Patricia Menéndez. Lecturer Econometrics and Business Statistics at Monash Business School
Wind in stern to all sail jumping the waves along the Cape Horn we entered the sea of Sickles, we left the Antarctica behind. White, immense, serene and silent, full of life. Of a beauty so powerful and so real that irremediably makes you think, become aware of the impact that our way of life has on our planet and the need to preserve this place as special as unique. Antarctica is one of the last places of wild nature on our planet.
In these icy latitudes its inhabitants live and coexist, without fear and without haste, as they have done for millions of years. Penguins, seals, sea lions, whales and Antarctic birds are the owners of this land with which they live in synchrony and harmony. The sounds of this magical place are those of the voices of its inhabitants, the chords of the wind and the ice that form a piece in perfect harmony where there is also space for silence. Each of its inhabitants is part of a paradise as special as unique where the forces of nature are in command. The skies at sunset are a thousand colors, calm. Antarctica is a place where haste does not exist and where its inhabitants adapt to the inopportune conditions that change continuously.
No one can come to these lands and return as wine, this land touches your heart and connects with your soul.
Its geographical location and the inospitable characteristics of its climate, have allowed Antarctica to protect itself from the hand of the human being, however that is now changed. Today Antarctica is suffering both the effects of our way of life and the effects of climate change: its deepest marine currents are warming, its glaciers are retreating and the temperature in the peninsula rises at a disproportionate rate affecting the flora and fauna. The connection between oceanic and atmospheric processes means that these changes affect not only Antarctica but the entire planet.
In these last hours of our journey, more than ever, Antarctica whispers to me about the need to live in tune with it, with our planet and with the rest of its inhabitants. It reminds me of how tiny we are and how destructive we can be. As well as the need to change our way of life and our way of using our planet's resources. We have no alternative but an imperative necessity for our survival and for the continuity of our existence as we know it. Change is in our hands.
Kim-Anh Lê Cao (@mixOmics_team), Emeline Pettex, Clothilde Langlais (@DrCLanglais), Elisabeth Deschaseaux (@EDeschaseaux), Samia, Suzie
Hoy, los exploradores franceses y los aspirantes a líderes del mañana tuvieron una reunión sorpresa en medio del mar Antártico.
Today, French explorers and aspiring leaders of tomorrow had a surprise meeting in the middle of the Antarctic sea.
On our way back from the Carlini Argentinian research station on King George Island, we noticed a beautiful white catamaran anchored in the cove. What was it doing here? And why were there French signs on it: ‘Futuroscope’ and ‘Foundation Prince Albert II de Monaco’?
Intrigued, our expedition leader Seb circled the catamaran in our zodiac until we established contact with the mysterious sailors. We were astonished to meet a French science outreach expedition ‘Antarctic Explorers’, led by an inspirational woman explorer: Laurence de la Ferrière. She is a role model in polar regions, especially for us, the HB Frenchies and French-speaking HB sisters. Laurence was the first French to reach the South Pole solo with a sledge in 1997. She is also a talented and experienced mountaineering climber who has ascended Everest and was the base commander of the Antarctic French station Dumont D’Urville in 2008 for 15 months.
The ‘Antarctic Explorers’ mission is to bring awareness about climate change issues and plastic pollution, collecting stories from Antarctica for school kids. They are visiting research stations in Antarctica, and connect daily with more than 500 French schools. The crew of 11 includes sailors such as Raphael Domjan who was the first to round the world with a solar-powered catamaran and Eric Loizeau who was one of the main teammates of Eric Tabarly, a legendary sailor.
It turns out the ‘Antarctic Explorers’ had been following our journey before heading to Antarctica and they were excited to learn more about the 99 women from Homeward Bound 4. They interviewed us, the six French-speaking Homeward Bound sisters, about our experiences and aspirations for the future of our planet and they will report on our adventures to the kids back in France.
As we were all sharing our stories and our common intent to take care of our planet for the next generations, we realised that this incredible encounter meant a lot to us. We hope to get back in touch at the end of our respective journeys.
