The Ushuaia is a beautiful old ship (NOT boat). If I were to compare it to a motel, I would say it’s a rough 3-star beastie that has an important history – from spy ship for the Russians to a Noah vessel for scientific research.
Inside the ship, it is a rabbit warren of rooms, from a couple at the bottom of the ship, without windows (two bunks) to the ‘luxury’ (said advisedly) rooms on the top floor with two double beds and a private bathroom.
If you are on the bottom of the ship, in theory there is a lot less rolling. The top floor is held for the faculty. These are the rooms in which we store program materials, have faculty meetings and do all the coaching (sometimes one on one, sometimes in groups).
So, what is life like on the Ushuaia? It is like a huge well-worn family home. We all find the spot that feels like ours, and that’s where we make our nest. This rabbit warren of rooms plays to our fantasies as children – the ship is our cubbyhouse. There is always laughter and talking and not infrequently headphones (to alert others to leave them be, reflecting, listening to their own music, podcasts or simply creating silence).
For myself, every day has started with a quiet ‘good morning’ to Christiana followed by the sometimes tricky process of boiling water and making both of us a cup of tea in bed. It’s tricky because you have to boil the water while holding the kettle (just in case), then get out the milk from the fridge (holding it firmly, just in case) then getting my mug and Christiana’s thermos (also holding them firmly just in case) and then engineering making the tea.
Breakfast is my favourite meal, largely because I choose my own food, get a protein and vegie fix that is hard to repeat during the balance of the day. We all squeeze ourselves into tables and chairs that are fixed (made once upon a time for much smaller people). It’s not uncommon to get your leg wedged between two chairs. Un-wedging brings about a lot of laughter.
Many people have written about what we do during the day – the leadership work we cover and the places we visit, so I won’t repeat this now. All I will say is the most memorable part of Homeward Bound is the overwhelming sense of belonging, the collaboration, the laughter and the kindnesses which are ever present.
Homeward Bound is the overwhelming sense of belonging, the collaboration, the laughter and the kindnesses which are ever present.
Homesickness, motionsickness, fatigue, overwhelm are all part of the journey but it is the immense love and friendship that is the constant. Very precious and it makes me wonder what our world would be like if women led, at the very least, in equal measure to me.
Vision without action is merely dreaming
Action without vision simply fills the day
Vision and action change the world
(Lauren Isley, poet, philosopher, mathematician)
Sometimes, when we are in full flow with the program, and 90 women are working together (this includes the faculty), and I can see Antarctica through the generous windows, I have to pinch myself. It is, with high degree of precision, what I dreamt.
The original vision is the core of Homeward Bound, but around this vision have come the ideas, input and influence of many voices. Most of these people have been prior alumni and some are specialists in communication, science, leadership. Together we have dramatically grown Homeward Bound, always towards building leadership capability in the hearts and minds of participants.
For me, the vision is most obvious in the willingness of very clever women to go the journey. This journey is about exploration of self, as an enabler of understanding and leading others. For me, we will struggle to unite on what’s not working on our planet IF we are unable to understand the context we are living within.
To this end, I have been running ‘deep dive’ sessions for participants who want to explore sense of self at a different level. These group sessions can be for 6 – 10 women. While I am doing this, the on-ship coaching team are doing a series of one on one coaching sessions and likely 1 or 2 faculty are delivering content.
These deep dives capture a lot of the heartbeat of the vision – they are curious, brave, vulnerable and open. The women want to move to a constructive space as a leader, yet many have to struggle or muddle your way through your own internal voice which for women, is frequently at odds with our external behaviour.
The transformation is evident in front of me as I write. We are at anchor on the Beagle Channel and the wonderful Sophie Adams is facilitating both our reactions to our wild night last night living through the Drake Shake and the complexity of coming back into the ‘real world’.
Every thing needs conversation and consideration. And in a world that has become task obsessive, this is an important process
I knew I had something to offer to Homeward Bound. I hadworked for a long time behind the scenes and now was the time to step forward. It coincided with my increasing interest in, and success, with one-on -one coaching in Australia.
Having worked as an LSI coach for several years, I had experienced my own personal transformation from living in aggressive defensive red and passive green quadrants, to shifting to a constructive blue zone. I felt in my bones that I had to be on this trip. I knew how I could support Fabian, the faculty and participants. I am a constructive person and my clarity comes from a deep willingness to be self-reflective. I think that makes for a good coach.
