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Can an Expedition to Antarctica Promote Widespread Change?

Deception Island, Volcanic Caldera. (Photo M. Turrin)
Deception Island, formed from a volcanic caldera, sits at the southern tip of the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica. Photo: M. Turrin

If you want to excite and inspire your participants about committing to environmental conservation and harmonious social development why not load them onto a ship and take them to a place where the pristine environment tugs at your emotions – yes literally to the ends of the Earth? This is exactly the strategy of the Antarctic Forum, which consists of finance, business, civic, academic, arts and philosophical groups from Hong Kong and China and invited guests with a joint focus on reawakening the inner connection to the beauty and pristine quality of nature. The intent is to move from understanding to promoting action towards a new way of operating; a way that reduces the impact of humans on nature.

The Columbia University Delegation sets out from Ushuaia: Art Lerner-Lam, Eva Lerner-Lam, Lori Charkey, Mark Becker, Julian St. George Sproule, Margie Turrin, Xiaojun Yuan, and Antarctic Forum representative Adriane Tang.
The Columbia University Delegation sets out from Ushuaia: Art Lerner-Lam, Eva Lerner-Lam, Lori Charkey, Mark Becker, Julian St. George Sproule, Margie Turrin, Xiaojun Yuan, and Antarctic Forum representative Adriane Tang.

The Forum plans a balance of panel discussions, short lectures and a personal connection with Antarctic wildlife and breathtaking vistas. Taken in total the experience is intended to inspire the participants to promote change through encouraging society to take responsibility to enter a new era in our relationship with the environment.  Columbia University has a delegation of seven participants designed to bring science content around the environmental changes and challenges facing the pristine Antarctic environment to help frame the larger societal discussions.

 

 

Sunset in the harbor Ushuaia, Argentina, as we get ready to depart port. Photo: M. Turrin
Sunset in the harbor Ushuaia, Argentina, as we get ready to depart port. Photo: M. Turrin

Departing from Ushuaia, Argentina aboard the ship Le Boreal the first two days are spent crossing Drake’s Passage.  Seabirds followed the ship through the passage swirling around the waters churned by the ships engines.

Cape Petral circle in front of the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica. (Photo M. Turrin)
Cape Petrel circle in front of the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica. Photo: M. Turrin

The perfect weather conditions and the appearance of the South Shetland Islands caused the captain to decide on an impromptu landing inside Deception Island, a volcanic caldera.

First group of delegates arrives onshore at Deception Island (photo M. Turrin)
The hint of red at the bottom edge of this photo shows the first group of delegates arriving onshore at Deception Island. Photo: M. Turrin
A group from the delegation climbs up the side of Deception Island to look through Neptune's Window at the Antarctic peninsula. (Photo M. Turrin)
A group from the delegation climbs up the side of Deception Island to look through Neptune’s Window at the Antarctic peninsula. Photo: M. Turrin
Whale bones left in the ice attest to the role of the Caldera in the past as an active whaling station. (Photo M. Turrin)
Whale bones left in the ice attest to the role of the Caldera in the past as an active whaling station. Photo: M. Turrin

The first trip to shore brought wide smiles, laughter, enthusiasm and a sense of wonder to all the participants.  The Forum goal of building a direct connection to this remote wonder was reached in the first few minutes of our two hours on the island.  The first few steps in a much longer voyage have been a success, but all know that there is a challenging road ahead.

Science for the Planet: In these short video explainers, discover how scientists and scholars across the Columbia Climate School are working to understand the effects of climate change and help solve the crisis.
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