Vernadsky – Cancelled

January 11, 2019

We were supposed to visit the Ukrainian Vernadsky Station today, but this was another landing cancelled on account of ice.  A cancelled landing is disappointing for any number of reasons, but we were beginning to grow concerned as we had not yet set foot on the actual continent.  Each of our successful landings thus far had been on islands along the Antarctic peninsula.  Two of the three cancelled landings had been scheduled at sites on the continent.  Now that we were on the back half of the trip, a sense of urgency was beginning to develop.

The cancelled landing aside, today was hard.

I hesitate to make that statement because it was hard in a very privileged way, after all, I was on a ship in Antarctica on the trip of a lifetime.

To begin with, I woke up in the middle of the night with a wicked stomach ache which kept me up most of the night.  I ended up throwing up, though only once, so I don’t think it was the dreaded “gastro” that plagued others during the earlier part of the trip.  By the morning, I felt miserable and was exhausted – both physically and emotionally.

Leading up to the trip, we had been given lots of advice on how to prepare, what to expect, and suggestions for coping.  For just about everything, I had my own, cavalier, and now in retrospect, highly counterproductive response.  Paraphrasing:

  • HB:  “Get plenty of rest in the week leading up to the voyage as the trip will be tiring.”  Me:  “Trust me, I know exhausting and 3 weeks away from work will be a welcomed opportunity to recharge my batteries.  I will go to bed early every night and I won’t have to get up early to walk Curtis.  Besides, I’m on-call up until a few days before departing and I have cases scheduled the day before I leave so there’s really no option to get rest.”
  • HB:  “The constant sunlight can make it difficult to sleep.”  Me:  “I’m so tired at baseline, nothing will make it hard to sleep, besides I always sleep with my blankets over my head, so I won’t even notice the light.”
  • HB:  “Being cut off from communication with the rest of the world can be hard.”  Me:  “No pages, no texts, no calls, no one looking for me to solve a problem – BRING IT ON!!”
  • HB:  “Being on a ship for 3 weeks with 80 women you don’t know can be challenging.”  Me:  “Seriously?  Try 2 1/2 months deployed with the military in Afghanistan.  Way more than 80 people I didn’t know, a boring monotonous routine, stuck on a base with the occasional incoming rocket – I think I’ll be just fine on the ship.”
  • HB:  “As the program has evolved, we have added on-board mental health expertise.”  Me:  “Well, that will clearly be for other people because I could write the chapter on resiliency.”

Not only had I not slept well the night before, but I actually hadn’t slept well for most of the trip.  It was so bright in the evenings it was hard to keep track of time.  The end of the day was a chance to wind down and get to know people.  So, even though the clock said it was time to go to bed, every other visible and social cue indicated otherwise.  This interfered with my pledge to get to bed early.

In most circumstances, I don’t think it would be hard to be on a ship with 80 women for 3 weeks.  But 80 highly qualified and intelligent women in STEMM is a completely different story, especially if you’re participating in an intense leadership program.  It’s not often that being a pediatric surgeon feels vanilla.  It was unnerving.

(A few days later a member of the cohort would bravely stand with a quiver in her voice and comment that it was difficult to witness other members of the team progress through the program with ease while she felt like she was struggling.  Based on the response from the rest of the room, it was clear many of us felt the same way and it was a huge relief to know I wasn’t alone in my feelings.  I was so impressed with this teammate’s composure and her willingness to share her feelings.  I was also surprised to hear it come from her because in my eyes, she appeared to be thriving.  I will be eternally grateful for her honesty and vulnerability.)

The program was mentally draining in ways I hadn’t anticipated.  Looking inward and begin truly honest was tiring.  I was exhausted when I arrived, the program was wearing on me, and I wasn’t sleeping – not only were my batteries not being recharged, they were completely spent.