Michele Finn. President/Owner, MA Finn Consulting LLC Orange Beach, Alabama, USA American. Captain Michele Finn retired from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Commissioned Officer Corps with 25 years of service to the United States
I’m currently sailing through the Nelson Strait on the Polar Latitudes M/V Hebridean Sky. We are leaving Antarctica for Ushuaia, Argentina. The fourth cohort of Homeward Bound - 99 incredibly accomplished women dedicated to making a positive difference in this world - along with our faculty and the incredible group of people making up the ship’s crew have spent fifteen full days together and have two more full days onboard to go.
Today, I was asked about our leadership journey. First question - what have I learned from my time in Antarctica as part of this initiative? My response - Antarctica is awe-inspiring. From the animals and plants to the geography and the sunrises and sunsets, you don’t have to search for beauty. It is there in every glance and in every sound. The closest thing to a pristine environment on Earth and deserving of protection. And Antarctica makes me think of home. The animals and plants, the beaches and estuaries and the sunrises and sunsets of my current home and so many other places I love are also deserving of protection…even if they are far from pristine.
Second question – which day was my favorite and why? Answer – December 4 and the Brown Bluff (Northeast Antarctic Peninsula) landing. Not only did I see Adelie penguins for the first time, I also watched crabeater seals float by the ship on small icebergs. During this landing, I had the opportunity to sit alone in front of a small group of Adelie penguins and just explore my thoughts for almost an hour. I realized I was feeling a deep sense of community and purpose. A familiar feeling but one that I had been missing for over six years.
You see – I retired from my first career in 2013. I used to be a pilot, field operations expert and management professional for the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. As a pilot, I flew DeHavilland Twin Otters and Gulfstream IV aircraft in support of critical ocean, atmospheric and severe weather science. As a member and leader of flight crews, I knew I was part of a strong team making a difference for our world each and every day. I realized during my time sitting still at Brown Bluff I am now part of a new crew. One promising to leverage the collective intelligence and compassion of amazing women to effect positive global change. And as we were sailing away from Brown Bluff, I looked up to see an Argentinian DeHavilland Twin Otter fly directly overhead. An omen of great things to come as the Homeward Bound crew heads home.
Hinemoa Elder Professor Indigenous Health Research, Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi, Māori Strategic Leader, Brain Research NZ, University of Auckland Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist –Private Practice Waiheke Island, Auckland, New Zealand Māori New Zealander
I walked into the lounge fully equipped with my life jacket and winter accessories, eager to get an “I Heart China” sticker from Jing and then jump into the Zodiac for the landing that I have long hoped for. Soon, I saw our expedition leader walking in from the exit, shaking her head and stating “ the wind changed direction, it is too dangerous to make the landing…”
Antarctica could be full of uncertainties. Our efforts to visit the Great Wall Station can definitely speak to the unpredictability of an Antarctica voyage. However, it also shows collaboration, resilience, and relentless optimism of many Homeward Bound (HB) sisters.
The initial idea of reaching out to the Great Wall Station started among the Chinese HB multi-cohort chat group. Previous cohorts were able to visit the stations but due to short notice, they were only able to visit limited parts of the station. Thus, they urged HB4 Chinese team to reach out early. So we did. After more than a month of coordination, we set the sail towards Antarctic with a plan to visit the Great Wall Station on December 7th afternoon.
Soon after the starting of our voyage, we found out that December 7th was no longer a good option. With another round of e-mail exchanges albeit very limited network, we confirmed that December 5th would work.
December 5th finally came. The Chinese sisters have been checking on whether we could make a landing more and more frequently as the day approaches. However, the weather has been rough since the day before. Looking outside the window, I immediately got worried as the wave outside looked larger than what we experienced during the Drake passage passing and it was snowing outside. Surely, the expedition leader told us that the wind speed was 45 knots outside, and we can only hope for a better weather condition to make the landing. Finally, after a whole day of waiting, we were told to get ready for the landing. The beginning of this blog summarizes what eventually happened. Needless to say, we were really disappointed especially the Chinese members. For many of us, visiting the Great Wall Station is the highlight of this voyage and it would be a dream come true.