The impetus was my own participation in Dattner Group’s flagship program, Compass – Visionary Leadership program for Women (which has helped over 1,200 women on a similar journey). I felt like I had a head start and had genuine pragmatic insight about transformational processes at a very personal level.
It was exciting getting on the ship but, despite my experience, I retreated in the first couple of days. I was dealing with ‘jetlag’ and ‘seasickness’ meds and not feeling good enough to do the job at. I had a dual role – coaching participants and managing social media ship to shore comms. At the start, I realised I was hiding myself away – that nasty little internal voice was telling me all sorts of things.
As the trip progressed I felt a great sense of connection and collaboration, without judgement, to my fellow leadership faculty and the participants. It genuinely felt like a substitute family and that was enough. I also came to realise that no matter how clever and intelligent these HB women are, the majority are walking around with the same narrative in their heads of not being good enough.
I also learned more about myself on this trip. I am a high achiever who likes to get tasks done. But when I focus on this too much, I miss the chance to connect with the broader group and contribute at another level. This key insight will come home with me in find a place in my professional role back at HB HQ.
Right now, I don’t want the journey to end. I’d love to stay in this bubble, isolated from the world, 100% focused on the wellbeing of others… but having said that I can’t wait to see my family and friends and be surrounded by their love. Ultimately, I am glad I have made a contribution in building the bond between the participants, the faculty and our purpose.
I am the blue glue.
My network is stronger for knowing these incredible women. I completely agree with Fabian Dattner when she says, “Every conversation is a gift with these women.” Conversations over meals, in the program work, when out on the ice, when laying in our (gently swaying) beds in our shared rooms – all are unique and special. The strength of Homeward Bound lies in the participants and the alumni. I am really excited to see what a network of 1000 incredibly clever, passionate, dedicated women can do to save the planet – using Homeward Bound as a visible platform. I feel very bonded to these women on the ship, whom I share daily life with – I am going to miss them so much when we get back to our homes!
We have been doing a lot of personal reflection whilst on the ship and in Antarctica. It is an immersive leadership experience. There are long days where we have hours and hours of work to do whilst on the ship– leadership, visibility, strategy, science – and then we land on Antarctica and have moments of fun, play, and also reflective silence, where we spend time thinking about ourselves and what it means to us to lead, how we want to make a change, and the strategy that will lead us there. It is a true gift to have this time to deeply reflect upon what we have learnt and how we will use it to lead more effectively in the world.
We take zodiacs from the ship to land– these are small boats constructed of high polymer fabrics with several airtight compartments, and are versatile, and allow us to leave the ship MV Ushuaia to land on the islands and the continent of Antarctica. On land, we see wildlife and spectacular landscape, and have this view to take the time to reflect upon the type of leader we want to be, in order to make a difference in the world. Thank you to our amazing team of crew and zodiac drivers – they are constantly teaching us new things!
A huge strength of the program is the diversity of the women. We come from many different countries and have so many different perspectives. Many of us have English as an additional language, and the program work uses this as a strength and as an asset. Here are Carolina (Columbian), Tiffini and Arthee (North Americans) trying an Australian Tim Tam biscuit for the first time (huge fans), and Charlotte from China trying Vegemite for the first time (she was not a fan but was so brave to try it).
Fabian Dattner leading us through one of our diagnostics. 4MAT is a tool that measures and explains the way people prefer to learn – that is, how they absorb, process and apply information. It is helping us understand how to make our team heard and understood, and for us, as leaders, to know how to help them achieve their best. We have learnt what our learning preferences are and how this impacts the people around us. We are now equipped to perform more effectively in our roles as coach and teacher in our workplaces. Me? I am a Quadrant 1 learner – someone who is vitally interested in personal meaning, who needs to have a reason for learning. Quadrant 1 learners are imaginative learners who ask “WHY?” and seek meaning, believe in experience, reflect on it, learn by listening and sharing, and are vitally interested in people. This hit the nail on the head!
Antarctica seems like a long way from anywhere but climate change is affecting the tiny plants and animals that make their home there. In the Peninsula region, that Homeward Bound 3 is visiting, the climate is becoming much warmer and wetter which means that plants can colonise new ice-free areas and grow faster.
