All posts by growingablowholeandflippers

Ranger with NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service in Australia, passionate about climate change adaptation, habitat restoration and connectivity.

Reflections Holly’s HB update #21


Here is a reflection on our 3-week voyage in Antarctica. I made this video clip as a love letter from Antarctica, for you, my HB supporters, friends and family and for my fellow expeditioners on the Homeward Bound voyage. I hope you enjoy it!!




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
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.

Holly’s HB update #19

The thin sea ice we were privileged to land on and walk on, with seals strewn across it

The icy foggy landscape is so beautiful. We are travelling very very slowly, and have gone back and forwards the last couple of days waiting for ice to shift which was blocking the passage to our next research station, Palmer Station which is a US base. Apparently a stable southerly wind flow blew for a few days and the ice filled in some unusual places. Usually the winds are westerly here. 

I love the slow, gentle pace of the voyage. It allows time for processing all the interactions and concepts we are taking in, for reflection and contemplation in a mind-expanding landscape. The scale of the sea and land here are hard to describe, hard to capture in images. The drone footage has done the best job thus far, and will add a very realistic element to the film. 

me, Nancy Auerbach and Greg Mortimer

Things are happening while we slide slowly past icebergs on a glassy sea. Women are collaborating.

watching albatrosses in the Drake Passage off Cape Horn

The return crossing of the Drake Passage saw moderate seas and only a few waves spraying across the deck. Crossing the Southern Convergence zone (60 Degrees South) we had sea birds everywhere and 30 knots of wind. The wind slowly eased til when we were abeam Cape Horn it was calm. We were delighted by a pair of adult Wandering Albatross and a smaller pair of Back-browed Albatross. Closer to the islands of Cape Horn National Park we saw dozens of smaller albatross – probably nesting on these remote islands. 

Wise and wonderful HB participant Fern Hames

I’d like to share some beautiful thoughts captured by Homeward Bound participant Fern Hames from rural Victoria in Australia, about the very special day we landed and walked on the thin sea ice.

“If you could choose one word to describe today, it might be ‘unexpected’.
I never expected that we would get to walk on fast ice in Antarctica. A slightly surreal experience, to land a zodiac directly at the edge of an expanse of flat white ice, connected to the coast, and step directly on to this. Apparently this sheet is a couple of metres thick; we can see the deep blue of the ice underneath the layer of fresh white snow on top. A pair of seals doze; a pair of penguins waddle.

We crunch our way across. We are totally thrilled.

I never expected to climb to the top of a tiny snowy-domed island (Danco Island) and be surrounded by sea, steep granite mountains, thick snow, and glaciers tumbling into the sea. There are ‘penguin highways’ leading to and from several rookeries; our path looks a little like one of those too; we climb up, but then slide down; slow at first but then scooting fast down the slope, looking directly out across a vista of mountains, ice, boulders and contorted ice in a calm sea.

We talk about how timing is everything and how, on any scale (hourly to geological), this place will be different at any other time. We have been hugely lucky with weather on this journey; today the sea is serenely calm again and the air incredibly clear. Penguins are nesting, the gin-clear shallows are thick with krill, and seals are resting on the sea ice. On another day, and another week, the weather and access will be different. In another season, the light will be different, the cycles of biodiversity action will be different. In another year or so, the glaciers will be different. In another lifetime, what will the impacts of climate change be here?

Today we also celebrated Christmas; we returned from walking on the fast ice to glasses of hot mulled wine, we exchanged Kris Kringle gifts, and dressed up in costumes for a bit of a party on board our little ship – marking half-way through the journey of a lifetime. It was a bit unexpected to see Hawaiian skirts in Antarctica. To see possum-skin boot innersoles reinvented as ears. To dance outside on the deck, at midnight, in ‘daylight’. All perhaps slightly unexpected, and all completely fabulous.” 

Holly’s HB update #18

Our first landfall was in the South Shetland Islands. We went ashore in the ship’s Zodiac inflatable boats, feeling like we were the only people in Antarctica. It was a privilege walking carefully around on land, seeing chinstrap and gentoo penguins nesting, and imagining early Antarctic explorers trying to survive in this icy and harsh landscape.

Gentoos incubating eggs

Continue reading Holly’s HB update #18

Holly’s HB update #17

10 December 2016


We are in the Gerlache Strait on the Antarctic Peninsula. Humpback whales are everywhere, feeding on krill. Pancake ice, or fast ice creaks and comes to life as the ship’s bow gently lifts it and the bulge of the bow wave ripples the glassy water. Snowy peaks and glaciers double in size as they are reflected in the mirror of the sea.

Penguins and Crabeater seals hang out on passing floes. 

that’s me hanging over the rail taking a photo!

Purpose, values, vision and leadership are on the agenda today. 

Our voyage is halfway over, but I want to stay out here forever. It is a hauntingly beautiful landscape. On our second day in the Drake Passage, Sunday 4th December, we began to see icebergs. The air temperature dropped by about 10 degrees. We had crossed the Southern Ocean convergence zone and were officially in the Antarctic Region below Latitude 60 degrees South. 

me with Carol Devine from Canada

 It took me a number of days on the ship to actually meet all the participants face to face, it is such a large group. What a diverse bunch we are! A lifetime of conversations to be had and connections to be made. 

Daniel Medek
me and krill expert Nicole Hellessey

Holly’s HB update #16



Crossing the Drake Passage from Tierra del Fuego to Antarctica

Finding the Homeward Bounders in Ushuaia was a joy! For so long we had been collaborating and communicating from different continents, finally, everyone was here!! We had a group dinner in Ushuaia the night before the ship’s departure, and were introduced to the film crew, the faculty and a new social media campaign #MotherNaturesDaughters.

Continue reading Holly’s HB update #16

Holly’s HB update #15


It has begun – everyone is here and at our first dinner together last night (on dry land) I was overwhelmed with the enormity of this mission. We launched right into activities, creating a social media storm on the spot, quite educational for some of the older members of the group, like me! We started hashtagging the hell out of  the theme #mothernaturesdaughters (try it in the searchbox on facebook!).

Monica Araya from Costa Rica and me – the first dinner (photo: Carole Devine)

We got to see a sneak preview of the Good Pitch trailer for the Homeward Bound documentary. We got to meet the faculty and film crew. We got to meet the other participants, and got showbags including a water bottle, notebook, daypack, waterproof down jacket, t-shirt, wow! We met the owner of the ship. We met the expediton leader Greg Mortimer. Greg is one of the first two Australians to summit Mt Everest and has had epic climbs in Pakistan on K2 and Antarctica on Mt Minto. Greg is a consummate leader. But last night, he admitted that he is scared. Understandable, with the daunting prospect of leading over 80 women including the faculty for 3 weeks.

HB showbags, including Kathmandu sponsored down jackets!
the first activity
the name tag tree – all pics Carole Devine
finding our jackets
We saw a video clip promoting HB – check it out here, then recorded a 10 second message to a sick mother/mother earth.