The happy ending came the day after. Even though most of us more or less accepted the reality, the expedition team the HB faculties did not give up. It was a beautiful sunny day and the ocean is calmer. I was in the shower after returning from the Carlini station visit in the morning when I heard the announcement asking me to go to the bridge. Suddenly I felt hope and ran to the bridge as fast as I managed to. We were not able to get connected with the Great Wall Station for the first several trial but mid-afternoon, we finally got hold of them and confirmed that we could make a landing the same day.
The largest women scientific expedition to Antarctica was able to finally visit the Great Wall Station full of excitement. We were extremely fortunate to be able to learn about the history of Great Wall Station and visit some of the facilities. In many ways, the development of the Great Wall Station also shows the resilience and optimism of Chinese scientists and early Antarctica explorers as China in the 1980s is far less developed as it is now.
Antarctica is a special place, as it tests our patience and persistence when conducting even the basic daily tasks such as communicating with each other. For several days, we were not able to have good internet to keep the coordination going. Each exchange depends on the technology, the weather, and the ship’s whereabouts. I thank everyone who expressed their generosity, kindness, and flexibility to make this visit happen and it certainly will be one of the best memory of my lifetime voyage to Antarctica.
Dr. Blanca Bernal, Ecosystem Services Analyst and Dr. Marga Gual Soler, Expert in Scientific Diplomacy
The presence of female scientists in Antarctica throughout history officially begins in the mid-20th century, when marine geologist Maria V. Klenova arrived in Antarctica in 1956 as a member of a Russian expedition to investigate the southern ocean. Previously, women had arrived on the frozen continent as companions of their expeditionary husbands, as workers in whaling stations or, as so many other times in history, disguised as men because the circumstances of the time did not allow them to publicly and freely exercise roles that were the exclusive privilege of men. Professor Klenova thus changed the imprint that women have left in Antarctica, progressively opening the doors to other scientists, as was the case of our Josefina Castellví, the first woman to direct a scientific station in Antarctica and a pioneer in research on the continent.
Over the years, there has been increasing visibility and recognition of women scientists and their contributions in the field of research. Despite the achievements, women are still a minority in decision-making processes and leadership positions in all sectors. In the polar sciences, the ratio of women to men decreases as we progress in positions of responsibility and recognition, for reasons that have nothing to do with our professionalism or knowledge.
Today we are breaking a new barrier with Homeward Bound. This program selects women professionals in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEMM) from around the world and trains them in strategic thinking, team management, visibility and leadership over the course of a year, culminating in three weeks of intensive training in Antarctica. In 10 years, Homeward Bound will be a global network of 1000 women in STEMM, collaborating and working towards an alternative leadership model.
From the largest female expedition to Antarctica in history and inspired by the women who broke the ice roof, we invite you to join us in sharing our vision and our project: a better future, where sustainable development is its very purpose.
Marga Gual Soler, Expert in Science Diplomacy and Science Policy Adviser to the European Commission
December 1, 2019 - We are sailing across the Antarctic Peninsula with Homeward Bound, a global leadership initiative aiming to connect and train women scientists from around the world to influence the policies and decisions that will shape the future of our planet. This is the largest all-women expedition in Antarctic history (100 women from 35 countries), and today acquires special significance as we commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Antarctic Treaty.
In this voyage we have experienced firsthand the uniqueness of Antarctica. In addition to its immensity, beauty, fragility and vulnerability to climate change, we have learned about its unconventional governance model. Thanks to the Antarctic Treaty, born in 1959 at the height of the Cold War, Antarctica has remained for 6 decades as the only continent without countries, national borders or wars. A continent that does not belong to anyone and at the same time belongs to us all, and a natural laboratory to study and understand the impact of climate change on our planet.
The origins of the treaty date back to 1957, when the International Year of Geophysics (IGY) was celebrated in Antarctica. That year, 12 countries (Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States and the Soviet Union) worked together to establish scientific research programs on the continent. Some of these nations had previously claimed parts of the continent, but the IGY helped reduce political tensions between them and resulted in a permanent solution for the joint management and governance of Antarctica, culminating with the signing of the Antarctic Treaty on December 1, 1959 in Washington, DC.
