Holly’s HB Update #20

photograph : Monica Araya
photograph: Christina Schroeder


It is a month since our ship docked in Tierra del Fuego on a misty morning.

A month of processing the Antarctic experience and the enormity of what we experienced.

When I arrived home in Australia, late on Christmas night, I was still rocking from the motion of the ship. I had stopped rocking by the time I went back to work on 2nd January, but the memories were still fresh. I dreamt vividly of the icebergs, the whales, the albatrosses flying past at eye level, passing Cape Horn on a calm, sunny day the day before landing back in Ushuaia.

I was also constantly dreaming of the bustle and diversity of women I met on the ship, the challenge of being me and keeping up with everything that was happening, trying to process so much new information in such a short period of time. Every hour of each day at sea, new conversations – about ourselves, formative events in our lives, about our future, about ethics, about science. It was wonderful and exhausting.

“The serendipity of cross-disciplinary conversations that aren’t forced, that happen in a very precious protected bubble of uninterrupted time. And you can return to, since the best ideas are polished through an iterative process,” as my HB colleague Andrea Fidgett so eloquently put it. This iterative process is happening every day now, we are still connected and sifting through the learnings of the journey. Leadership is a lifetime job.

Most of us have remained connected and have had many discussions online since we parted ways in Ushuaia a couple of days after disembarking.

The week before the voyage, there had been a flurry of media in Australia, and a friend who is an ABC Online Producer had contacted me by email and asked if the local ABC (our national public broadcaster) could get a radio interview with a local angle. I did an interview via skype from my youth hostel bedroom in Ushuaia the day before boarding the ship.

When my HB colleagues began appearing on national and international TV and radio the week after Christmas, the local ABC station picked up on the media frenzy and called me for a live interview early one morning before I went to work.

I tried to convey the surreal feeling of the Antarctic land and seascape, the mind blowing scale of the mountains and glaciers, the icy, foggy ocean swarming with krill, the whales and seals and seabirds and penguins madly feeding on the krill. The feeling when we were crossing the Antarctic Convergence, at around the 60th Parallel of latitude, where we seemingly went through a curtain into a different world. At 60 Degrees South, there is a meeting of currents, lots of birdlife and activity in the sea, south of which we began to see icebergs. The air and sea temperature dropped sharply. We were biologically in Antarctica. I spoke about the how ideal this setting was for creating a think tank with a group of women in science taking on leadership roles.

Talking about why a group of 76 women scientists went to Antarctica helped me bring into focus the objectives of the voyage, to create self-awareness, to enhance our strategic capability, to enable us to execute ideas, not just dream about them, and to communicate compelling science.

This journey began with examining my own purpose and values in the beginning and broadening out to a collaborative ‘what can we do next?’ approach towards the end of the voyage. The collective wisdom and experience within this group is boggling.

UN Women, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women, heard about our expedition and wanted to convey the project to a wider audience. through a podcast series with the digital broadcaster, UN Academic Impact.

UN Academic Impact (UNAI) is producing a series of podcasts, profiling seven of the women on our voyage. Last week I did an interview for the podcast by phone with the UN in New York City. This has been published at https://academicimpact.un.org/content/unai-digital-discussion-series-homeward-bound-expedition-female-scientists
It was a great experience to do this interview and to find out more about what the UN does. I started imagining what it would be like to work for the UN in New York City, how different that is to what I do and where I live.

This coming February I have been asked to be on a panel discussing environmental and social change at the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane. The topic is EFFECTING CHANGE – FILMMAKING AND POLITICS. It is part of a cinematheque event which is showing Dec 2016 -February 2017 at GOMA. The panel discussion is on Sunday February 19th at 2.30 pm for anyone near Brisbane.

2017 is a year of changes for me. Antarctica has changed me and I am still processing how and why.


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