On the other side of the continent it is getting colder and drier and the plants are having a tougher time. My team at the University of Wollongong has shown some East Antarctic moss beds are drying out and dying.1-3 So from pole to pole, and all around Antarctica, these tiny plants are recording how we are changing our planet. My team’s work shows that although these plants are tiny (a few centimeters tall), they can be hundreds of years old. They are the old growth forests of Antarctica, home to tiny microscopic animals like water bears or moss piglets (tardigrades) springtails and nematode worms, fungi and microbes. We know the plants are hundreds of years old because as they grow, they lay down a signal of the carbon dioxide in the air. That means they are sentinels for our past, as well as early warning of possible global futures.
These plants survive freezing winters, emerging from under winter snow for a brief summer of weeks to just a few months. They get their water from ice melt and their nutrients from ancient deposits of penguin poo, as well as more recent bird droppings. They grow all around the Antarctic coast, and it is exciting to think that we may be the first people to see some of these plants as they take over newly exposed land on the peninsula. Yesterday on 13th January, we saw a lot of moss growing near the Admirante Brown (Argentinian) Station.
Based on their past visits, our guides on the Ushuaia were able to show us how fast the ice is retreating behind the station and we can see the moss that is colonising these newly exposed rocks. We saw many species of bright green moss on this one landing. The day was so warm, we could see tiny animals, small as a pin head, running around. These invertebrates live in the tiny moss forests and on warm days roam around the nearby rocks looking for food. I was excited to see my first Antarctic midge (Belgica antarctica), the wingless fly that is found on the Peninsula. But there is also a sobering message of climate change in action.
Seeing first hand, how quickly the glaciers are retreating and the area is changing, makes the Homeward Bound goal of building a sustainable global future even more important.
On the 15th January #HB3 visited the historic British Port Lockroy Station, Post Office and Museum. Our expedition guide Monika is providing the history of the station, while Gentoo penguins manage the visitors. Exploration of the museum revealed a 1950’s cookbook with a recipe for Seal Brain Omelette, no doubt a station staple! Our omelettes on the Ushuaia just have spinach!
The women of #HB3 saw their first Antarctic solar panels on the renovated Port Lockroy staff accommodation. For women advocating for climate change it was inspiring to see changes being made across the globe at all levels.
Good morning expeditioners, wakey, wakey. It’s 6.30am and it’s another beautiful day in Antarctica. It’s slightly colder than yesterday, it’s zero degrees Celsius, a little overcast and we have 15 knots wind. Breakfast is in half an hour, good morning!” Monika Schellat, our expedition leader, wakes us up every morning.
In the morning session, we continue the science theme presentation with the “Pollution” group. Yalimay Jimenez, Colleen Fitzpatrick and Sofia Øiseth very visually show how much non-recyclable waste is produced on the journey from Melbourne, Australia to Ushuaia, Argentina. During the group presentation and the following discussions, we shared strategies and ideas on what actions we as individuals and on community level can take.
The reward after hard work and lots of reflection in the sessions: Zodiac cruises in the Melchior archipelago. Danny, Zhiyao Lu, Anabella Palacios, Yi Luo, Yalimay Jimenez, Mary McMillan, Charlotte Wong and Marji Puotinen are stunned. By what? Penguins, an iceberg, snow algae or rocks? You go and guess!
Team Wollongong is going strong within #TeamHB3: Prof Sharon Robinson, expert in Antarctic moss, and your daily correspondent today, Claudia Kielkopf, PhD student in protein biochemistry, both at the University of Wollongong, Australia. Claudia received the UOW global challenges travel scholarship that allowed her to travel with Homeward Bound.
We are absolutely spoiled by the crew with food! Today’s dinner: Corn soup, Shepherd’s pie and the surprise dessert of the day: Black “Jungle”, Antarctica style! What a treat after an exciting day full of insights, reflections and conversation.
Learning on board the MV Ushuaia is innovative and collaborative. We work together, sharing expertise and skills to build our capacity to lead. #womeninSTEMM We start our days in Antarctica with mindfulness practice. Today we used these cards to identify things to be grateful for. We are collectively grateful be in this wild and fragile continent and to have each other to learn and grow with. #strongertogether
Did you know we clean our boots before and after every landing to make sure we don’t bring any contamination onto Antarctica? We need to be sure we don’t bring any seeds or contaminants onto land that could threaten the local biodiversity. We sailed into Paradise Bay and took a moment to appreciate the beauty of nature. Every day on this continent is breath taking and transformative.