It is in that spirit of collaborative leadership and collective responsibility that we must now address our most pressing global challenge: the climate crisis. With all eyes on COP25 in Madrid, it is especially important to remember the role that Antarctica and the oceans play in regulating the Earth´s global climate system. More than ever, we must integrate science and diplomacy to unite all nations in the face of a global challenge no country can solve on its own.
In an increasingly divided world, the Antarctic Treaty endures today as one of the most successful international agreements in history and a triumph of science diplomacy, demonstrating the power of the universal language of science to overcome our differences and work together towards a common goal: protecting and preserving our planet for future generations.
Graciela Sczwarcberg HB4 on-board Leadership facilitator / LSI coach
Just when I think it can’t get any better, we arrived at Neko Harbour. Starting the morning (very early today) with the chirpy voice of the Expedition Team Leader “Good morning, good morning… 7 degrees today”, my soul feels content! I am hiking up this magnificent site, glaciers on one side, penguins on the other; deep snow and a long trail of women behind me. There is a rock at the end of the walk and I have silent time in which to reflect. The strength and vulnerability of the landscape says it all. A quick shower, beautiful lunch on the deck and I’m ready for the afternoon program.
By day four of the Symposium at Sea, I thought I would get used to hearing about these womens’ passions, their work and their lives. But no, I haven’t. My colleagues jokingly ask me to move away from the video recording of these presentations because I constantly interfere with my “ohhhs” and “ahhhs” but I can’t help myself! Theirs are stories of triumph and loss; stories of knowledge and isolation, stories of lifting themselves up from disappointments and never giving up. These stories are a constant reminder of why we are here and why we need to change the current leadership paradigm. I am feeling humbled, moved and exhilarated, all at the same time.
To finish another incredible day, the conversation switched to diversity and inclusion; about our role as ‘privileged’ people and our responsibility to bring our own and other voices to the table. And there is more. I can see transformation. It happens everywhere, on land, on the ship, and in those long conversations. Longing for sharing, for finally feeling that they belong, these extraordinary women have embarked on a journey of discovery of Self and together they are committing to a better world
Dinnertime arrives and we find ourselves sailing the Strait of Gerlache. The tiredness mixes with the emotion in days that do not stop surprising us. We have just visited the largest colony of Gentoo penguins in the Antarctic Peninsula, with about 3000 pairs of specimens. Impressive icebergs surround Cuverville Island. Surrounded by this indescribable beauty we observe the infinite fragility that accompanies us and we realize the need to protect Antarctica.
Such a pure natural environment deserves the most exquisite care to keep it that way after our visit. The first concern is the introduction of non-endemic species into this ecosystem. Therefore, the first thing we had to do before we could go ashore was to make sure that all the material and clothes we were going to wear were completely clean. In addition, before and after each landing from the boat, we disinfected and brushed our rubber boots so as not to bring to land any non-native material from the boat and also between visits, as the fauna and flora vary between the different Antarctic ecosystems.
The health of the fauna that lives in these places is extremely important in our expedition and we strive to follow the regulations stipulated by IAATO (International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators). We maintain the safety distances stipulated with the fauna, at least 5 m from the penguins and at least 15 m from any mammal such as seals and elephant seals.
In addition, as we are in such a confined space, the boat, we also take precautions to protect our health. We acquire simple habits such as coughing into our arms and washing our hands frequently. Since we are a hundred participants and come from so many different places on our planet, many of us have been vaccinated against the flu. Influenza or gastrointestinal diseases are the diseases with the greatest potential to spread and we definitely don't want to spend a few days without being able to participate in program activities.
The luck that we feel for being able to live this experience, observe and enjoy this incredible place mixes with the responsibility of taking care of it and transmitting this message to the whole world and to future generations. We are ambassadors of Antarctica.
Dr. Emeline Pettex. Marine Ecologist (La Rochelle Université, France). Editing - co-writing: Marissa Parrott
As a marine ecologist, I applied for Homeward Bound without having any idea of what leadership could mean for a scientist like me. For a long time, the word leadership was beyond my grasp, for the simple reason that the word has no translation in French. However, I embraced the Homeward Bound journey with the willingness to learn and a strong desire to make a difference for the planet.