So, here I was, exhausted, stressed and not feeling well.  And, I was alone.  Remember the excitement I had about not having a roommate?  Yeah, pretty ironic…

My attempts to sleep-in were thwarted by the sunlight, overhead PA announcements and the general hum and motion of the ship.  Somewhere around the middle of the day, an announcement was made cancelling the landing due to icy conditions.  The sunlight was bright and the surroundings beautiful.  We had reached our furthest point south – somewhere between 65 and 66 degrees South and the group assembled on the deck for a photograph.  I didn’t make it to the picture, but I needed to get out of my room, to get some fresh air, so I dressed and went outside.  As always, the view was spectacular.  (Fortunately I was able to hide behind my sunglasses.)uzeOvj3ySTOKLoRSqihkZg

While on the deck, I ran into a teammate who I knew had struggled with sleep earlier in the trip.  I mentioned that I wasn’t feeling well and why.  She politely told me that while she knew I was a doctor, she thought I should really talk to Sophie (our on board psychiatrist).  I honestly hadn’t thought about it, but I was very happy a short while later when Sophie knocked on the door to my room.

Sophie Adams was a member of the HB2 cohort and returned this year as our on-board mental health clinician.  Being able to open up with a fellow physician about myself, my experience with the program, and my overwhelming exhaustion was a relief.  We both agreed I needed a couple good nights of sleep which were made possible by the wonders of modern pharmacology.

I spent the remainder of the day in my room missing out on the day’s program, including the third, and highly acclaimed, talk by Christiana Figueres.  I was also a little homesick. I missed my bed and curling up with my dog.

Today was clearly the low point of the trip for me.  As the self-acclaimed Queen of Resiliency, I had been knocked down a few pegs.  Honestly, I think I had it coming.  Despite this, I still learned a few things.  1)  It’s good to have roommates.  2)  Circadian rhythms are not to be underestimated.  3)  Constantly comparing yourself to the people around you can be counterproductive.  4)  No matter how tough you think you are, sometimes you need to ask for help and there’s no shame in doing so.  In fact, it even feels good.

(My only correct preconceived notion was related to being cut off from civilization.  While I missed talking to my parents each night, I did not for a single second miss the dings, chirps, and buzzes from any number of devices that go off at all hours of the day.  Since returning home, I’ve kept my phone on silent (work permitting).  It’s a small act of post-Antarctica defiance.)

Flandres Bay

Today was our day off.  It was nice to have a break, but it signified the halfway mark of our voyage on the ship, and I didn’t want to think about being closer to the end than the beginning.

 

I decided I would let myself sleep in, though I don’t think I actually slept.  Between the intercom announcements, the buzz of activity on the ship, and the bright sunlight, sleeping was hard to do, but I was content having a lazy morning in bed without worrying about walking Curtis, doing laundry, or going grocery shopping.  My lazy morning extended to lunchtime.

 

Our travels today took us to Flandres Bay.  On the bow of the ship, the wind was brisk, the air was clean,  and the feeling exhilarating.  (Photo credit to Rachel Bice.  Rachel is the head of the Environmental Growth and Partnerships for Cornwall Council in the UK.)

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As we got closer to land, the wind died down.  I could have stood there forever.  (Photo credit to Steph Gardner.  Steph is a marine biologist.)51652241_2230882627169812_4235531532808224768_n

Teammates Deidre Collins and Beth Strain modeled the Homeward Bound logo on the bow of the ship.  Deidre is a microbiologist and Beth is a marine biologist.

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Truly, this was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been, maybe even the most beautiful.  When I close my eyes now and I think of Antarctica, this is the first place I see.  Ironically, I don’t have many pictures.  I made a conscious decision to leave my camera on the ship during our zodiac cruise so I could simply experience my surroundings.  There were several glaciers converging from different directions on the bay, each separated by tall peaks.  The sun was bright, the water was blue and the icebergs hovered over patches of turquoise.  In the distance there was an avalanche of ice, the valley filled with powder white, and when it cleared, the landscape was changed.  It was gobsmacking to know that with each crack in the ice, each shift of the glacier, the continent was changing.  What was here 1, 10, or 100 million years ago and what would be here 1, 10, or 100 million years from now?  And yet, here I was at this one moment in time, to witness it firsthand, my snapshot of Antarctica.  I was awed, humbled, and, inspired.  I felt both big and small.

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Since the agenda was light today, I’m going to mention a few things that happened along the way, though I don’t remember the exact timing.

One of my US teammates, Alicia Collins (a pharmaceutical industry professional) brought a stack of letters from her sister-in-law’s 3rd grade class.  These were adorable and full of great questions, some even came with jokes.  I got Madisyn’s letter since she wants to be a doctor when she grows up.  I encouraged her to keep helping others and let her know explorers sometimes wear lip gloss.