On the continent of Antarctica, the day starts when you climb into your thermals and gum boots, shrug on your snuggly jacket and don your gloves. You walk out the cabin door and along the passage, where there are life jackets and over pants swinging from every railing. In groups of six, you climb into the small rubber boat (zodiac) with your Homeward Bound sisters. There is a buzz of excitement as you motor away from the mother ship (MV Ushuaia).
The sky is blue, and the air is crisp. The snowy mountains and icy crevices, stretch out as far as the eye can see. The zodiac captain stops the engine and slowly the chatter of voices falls silent. You hear the lap of the waves, crackle of the pack ice, cry of the snow petrels and the gentle snoring of crabeater seals. You look around and see friends and inspiring female leaders smiling. You are truly present and at peace. You think: how can I share this moment with my friends and family? Let’s protect this special place.
During a hard day’s work, #TeamHB3 take a quick break to enjoy the spectacular view! How can we not be inspired to action with landscapes like this to take our breath away and motivate us to preserve it?
#TeamHB3 know how to work hard and play hard! In leadership we are not always dancing to the same tune, but we are creating spaces for us all to dance together. With our first steps on the Antarctic continent, #TeamHB3 show that we are leaders who not only reach the flags of success but we reach beyond the flag, because together we have no limits!
Have you ever experienced complete silence? Silence within the external environment but also silence within yourself? Yesterday at Danco Island in the Gerlache Straight, 80 women from 28 countries experienced it. After walking to the top of the Island through knee-deep snow, we chose an area to sit and experience silence in the Antarctic environment. The most striking thing I found was that in complete silence, even the focus mechanics in a camera sounded extremely loud, or the bang of the glaciers in the background as they were breaking apart. The glacial ‘booms’ echoed around the bay and it was hard to pinpoint where they came from. I felt so alert, but so still at the same time. The importance of external and internal silence is something new and valuable and I hope to take it into the ‘real world’ upon return.
Remember the time you jumped of a jetty into the ocean, or off a big rock into a lake? Did it take a while to build up the courage, or did you take a leap straight into it? As part of our leadership training in Homeward Bound, we are challenged to take a leap into the unknown and step into ourselves in order to become better and more influential leaders, towards a greater good. Taking time to watch the Gentoo penguins, I’ve noticed that some of them are also hesitant before they dive head first into the sea, while some dive straight in without a pause.
Can you think of a time where you saw a complete reflection in the water? Was it slightly distorted or a perfect representation? During our Homeward Bound journey, we are learning the importance of visibility, and crafting a consistent message. Visibility has three parts – visibility to ourselves, to others and as a Homeward Bound collective. It has challenged us to deeply reflect and to become visible to ourselves first and I have realised the importance of knowing and understanding yourself.
Climate change is affecting all of us. Imagine a world which is too hot to successfully raise your young. That is a reality for the Adelie penguins on Paulet Island, Antarctica. This year the landing was a shock for us to see the lack of snow on this particular island, which had all melted due to high temperatures. The Adelie penguin chicks are almost black; their dark colour absorbs warmth from the sun, but the warmer conditions this year are causing higher numbers of fatalities. We have seen first-hand the effects of a climate change world, and now we are all motivated to take action to create a more sustainable future.
How do you perceive yourself? Is it influenced by external factors and other people’s perceptions? As part of our leadership training on board we have been learning about how important it is to keep an open, positive mind – when thinking about yourself, others, work and how you want to lead and influence others. If you keep looking through a narrow lens you are likely to miss the whole picture.
Our Homeward Bound journey is very much about change, and it all starts with changing ourselves. Choosing courage over comfort, making ourselves more visible, and developing our leadership skills.
One of our main motivations towards initiating a change in ourselves and in our societies is to protect the planet for future generations. Thursday 10th was our (single) day off during the Homeward Bound voyage. Here a group of some of the moms are using their free time to show how their children are in their hearts, with them, along this adventure towards the greater good.