Throughout the year-long program, I hoped for enlightenment, resisted the challenge of leadership, and eventually understood the kind of leader that I could become. My journey is just beginning. As we have started to discover the incredible landscapes of the South Shetland Islands on our way to the Antarctic Peninsula, we are being nourished by inspiring leadership stories.
The first was from our global leader and CEO of the Global Fund for Women, Musimbi Kanyoro. Raised in Kenya and inspired by the leadership and compassion of her mother, Musimbi promotes inclusion, recognition of the skills of those around her and the fearlessness to admit she doesn't know all the answers, but will lead her team to find the solutions. She does not fear failure, but strives to make the world a better place.
The second story was from a very different leader, Sir Ernest Shackleton, an Antarctic explorer who attempted to cross the continent one hundred years ago. With his boat, the Endurance, trapped and then destroyed by ice, Shackleton led his crew on a 22-month journey of survival in the harshest and most dangerous place on earth. Due to Shackleton's courage, leadership skills and audacious choices, his entire crew survived insurmountable odds to return home.
Despite their differences in circumstance and time, both Musimbi and Shackleton share similar leadership qualities. They teach us the importance of inclusion, and to support and surround ourselves with people who have the skills we need to succeed. It's alright to not have all the answers, as long as you have the courage to continue to reach for your goals.
The power of being stronger together is at the essence of leadership, which is how I feel surrounded by 100 women in STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Medicine and Mathematics) sailing through the Drake Passage towards the Southern Ocean. This is the time to take our place for the greater good.
I have come to Antarctica from Pakistan, via a conference in Brisbane where I presented on agriculture – my field of endeavour. I was drawn to the purpose of Homeward Bound because I am keen to learn and share the experience of other women who are working effectively in leadership and I wish to build strong connections with them and others. Of course, I also plan to implement the learnings when I will be back in my country with the visible approach. I am really humbled by the support of ACIAR (Australian Centre for International Agriculture Research) and David McGill (Project Leader) to trust me and supported me to be the part of Howard Bound leadership program.
The captain of our ship, the ‘Hebridean Sky’, has introduced his team one by one, and the Polar Latitudes expedition team shared their experiences in leading expeditions to Antarctica. It was not a surprise that women are playing a leading role in these expeditions but also caring about nature and family.
Early in the morning, taking a deep breath of fresh air at the top deck of the ship, it feels like we can conquer the world around us. The peace and calm at sea are accompanied by deep sadness around the deteriorated world underneath, a consequence of human activity.
On board the ship, life is totally different from life on land, looking after each other and experiencing togetherness at its highest. I am lucky to have the privilege to be in Antarctica with the dynamic leadership team of Homeward Bound. The ship’s staff is very courteous and serving us delicious food. Sometimes, I feel lazy and try to eat less but the food and friendly environment make me feel like home.
I really enjoy the way we manage time during the day and night. The excitement to see the oceanic birds and mammals is almost inexpressible as everybody zooms out of their cabins after hearing the announcement to see the humpback whales nearby the ship. The fear of motion sickness is replaced by the excitement to see the biodiversity at sea. In the evening, after dinner I feel that our ship itself may be invisible in the vastness on the ocean, but the women on board are becoming visible as global leaders.
We are so excited to announce that the fourth group of incredible women who will be embarking on HOMEWARD BOUND 4 have safely arrived in Ushuaia, Argentina and will set sail for Antarctica tomorrow, on November 22.
The participants, who are in the final stages of a 12-month capacity-building program, will undertake a life-changing voyage to Antarctica to both increase the visibility and leadership of women with a background in STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine) and demonstrate a new model for leadership to create better outcomes for the planet.
Hailing from across the world and a wide range of disciplines and professions, these women are ready to take their place on the global stage as thought leaders, stewards and activists for a new leadership paradigm that the world desperately needs.
The statistics are dire. As advancements in STEMM fields increase exponentially, women still only hold 18% of leadership roles. Women consistently undersell themselves (which we see year-on-year in Homeward Bound) and are less likely to put themselves forward for leadership. Yet, when they do, they excel. This lack of women holding leadership positions in STEMM fields has been described “more like an endless loop than a glass ceiling”.