Why travel to Antarctica?

Today, the Antarctica expedition members will board the boat for the passage south. Luba, a Consultant from London, writes about why she joined the trip.


I am headed for Antarctica.  “Have fun with the polar bears!” some have said.  Others wish me well as I head for the “untouched snowy wasteland.”  Others simply ask “Why?”

Before I answer that question, let me set two things straight.  First, there are no polar bears in Antarctica, as they inhabit the North Pole.  Second, Antarctica, sadly, is not untouched.  Although more people travel through the Atlanta airport in an hour than have ever set foot on Antarctica, we have all “touched” Antarctica through human-induced climate change and shrinkage of the ozone layer.  And it’s not a wasteland: it is a vast, beautiful, and ecologically critical part of our planet.

The answer to the question of “why” then is a deeply personal one.  I am an ecologist and geographer by training.  Antarctica is the origin of the ice cores showing us that today’s climate warming is unprecedented in hundreds of thousands of years of climate variability. For me, visiting Antarctica is akin to a pilgrimage.

Travel, though, is not just about traversing physical geography and finding the last frontiers of the planet.  When we travel, we are freed from the constraints of daily life. We are at liberty to roam through the geography of our own minds – to more easily explore the undiscovered coasts of our own consciousness and to take greater mental risks.   In particular, I have been told that visiting Antarctica is a somewhat cathartic experience – one that wipes the slate clean, creating a stark before and after moment in one’s life.  Amidst amongst the cathedral pillars of ice, the purity of air and water cleanses body and mind.

But what do we do with this cleansed and expanded spirit, with this newly charted mental map?  The sad fact of travel is that we do return to the constraints of our lives and these new mental “maps” are lost.  When I return to London in a few weeks, the alarm will ring at 5:45am.  I will stumble from bed to shower to car to train to tube to desk and by the time I clear my inbox of the hundreds of emails that have exhorted me to do everything from resolve an urgent work issue to raise money for charity to “get this sale price now!” this expansiveness will have been replaced with enclosure.

My goal on this trip therefore is to explore how we all can trap some of that expansiveness before the gates of normality close firmly behind us.  All 80+ passengers and I will come away from this trip with new ideas on how we can make more environmentally sustainable choices in our lives and our businesses.  Our challenge collectively will be how to retain the enthusiasm behind these ideas, and more importantly, how to turn these ideas into action.  Stay tuned as we try to unlock some answers in the ice…

– Luba

One Response to Why travel to Antarctica?

  1. Luba, wonderful note and wonderful words and insights; please say hello to Sri, Sidd & Diego as well; I appreciate what you all are doing for our world and in sharing these words and experiences. Can’t wait to hear more. Best, Russ

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