Change is omnipresent in our everyday schedule on board our ship the Ushuaia. Many of our scheduled landings have been cancelled because of the unfavourable ice conditions, or because of strong winds. This was the case on January 10th, but the change of plan was highly compensated by the ship finding shelter in the spectacular Flandres Bay. Adjusting to change and benefiting from it is part of our learning curve.
Exploring Antarctica provides a strong reminder of how change is omnipresent in the natural environment, at all spatial and temporal scales. When navigating amongst the delicately sculptured icebergs, we hear the glaciers cracking, we see icebergs breaking up, and we can sometimes witness avalanches on the slopes of the Antarctic Peninsula. Glacial recession over the last couple of decades is clear from glacial maps. Can you spot the Ushuaia ship on the picture?
#TeamHB3 is working hard on learning strategies and methods to implement successful change, so that this peaceful beauty is sustained.
As we were reflecting on how to be influential leaders, we glanced out the window to see the most incredible icebergs reflecting in the still waters surrounding the ship. Time for a break to soak in the beauty and reflect on how important it is to protect this world for future generations. Each iceberg is a work of nature’s art. The beauty of Antarctica inspires us to protect it even more.
Often there are obstacles in our path to realizing our vision. Leaders need stubborn optimism and agility to navigate the way towards our goals.
On January 9, we had a visit from staff from Palmer Station, one of three American bases in Antarctica, to hear about their ecological research and community outreach.
Leaders need to rest and reflect. On January 10, Homeward Bound participants had a day off from our lectures and the leadership program. We took a zodiac cruise around Finger Cove and soaked in the sun and gorgeous vistas, including Crabeater seals.
The jaw-dropping sights, ice formations and animals as well as the wonderful people on board our ship don’t stop amazing me. I couldn’t have imagined a better way to start the year! Back home a few children asked me if there were any gnomes in Antarctica? For a moment I thought I saw one in this ‘mushroom’ iceberg, but I’m not quite sure yet. I will need to do some further research.
Every day the staff of the MV Ushuaia treat us like queens. At every meal Maria welcomes us with her lovely smile and nice humour. Yesterday she even joined our costume party by carrying the jellyfish umbrella prepared by one of the participants.
Halfway through our expedition, the perfect moment to relax a bit and step away from our learning and reflections processes to have some fun, time to have a costume party. I loved all the creativity and wonderful costumes.
Dr. Colleen Fitzpatrick brought 2 guests along to travel with us. Flat Glen and Flat Glenda will have heaps of stories to tell in the Cardinal Glennon Children’s hospital. Not only of the beautiful learning environment Antarctica is providing us, but also of the amazing women on board and our growing ‘stubborn optimism’ to make this world a better place.
During our voyage our itinerary depends on the elements. This means we have to be flexible and adapt our plans to the weather and the ice conditions of the day. Yesterday we were supposed to visit the Palmer station, on Anvers Island. Unfortunately, the ice conditions weren’t very favourable, hence we had the pleasure to welcome a wide variety of staff members of the station on board our ship. They enthusiastically talked about their research and their lives in Palmer Station. There was even a Belgian connection as they study the Belgica Antarctica, the only true Antarctic fly.
Have you ever sat at one of those moments in your life when the clouds hang overhead and you’re not really sure which way is up? You long for a breeze to blow that mist away and give you a new view of that snow-capped mountain. Or, maybe you imagine that you’ll have a better view of that rocky beach at your feet - the stones underfoot will glow in brilliant colors the moment the light strikes.
But sometimes the gray is what you need before you find your way. We have experienced uncharacteristically warm weather in Antarctica. On our second landfall at Paulet Island, on the edge of the Weddell Sea, the temperature climbed to a sweltering 9 degrees Celsius (48 degrees Fahrenheit) on the beach. As a climate scientist, I know better than to attribute a single warm day to global warming. But it’s a fact that the likelihood of these types of warm days increases with rising global temperature, so our chances of making landfall on such a warm day along the northern reaches of the Antarctic Peninsula are not unlikely.
Antarctic weather does not disappoint, however. Things had changed by the time we reached our second penguin colony at Cuverville Island. A fog moved in on us and engulfed the ship. It rolled over the shoreline and obscured our view of the mountains. Soon, there were big flakes of snow settling on our hoods and sleeves as we boarded the zodiac for our landing. When the temperature hovers around or just above freezing, the snowflakes stick together in big clumps and fall like feathers. We skirted across glassy blue-grey waters, around icebergs sculpted by wind and tide. We could hear the shoreline before we could see it, and then, shortly afterward, along a snowy-covered slope above, we spotted Gentoo penguins scooting their way down a path in the snow toward the beach.
