about managing without hairdryers and the probability of simply not getting on. In fact, the team bonded quickly, collaborated, shared all chores and required no visible leadership. They also did an average of 20% more science than their male counterparts.

On the 2nd of December 2016, the MV Ushuaia departed from Ushuaia with 76 women with a science background, and a faculty of eight, only two of whom were men, plus a film crew.

This is a glimpse into the magic of Homeward Bound:

The ages vary from 24 to 64, from geologist to zoologist, from introvert to extrovert, from married to single, from deeply vested in family, pets and gardens, to seasoned world travellers with no attachments and from high-profile university professor, to new PhD student.

These women are the first of a targeted 1,000 women with a background in science who will, over the next decade, share the same opportunity to focus on the place of their leadership in our world.

What I have observed:

1. They are clever, compassionate, complex, critical, able, practical, diverse.

2. They are also challenged, carry big stories, sometimes defensive, perhaps occasionally overwhelmed.

3. They are playful, curious and kind.

4. They collaborate – on content, areas of expertise, and also on cures for colds including medications that help with blocked noses, sore throats (we are not sure who patient zero is but both a common cold and something more like flu have stormed their way through the participant and faculty alike).

These brilliant, capable, hugely experienced people have listened, pondered and experimented with good heart on the content of Homeward Bound.

They have tobogganed down isolated hills and partied at night to 80s hits – with no complaints and a growing gratitude for the scale of what we are trying to do together.

I am privileged.

That is what I think on often.

Fabian Dattner is the co-founder of Homeward Bound. Read more about Fabian on the ‘Leadership’ page.

(Feaured image by Songqiao Yao)

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