One last hike in Antarctica


The Bain trip members in Antarctica with expedition leader Robert Swan

“Wakey wakey wakey! Eggs and bakey!” Jumper’s voice roused me from sleep and I tumbled from my bed into my now well-worn thermals to prepare for our final landing at Brown’s Bluff.

I knew the routine by now: the day would start with a breakfast feast in the dining room – a mouthwatering buffet so lavish I rather suspect that they are stuffing us with the intention of feeding us to the penguins as a tasty meal at the end of it all. We sit and eat and laugh, lulled by comforts of the ship into a false sense of security, when in fact, outside our ship there is a beautiful, harsh, nothingness – no people, no cities, no hospitals, no lifelines. “Antarctica wants you dead,” Rob Swan reminds us.

After breakfast, I put on my final defenses against the elements – my outer shell, hat, gloves, and ski goggles. We queued for the Zodiacs (the rubber dinghies that would take us ashore) and before boarding dipped our feet in “Zirkon”, a pink disinfectant that helps protect the Antarctic environment from foreign seeds and pathogens. After a zip across the cold waters, we landed at Brown’s Bluff and “roped up”, meaning that our team of eight people bound ourselves together with rope so that if one person slipped on the ice, we could all catch their fall.

It was sad to think that this was the last time our “Team Tidal” (named after a renewable energy source) would be roped up for a hike, but I knew that in fact we would always be bound together. Spending two weeks together experiencing Antarctica is life-changing. I think in all of us it has awoken a childlike wonder and a desire to view our world and our lives for the first time. I have laughed at the antics of penguins, wondered at the eeriness of brash ice suspended in a deathly still sea, marveled as killer whales tracked our ship. A couple in our group have even pushed the metaphor of re-awakening further, and renewed their wedding vows at the top of the glacier. I had the distinct privilege of playing the part of maid of honour, and clipped a white, billowing pillowcase to the bride’s head as a token veil.

We slid back down the mountain and hurried back to the ship so that we could beat a storm that is about to hit the Drake Passage. I shed some layers and sat in the lounge drinking tea, eating the now famous chocolate chip cookies (more food!) and reviewing the photos I have taken. I am so pleased with my photos, but realize that their beauty is sadly not a result of my skill as a photographer as it would be an effort to take a bad photo in Antarctica. It is a surreal background against which to suspend your life: everything comes into sharp focus here.

Sri, Head of our Bain India office, and I sit down with a group of young students from Dubai who are looking for guidance on how to implement their ideas to reduce energy consumption in their school. We have spent much of our free time on the boat listening to people’s ideas and working with 2041 as an organization to chart a course and focus the mission so that their ships can sail in the right direction. It has been a privilege to apply our consulting skills in such a unique context.

Jumper’s voice comes on the intercom again: “Team Inspire! Team Inspire! Team Inspire! The staff have been hard at work preparing your lunch and the dining room is now open.” More food! I head down to the trough with my fellow adventurers as we collectively marvel what an inspiration this has been.

– Luba

This post also appeared on the 2041 expedition blog.

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