I sat on the beach for a while watching the penguins go about their business. Icebergs and cream-coated mountain peaks came in and out of focus as the mist shifted. As the temperature dropped further, the snowflakes became more distinct - intricate six-pointed stars, each with a different pattern. We call them ‘stellar dendrites.’ You will only see these if you pay attention to what appears from a dull gray sky.
We are nearing the half-way point in our leadership training program, and one of the things we talk about is moving through the confusion, through the mist, before things become clear. As our ship moves southward along the Antarctic Peninsula, the mist comes along the water and in our minds as we move to a new state of being. Similarly, the path toward a more sustainable world is not always so clear. Sometimes we just have to wait a moment to see what emerges from the fog.
She finishes washing her smalls. I watch her from my bed as she carefully places them on a towel. I’m an arm’s length away. She rolls the towel up and I reach out a hand. With no words exchanged, she hands me one end. In a timeless manoeuvre, we wring out the clothing, first one way, then the other. She comments on the clothes line I’ve brought with me. ‘So perfect’ she says with her Costa Rican accent. ‘We’ve been doing this for thousands of years’, I say smiling. She smiles back.
There are many moments like this which I’ve imprinted, moments of wordless synergy.>
I have a hero in my cabin. A powerhouse who did what many thought was impossible. I bring her tea in the morning; she quietly reaches out to take my computer from me when I fall asleep with it on; I set an alarm in the morning; she does yoga, I do impact exercise. We hang our handwashing on our makeshift line. We both move around the cabin with little to hide.
Any one who cares about climate change knows Christiana Figueres. She led the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) from 2010 to 2016. She was once upon a time an anthropologist, who became an organisational development manager, who became Costa Rica’s negotiator for climate change at the UNFCCC. She is driven by fairness, that no people should be disadvantaged. She took on the unenviable task of Secretary of the UNFCCC after the Copenhagen Conference of the parties in 2009 (COP 15). She replaced Ivo de Boer.
If this had been a publicly listed corporation, the shareholders would have been baying for blood. The COP was a complete disaster; no agreements were reached, global leaders felt unheard, betrayed, angry and, as some have said ‘deeply unwilling to talk again, divided and critical’.
The staff of the UNFCCC were exhausted, displaced and, in the face of overwhelming data affirming the need for leadership alignment, bewildered and depressed.
This was the organisation Christiana took over, progressively resurrected and, in fact, led to the now famous agreement by 195 countries committed to limiting temperature rise to well below 2.00 degrees Centigrade above pre-industrial levels by the second half of the century. The agreement was to strive for a maximum of 1.5 degrees (i.e. it would never go above this) and is known to us all as the Paris Climate Agreement.
I find myself looking at her and reflecting on what she has achieved and wondering (not infrequently) how we come to share a room on a ship in Antarctica.
We have walked and talked together a few times but mostly, we have shared this strange and compelling Homeward Bound experience. We have both become two amongst many – skilled in some areas, but largely (as with all the other women) humbled by the capability, generosity, good will, courage and vulnerability of all the women with whom we are sharing the journey. There is doubtless respect for Christiana, but it is not hierarchical and, as time progresses, it is a humble thing.
I have discovered that we both share, in large part, a similar mindset as leaders. Neither of us are scientists, but we have a deep regard for the practice, the critical thinking that underpins it and the importance for all of us of the data generated. She has been exploring Buddhism for the past four years. The focus on mindfulness, intention, compassion, self-awareness and the impact on our leadership are shared commitments.
Christiana talks about stubborn optimism (the word ‘stubborn’ entertains her). I talk about the importance of purposeful intention. She understands in her bones that an effective leader has a passion for cause and people. Any conversation at this level flows with ease between us and, indeed, we largely share common definitions. We both pursue self-awareness and the place of love (self, other, context). We both hold that the insight from this shape our leadership. Her commitment to her daughters, to being the sort of mother who grows capable, confident loved young women, is evident in many conversations. We are both mothers first and foremost.