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Throughout the trip we had the opportunity to receive individual coaching from the on-board faculty.  My first session was with Kylie Lewis.  Kylie is an executive coach, presenter and digital strategist (ofkin.com) and was part of our visibility team.  Our visibility work kicked off in Ushuaia before we set sail.  The very first thing I have written in my note book under Visibility is “Starts with personal visibility”.  Kylie also had us do an exercise where we wrote down 50 of our beliefs.  I walked into my session with Kylie wondering exactly how these 50 things tied into my visibility, but we never got there because, as was written plain as day in my notebook, visibility starts with personal visibility and we quickly realized that was where we needed to focus.  This tied perfectly to the personal strategy work.  We discussed a few critical action items and pinned down dates by which they should be accomplished.  There was no getting away without being accountable.

In case you are wondering, here are items 1 – 24 and 33 – 50.  A couple of the items between 25 and 32 were politically charged and not necessary here.  As I re-read these, I’m realizing this is me, this is simply how, at least at this juncture in my life, I need to show up.

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My second session was with Pollyanna Lenkic.  Pollyanna is a coach, mentor, facilitator and speaker who works with leading organizations.  Pollyanna was part of the leadership team and led the peer coaching and cover story exercises.  Again, my session with her focused on showing up for myself.  She taught me an incredibly powerful and yet (again) extraordinarily simple tool.  Every time a person says “yes” to something, she is simultaneously saying “no” to something else and vice versa.  For example, if I say “yes” to a late task or meeting at work, I am saying “no” to having more time to spend with Curtis (my dog).  If I say “yes” to walking Curtis in the morning, I’m saying “no” to sleeping for an extra 30 minutes.  There are tradeoffs in every decision we make, the important thing is realizing each of us has agency over these decisions, and most of the time, it is okay and important to chose fulfillment.

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Pollyanna also set some accountability goals with me, but she must not have been as emphatic as Kylie, because I can’t find the dates written down in my notes.

As a post-voyage note, I’m pleased to say that I’m ahead of schedule in the biggest personal visibility task.  Not only did showing up for myself feel good, it was empowering.

 

Palmer Station

January 9, 2019

Today was moving day.  To be honest, I didn’t really want to move.  Frankly, I didn’t care if others on the ship had nicer rooms.  Despite not being able to do anything more than rollover without bumping into the ceiling, I had come to like my top bunk.  I knew where I’d unpacked my belongings and I had developed a routine when it came to getting my clothes ready for the next day, getting dressed in the morning and preparing for landings.  But, most importantly I liked my roommate.  She had an infectious laugh and smile and a free spiritedness I envied.  I suspect we wouldn’t have gotten to know each other had we not been roommates, not for any specific reasons other than our circumstances were very different.  So, I was grateful to have shared a room with her and was a little sad to be switching.

We had been given our room numbers the day before.  Most people had already identified their new roommates, but I still had not.  As we started moving our belongings, I realized no one else seemed to be moving into my new room.  Then I remembered there was at least one person who hadn’t had a roommate for the first half of the trip.  Suddenly it occurred to me that I might be the lone person for the second half of the trip.  And, while I clearly had a good roommate experience for the first half of the trip, I’ve mostly lived alone, so the prospect of not having to share was quite appealing.  I tried to suppress my excitement in case I was wrong, in the same way you try to suppress your excitement when you realize that you are the only person in your row on the airplane and it’s nearly time for the airplane door to close.  When I went back to my room later in the day and only my belongings were in the room, I was pretty certain I had my own room for the second half of the trip.  I could sit in bed without banging my head, I could spread my stuff out on the second bed without having to be organized, and I had a larger bathroom I didn’t have to share with the adjoining bedroom.  (I never took a picture of this room, probably because it just seemed like a regular room.)  Maybe moving wasn’t so bad after all…

 

Somewhere between today and tomorrow (yes, I’m writing this blog retrospectively) we revisited our personal strategy maps.  (Again, my notes aren’t as clear as I wish they were.)  If I got nothing else out of my experience in Homeward Bound (which definitely wasn’t the case), the personal strategy map would have been enough.  We started our personal strategy work in Ushuaia under the instruction of Kit Jackson.  Kit is amazing, and so is her dedication to the program.  Kit was not onboard the MV Ushuaia with us, but flew from Australia to Ushuaia to spend the first couple of days on the ground to provide instruction and personal strategy coaching.  It is roughly a 12 hour time zone difference between Australia and Argentina – that’s a lot of jet lag to endure for only a few days with us.  Her talks were dynamic, engaging, aspirational, and yet at the same time, down to earth and practical.

