So what do Homeward Bound women talk about when resting on rocks overlooking a glacier as the clouds come in? Heidi Steltzer shares the chats, glaciers, iceberg galaxies, ambition and optimism of day 14

We parked in Andvord Bay today, still waiting for ice in the Gerlache Strait to clear. The day began at 7:40 am: “Hello, possums!” said the voice from the speaker. “It is a grey day,” a grey snow-filled day. It snowed while we worked on visibility. It snowed while we worked on strategy. It snowed during the Symposium at Sea, as we learned about resilience from Kerry O’Brien and Deb O’Connell. And it snowed as we plunged into an ice filled sea.

As part of our visibility training, we have written our own story and now we write our community’s story, looking for the intersection. This will define the zone in which we can find a common purpose, empathy, a shared story. After an acid mine spill occurred in my community, my community would like to feel safe. Is there a way that river science can help to provide this?

Possibly, but I’m only beginning to see this intersection.

Here in Antarctica, the snow continues to fall. Big, wet flakes that melt within seconds coating the deck, the stairs, and the zodiacs in liquid water. Snow makes it feel like the season of giving.

Solstice and Christmas are near. I’d nearly forgotten, because the light lasts all day. Those from the Southern Hemisphere might feel different, by my Northern Hemisphere soul expects dark skies at this time of year.

We discuss platforms that we’d like to learn about, ways to be visible as leaders. We create an endless list: Twitter, Facebook,, high-impact journals, and more. Tomorrow night, we will share what we know with each other, helping to inform our decisions on which platforms best meet our visibility plan.

Kit begins again on strategy. She continues to share her story, leaving us spellbound. My mind spins back to visibility, defining ever more communities with which I’d like to engage. Strategy is followed by a personal coaching session with Julia, and the suggestion that I should focus more. A shotgun approach will not have the impact I want. I know this, and also know that I will need more coaching through this process. ‘I can do anything, but not everything’ needs to be my mantra.

It takes structure and discipline to make sure things get done. The purpose of the strategy maps we have developed through this process is to help us with discipline. I need to take fewer notes and make my map.

From Kit, we learn that the quality of conversations informs a lot on leadership within an organisation. Conversations need to be inclusive. The conversations on this ship are more inclusive than almost any I have ever experienced. We have common ground to be collaborative, to have a legacy mindset, to hike snow covered hills, and to jump into ice filled seas together.

The Symposium at Sea presentations from my fellow participants have been incredible. A chance to learn about the work in which each of us are involved. Sarah Brough shared with us that icebergs are like galaxies. I was intrigued, but couldn’t see this. The images of ice in sea near an active glacier capture the relationship (photos by Andrea Fidgett). The imagery creates the connection I needed to translate the ideas of an astrophysicist.

Nicola Gaston shares with us that we should be defining what is ambitious. Ambitious is not to leave our planet for another galaxy; it is to learn how to stay on our planet, using expertise in nanotechnology to do more with less.

Late afternoon, we zodiac to shore, hike through knee-deep snow, and nest. At the top of a hill, just before it becomes crevassed, we find a patch of rock. Four becomes eight and eight becomes 10 of us perched on an Antarctic hillside, overlooking a glacier. We listen. We watch. We chat.

What do 12 Homeward Bound women talk about when resting on rocks overlooking a glacier as the clouds come in? We talk about life and the lichens that surround us. We talk about our planet, and what is needed to reduce human impacts. We talk about science. And we have fun.

We hope for the glacier to calf while we are there, even though these events transfer ice from land to sea. We want it to be a part of our Antarctic experience. The glaciologist in our human rookery waves her wand. We laugh and smile as we imagine one of us, any of us, having that kind of power to make glaciers lose their ice. As a collective, people have this power through the effect we are having on Earth’s climate system.

Our world is changing. Aspects of these changes are concerning. But we are optimistic.

Optimism permeates the human rookery discussions, the strategy, and the vision of our day.

Read more about Heidi Steltzer on our Participants page.

(Image by Songqiao Yao, looking over the glacier at Andvord Bay)

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