She is fiercely intelligent. Her ability to appreciate the needs of others with neutrality, curiosity and openness is a thing to behold. She can articulate patterns in conversations and thinking, identifies ordinary and complex needs with equal grace. She sees where the flow will take people. She talks quickly, with an endearing habit (when her brain outpaces her mouth) of finishing an idea with ‘Dadadadadadadadadada’ so she can say what she really wants to say next. You follow her thinking and find yourself nodding – bewildered sometimes at how obvious her observations are.
I am not surprised this woman pulled off one of the negotiation feats of the century, on behalf of all of us. I am often surprised, nonetheless, that how she did this is so comprehensible to all the women she’s talking to. It feels like home. Of course, that’s how we should lead. It’s a tragedy that it is the exception not the rule.
She enters each part of Homeward Bound as one amongst many and she celebrates and elevates all she talks to. Common sense flows from her at high speed. I am aware, however, that this order of common sense is not common practice.
Undoubtedly, she is an iconic leader, but she is first and foremost an example of the leader we all wish for, man or woman. She is clear, self-aware, committed to helping and evidences a deep commitment to relationships. She is also vulnerable and unquestionably authentic.
I wonder who in the room, who amongst our alumni will emerge to have a similar role in our world, I wonder how many will rise up to lead with such grace and care. I wonder who will lead with equal awareness, making common sense common practice.
We are aiming for the hundreds, if not thousands.
Christiana Figueres gived #TeamHB3 a once-in-a-lifetime, behind-the-scenes look at what it took to get the Paris Climate Agreement over the line. Christina’s humility, generosity, fierce humour and – most of all – stubborn optimism is a model for the type of custodianship our planet needs.
Science diplomacy has an enormous role to play in ensuring our planet is protected for future generations. #TeamHB3 were proud to represent their nations and their work during a visit to Argentina’s Carlini Antarctic Base.
‘Case for blue’: it’s not often that you get a group LSI session on the top deck of the Ushuaia, in stunning Foyn Harbour, overlooking the Antarctic continent and her beautiful glaciers. Much like our surrounds, LSI prompts deep personal reflection within the context of self and others.
“This is what I always dreamed Antarctica would be like” was the common cry of #TeamHB3 as they were treated to incredible, blue sky conditions in Foyn Harbour. To have such a magnificent backdrop for deep, personal reflection while humpback whales feed in the background is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
The trip to Antarctica won’t last forever, but the deep friendships formed through the #TeamHB3 experience will last a lifetime. We share it all on this trip – the joyous highs and the soul-searching lows – and we pull through knowing that the HB ladies have each others’ backs. After all, ‘real queens fix each others’ crowns’.
Engrain these learnings in your life, you never know who is looking up to you. A crack in a large iceberg lets light shine through guiding the way to great leadership. Leadership is sometimes over-whelming, sometimes you take a wrong turn and need to try a different route, and sometimes you need a first mate to guide you, but in the end you will get there. At some point you have a “grounding” moment where you realise just how small you are. No matter how big you are, there’s always something bigger. Something that makes you feel tiny.
Today we did an early morning landing at Hydrurga Rocks on the Gerlache Strait. As we disembarked our zodiacs, we were instructed to move single file in silence past the two Weddell seals sprawled out on either side of our path so as not to disturb their rest. It felt a bit unreal to walk past a giant life-sized version of a stuffed toy with wide, innocent eyes I’d had as a child.
As we moved past the seals and up the hill, the sun highlighted the sweeping landscapes all who travel to Antarctica dream to photograph. Jutting rocks dotted with chinstrap penguins, surrounded by snow and sparking water. It was so bright, it actually hurt to look at without sunglasses.
We all came together to get an official photograph as a collective; a group of women from 26 nations. As we broke apart to explore the island on our own or take pictures with fellow women from our own country or with newly made friends, it dawned on me just how well we’ve come together on this journey. We’re here not despite our differences but because of them and our eagerness to learn from each other. To grow together, to lead together, to be stronger together. We are one week in to our three-week journey and though at times exhausting, I’ve experienced growth and exploration each day. My favorite, most cherished part is learning the stories of the others and what brought them to Homeward Bound, seal and penguin anticipation included.