This is what the personal strategy map looks like.

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In Ushuaia, we were told to write down our purpose – why were we put on this planet.  While I didn’t realize it at the time, that statement would go at the top of my strategy map.  We were also given a deck of values cards.  (You may or may not be surprised to learn that I haven’t completely finished unpacking, so I will share a picture of these cards when I find them in my suitcase.)  I think there were about 150 cards in each deck.  Each card contained a single word identifying a value – honesty, integrity, wealth, personal recognition, peace, joy, independence, etc.  Three times we spread the cards on the floor, and three times we picked three values.  The first time were values important to relationships/ family, the second time, values related to self, and the third time work/ vocation values.

In Ushuaia, I chose “fun”, “acceptance”, and “community” for relationships/ family.  For self, I chose “inner peace”, “physical wellbeing”, and “time freedom”.  For work, I chose “decisive”, “future generations”, and “integrity”.  Over the course of our voyage, we defined what each of these values meant to us.  We stated our aspirations in the three categories of relationships/ family, self, and work/ vocation and developed priorities to support each aspiration.  We spelled out exactly what each aspiration and priority meant to us.  Ultimately, we developed 100-day plans to start making our strategy maps into reality.

The concept of strategy mapping had initially been introduced by Kit on one of our monthly Homeward Bound calls sometime back in the spring/ early summer.  At the time it was introduced, I was afraid to give it much thought.  I was afraid a truly honest conversation with myself was going to precipitate a mid-life crisis and I could not afford for my life to come completely unravelled.  But, the seed was planted in the back of my brain and over the following 6 or so months leading up to the voyage, while I didn’t fully understand all of the details of strategy mapping, there was a whisper in the back of my head which steadily grew to the point where I knew I could no longer ignore it.

Medical training in the U.S. and especially surgical training (admittedly my perspective is biased), is an extended series of delayed gratification.  As an intern, it was going to be “better” when I was a senior resident.  As a resident, it was going to be “better” when I was a fellow.  As a fellow, it was going to be “better” when I was an attending.  And, so on.  Eventually, somewhere along the way, I lost track of the fact that “better” was even out there.  And what was “better” anyway?  My job is a privilege and I love what I do, something many people can’t say, so did I even have any right to be looking for “better”?

By placing self, and family/ relationships on the same level as work/ vocation, the strategy map helped me see for the first time, in a long time, it was okay for me to seek personal happiness.  Truly, it was okay for me to want to have fun, to spend time doing things that weren’t work related, and to get some sleep.  Previously, my attitude to work-life balance was that it didn’t exist, and frankly the phrase “work-life balance” still drives me crazy.  The strategy map helped me to see balance was not only possible, it was necessary.

As I continued to revisit my strategy map during the voyage, I reassessed my values as related to work/vocation.  Truly the values I chose initially, “decisive”, “future generations”, and “integrity” were fine values for a pediatric surgeon.  But as I started to look at my career in the context of my Homeward Bound journey, I realized rather than “decisive” and “integrity”, “ambitious” and “courageous” were beginning to resonate with me in a more powerful way.  I would need to set an ambitious agenda, and I would need to be courageous enough  to show up to myself and to ask others for help.  More about this when I write about my Symposium at Sea in a few days.

