A sad note – we lost a long time National Parks and Wildlife Service ranger and manager and passionate advocate for conservation of the earth’s precious natural and cultural resources last week, Sue Morrison. Sue was also one of my sponsors for this Antarctica journey. Go in peace Sue. Best wishes to your loving family.
Apologies, I wrote a draft of this update in late September, when I had just returned from a visit to my family in the US. Unfortunately I have been spending 12 and 13 hour days at work managing wildfires, many started by illegal campers.
I spent two weeks in San Diego, California staying at my mother’s house. My trip was book-ended by 7-day shifts at work with no break, and as a result I am battling jet lag and exhaustion. But I have lots to tell you!!
The warmth and love I experienced with my family and friends and anticipation of the imminent trip to Antarctica are healing and nurturing. While in San Diego I met up with two fellow HB participants. Over dinner, we talked for hours about the social experiment that is the Homeward Bound project. We had a very open and honest discussion about how 90 people (the participants, the faculty and organisers, and the film crew) can get along with one another on a ship. Especially with a very packed and ambitious agenda!
I hadn’t really thought about this much before to be honest, and suddenly realised that some people may struggle with this voyage for all sorts of reasons. We spoke about our fears. It became crystal clear that supporting each other is a large part of the journey. Whether it be sea-sickness, fear of flying, differences in values, being overwhelmed by the amount of work we are given, missing family, being out of one’s comfort zone, being an introvert in such a large group, being angry or unhappy at missing out on an activity … whatever this voyage throws at us, we can deal with it. Being mindful. Being aware. Being kind and compassionate. I can’t wait.
This conversation in San Diego with two women I had never met before brought some clarity to my anticipation of the journey, both in Antarctica and beyond, where we take what we have learned and put it into practice.
The day after my dinner with my HB colleagues, I went to a school in National City in the south of San Diego, right on the Mexican border. I got an intro to this school through a good friend who is a Park Ranger in the US. Her sister is the school principal.
First, I was introduced by the Principal at the weekly school assembly and said a few words. I got to meet the Student Council members, who stood with me in front of the assembled students and teachers. Then I was assigned to a third grade classroom for my first presentation about the Homeward Bound project. This class is a bilingual class, which in this case meant they conduct the entire class in Spanish. This area is mostly Hispanic. This bilingual class aims to improve Spanish language skills for kids growing up in an English-speaking country. They told me I could speak in English, but I asked if I could do it in Spanish and get help from the kids with vocabulary. It was so much fun!! I had brought an inflatable planet, to show where Australia is and where Antarctica is. Thanks Stuart Hartley for the idea!! The kids were all sitting on the floor in front of the desks.
I introduced myself and told them I am a Park Ranger in Australia. I got a volunteer to point out where Australia is on the globe. Then I said that one of my jobs is protecting animals in the forests. To break the ice, I gave the globe to a very small girl and asked her to say an animal’s name, any animal from anywhere in the world, then pass the globe on to someone else. This of course devolved into throwing the globe from one end of the group to the other, but everyone ended up having a turn. I learned a lot of Spanish names for animals!! I also discovered that my hearing isn’t what it used to be. Oh well. We then progressed to the animals in Antarctica. Then we measured the distance on the globe from San Diego to Antarctica – about 5000 miles.
We talked about the Equator, the northern and southern hemispheres, and – because today just happened to be the Equinox – talked about the sun passing from the north to the southern hemisphere. The 3rd grade teacher got right into it, and looked up Equinox in Spanish. It is called the “equinoccio”. She also explained to the class that the sun doesn’t go around the earth, rather the earth goes around the sun, in Spanish. So I got a volunteer to stand up and be the Sun, while I orbited the inflatable globe around the sun! Heady stuff for 3rd graders!!!
Next I went to the cafeteria to speak to a group of combined classes of 5th and 6th graders (years 5-6). The Principal introduced me to the students and teachers and said that I was going to Antarctica with a group of female scientists. These kids are studying renewable energy. So I launched straight into that, in English this time.
We talked about what renewable energy is and what are non-renewable forms of energy. I explained the link between non-renewable energy and climate change. We looked at the globe, and how far it is from San Diego to Antarctica. And I gave the example of our carbon offset project – planting a forest for koalas in Australia to balance the carbon emissions from air travel and ship travel on the Antarctica trip.
Then we talked about all the different things you can do for a job if you study science. They had some great suggestions. We also talked about thinking for yourself, being respectful, being kind by doing something nice for someone else every day, and listening to others. These are big themes at this school, so they got right into these positive messages.
I will visit the school again next year and talk about what we did and what animals we got to see in Antarctica. I loved this school!
So today, it is only 50 days until we depart from Ushuaia! From our Homeward Bound website: “We believe that supporting women in science to significantly improve their clarity, confidence, shared vision and strategic capability, will enhance their opportunity to take up leadership roles globally and proactively contribute to a sustainable world. We believe strongly that in doing this, we could all help create a greater focus on the concept of a ‘global home’ – with integrity, a drive for results, an ability to motivate others, a deep care for relationships and a measurably effective will to collaborate towards this shared ambition.”
Please visit the Homeward Bound website for more information: https://homewardboundprojects.com.au
There are new bios for most of the participants up on this website as of a few days ago. There is a new section under the “projects” tab updating where each of the projects is up to. Please check out the update on the Carbon Offsets project which my colleague Nancy Auerbach and I have been busily working on.
there’s more, but this is too long and I will tell you more soon!!