The past couple of days have been dominated by the spectacular Antarctic landscape and wildlife. Encountering one of our first awe-inspiring tabular icebergs helps create a huge sense of shared experience and strengthens the connections between HB3 participants. The warming climate is leading to sights like this becoming more common as ice-sheets are destabilised and break up.
All Homeward Bound participants felt a true privilege to be in Antarctica as our ship became surrounded by humpback whales and they began to breach. It highlighted to us how important the work HB3 participant, Stephanie Langerock, does as Belgian representative on the International Whaling Commission.
Homeward Bound visited Paulet Island, home to tens of thousands of breeding Adelie penguins. It was an assault on all our senses with the braying calls, constant bustle of movement and very distinctive smell! It was also an exercise in making sure we minimised disturbance during a very sensitive time for these birds and their chicks.
Not just busy onshore, the waters around Paulet Island are bursting with Adelie penguins; some hauled out on the ice whilst others porpoised to the shore. Visits like this remind our HB3 team what it is we are working for as part of Homeward Bound – to ensure species and habitats like this endure for generations to come.
Just after breakfast this morning, HB3 were treated to a fabulous encounter with numerous killer whales (Orcinus orca) cruising through open water. At one point our ship was surrounded by them as they surfaced in groups and alone. Each and every HB3 participant is acutely aware of how privileged we are to be in Antarctica and we are humbled by the experience. This powerful and perspective-shifting journey will drive and motivate us to work harder for a more sustainable future when we return home.
Gender equality is just like an iceberg. We see the top and even that can be difficult to reach. Below the surface of the water, are all the hidden structures. We need to be brave and collaborate to account for what is on the surface and what is underneath.
It is easy to be a good leader in a safe and familiar environment. The ship’s crew helped us to feel safe on our first landing. Over the next couple of weeks, we will be challenged and shaped as even stronger leaders in different environments.
China’s first Antarctic station. And first time visited by 80 female scientists at the same time. The red building is a museum of the first constructions and scientists.
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.
There were strong emotions as we all embarked on this journey of a lifetime. Boarding the M.V. Ushuaia marked the starting point of a rough crossing (however Monika, our expedition leader said it was only a 2 on a scale of 1 to 10!). Silence filled the following day as we all prepared for the majesty of what is coming – and recovered from seasickness.
At the end of the Drake Passage more faces lit up, more conversations filled the space, and the need for company made us all navigate our way to the ship’s common spaces to share a word or two. Solidarity, community and a real sense of sisterhood is starting to show among us.
The beginning of the journey and the beginning of a quilt making activity will stitch our creativity together; the same way Homeward Bound makes collaboration possible among us; stitching together women from all over the planet with a single purpose: Make our voices heard and influence decision-making.
And we made it; completing the Drake Passage and seeing land for the first time brought smiles to our faces. The room is full of laughter, conversations and friendship. Antarctica has welcomed us and from now on will always live inside us.
The first time I walked outside the ship in the last 2 days and the beauty of what I was seeing brought tear to my eyes and still does. I could barely feel my hand with the frigid wind, but the blue sky was framing a magnificent expression of rock formations outlined by the purest white I have ever witnessed. Snow, only a short distance away but in unimaginable quantities, pristine, untouched; this is what we are here for, this planet needs us.
Due to strong winds, transit of the Drake Passage has taken longer than anticipated. Nonetheless, we remain on course as we continue to grow as leaders and coalesce as a group. Stories and life experiences have been shared with genuine interest and mutual respect. Together, we are stronger.
After departing the port in Ushuaia, the ship traversed the Beagle Channel. This was a particularly emotional moment, the reality of the trip could no longer be denied, and there was complete surrender to the experience. This would be the last land seen by the Homeward Bound team until reaching Antarctica
Once on-board the ship, the group came together in the common meeting room. This is the space where our on-board educational activities will take place. At the initial meeting, members of the crew, including Monika our Expedition Leader, were introduced. Basic safety on the ship was addressed including how to go up and down the stairs. Initially this seemed a bit excessive, but once we started rolling our way through the Drake Passage, we were all grateful for these instructions.
The HB3 team arrived at the dock, after 2 ½ full days of work related to code of conduct development, strategy mapping, visibility, and Life Styles Inventory work. The mix of emotions in the group was almost palpable, but the overwhelming sense was giddy excitement. After one year of preparation, we were finally about to set sail! Many pictures were taken as anticipation grew in the crowd.