Homeward Bound Team 3 meet Icebergs

It has felt like a week of firsts, but in many respects this is a common theme throughout the Homeward Bound Program. As a strategic leadership program for Women in STEMM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics and Medicine) we’ve begun on our Personal Strategy Maps, established a new network, and had personal addresses from Christiana Figueres on the call to action for greater impact in arresting climate change. We have also explored the wonders of Tierra del Fuego National Park and seen Patagonian foxes in Ushuaia. The beauty of this program is that nature, exploration and adventure sit side by side with leadership, development and collaboration, from dawn through to the late evening dusk.

Two days out at sea on the MV Ushuaia and our Homeward Bound 3 expedition has been brimming with surprises. From our very first hours in the Drake Passage we were experiencing the birds of the south following the boat, from a lone Wandering Albatross, small groups of brown Giant Petrel, and a dozen black and white speckled Cape Petrels. The way they soar and glide around the boat is exhilarating and magnificent; they build excitement about all that is to come.

Early in the morning of the second day at sea we crossed the biological boundary of Antarctic; the Antarctic convergence. This is the line which defines Antarctica in the ocean; the boundary between the warmer northern oceans and the colder southern waters. It is also the point at which the sea water temperature drops several degrees. We are now in water cold enough to support icebergs. The air temperature is getting colder. It is early summer and we bear witness to Antarctic shaking off winter and spring.

By the second day at sea we encounter the first icebergs on the horizon, then sail past one at close range as we head to the Shetland Islands. We start to see cetaceans – whales and dolphins swimming past the ship, spurting water, or racing and leaping through the waves. The evening sunset paints the skies with a kaleidoscope of pinks, oranges, yellows, purples as the golden orb descends below the watery horizon.

And then there is the day of our first landing. We are donning our life vests for the first time, stepping our gumboots into the biosecurity foot bath for the first time, and soon we will be skimming across the silken smooth water in a zodiac for the first time. We are approaching King George Island; research stations in Maxwell Bay alone include those belonging to Chile, Russia, Argentina, China, Uruguay and South Korea. As we anticipate a visit to one of these, we will be the largest all-women party ever to do so. This thought sends shivers down my spine.

Antarctica is the chosen back drop to this major global leadership initiative for women in STEMM. Our entire learning focus will be framed by the Antarctic experience. Everything we do, everything we see, all the places we land, the people we meet, the animals we watch, all the discussions between us, the vision and values we focus on, the leadership and strategic content that we will be guided through, is all about our role in a sustainable world. How exciting to think of this world with far greater participation from women leaders in this stewardship, policy and decision making.