 

We were scheduled to visit Palmer Station, a U.S. base located on the southern side of Anvers Island on the Bismark Straight, however, icy conditions in the harbor prevented us from landing.  Instead, about 10 members of the station crew came out to our ship.  Getting their one boat out to our ship was more feasible than getting our 8 or so boats into the station, though the station crew still took a risk by coming out to the ship as conditions could have changed preventing their return to land.  So, we truly appreciated the visit.  It was great to hear about all of the various aspects of station life and everyone’s role in contributing to its success.  It was also very interesting to hear about the research being conducted.  One of the scientists was familiar with the work of Sharon Robinson, one of our on board science faculty, and it was funny to see him so star struck by seeing her on the ship.  It was like science paparazzi.  We had a back and forth Q&A session and made a pitch to recruit the women at Palmer for the next HB cohort.  (One of the members of HB4 was at Palmer last year when the group visited.)  While we didn’t get to meet the doctor, there is a physician stationed at Palmer for 6 months at a time – a useful fact for anyone who might be considering options for getting back to Antarctica…

 

Tonight was our mid-voyage Fancy Dress party.  The term Fancy Dress was a little confusing to some of us as we knew there was a costume party planned – did we need to bring a costume and a ball gown?  Turns out, Fancy Dress is Australian for costume party.  Finding a costume that wouldn’t take up extra space in my luggage was a bit of dilemma.  Fortunately for me, Becky Sabbert, our awesome service coordinator in the OR at Cardinal Glennon, thought I should dress up as Flat Glenda and she made the shirt for me!!  (And gave me the earrings for Christmas.)  The party was a nice change of pace and a great way to celebrate the halfway mark.

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View out my window at around 12:30 am. You’ll notice it’s not that dark.

Neko Harbor

January 8, 2019  – Another full day!!

The morning started off with another great session by Fabian Dattner on creating change and influence.  This session tied back to the LSI and the importance of “Moving to Blue” or developing constructive traits.  (I believe I’ve stated this before, but well worth repeating – Fabian is the founder of Homeward Bound, a founding partner of Dattner Grant, highly regarded leadership experts, and the founder of Compass, an Australian leadership initiative for women.)

We touched again on “Stubborn Optimism”, a concept which may be construed as an inherent contradiction.  The stubborn optimist intentionally invites everyone to live up to her highest potential (as defined by by the individual, not the optimist) and the stubborn optimist welcomes everyone with loving expectation.  The stubborn optimist remains neutral, curious and doesn’t pass judgement.

To create effective change, one must also be resilient.  A resilient leader sees the beauty in going around an iceberg rather than being thwarted by not being able to go through it (or ramming into it, á la Titanic).

Change is initiated in deeply emotional states.  Deeply emotional states in turn can have the tendency to push people into their red (aggressive/defensive) or green (passive/defensive) LSI traits if a predilection for those exist.  A “Move to the Blue” does not require the leader to lose her emotions, rather it requires her to be more resourceful, stubbornly optimistic and resilient.  The more the leader can remain constructive in states of deep emotion, the more she can be influential.

Change doesn’t happen easily.  70 – 90% or change efforts fail.  It is important to recognize change is adopted in stages by a population, so the target of driving change isn’t the entire population, rather the focus is on the early adopters.  The early adopters are willing to take a chance on innovation or change.  Once they are engaged, the early majority joins in, and so forth.  This is a diagrammatic representation of this principle.

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Diagram of population change.

To help this make sense, think about the iPhone.  When the iPhone first came out, it was a revolutionary idea.  An initial small group, the early adopters, bought (literally) into the concept.  Once they had phones in hand, the early majority soon followed.  Now, smart phone are just an expected part of our existence.

Recognizing that change doesn’t happen easily, it is important to effectively exert influence.  One model established 6 areas of influence.  To effectively change a behavior, a leader needs to work in at least 4 of the 6 areas.

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Slide taken from Fabian Dattner’s presentation. (Dattner Grant, Australia)

Consider the example given to us about increasing hand hygiene in the health care sector (apparently there’s no escaping hand hygiene…)  To get healthcare providers to increase their hand hygiene teach them how to wash their hand (2), put the soap dispensers in an easily accessible location (6), encourage healthcare providers to police themselves (5), and encourage patients to ask their providers if they’ve washed their hands (3).  Individually, each of these sounds like a great idea, yet, would likely be ineffective.  With the addition each area of influence, there is likely to be incremental change, but to truly be effective, 4 areas of influence are needed.

 

The remainder of the morning included a presentation by the Gender group looking at impact and by more work with our Cover Story groups.  The concept of impact, as it relates to Homeward Bound, is interesting and complex.  The presenting group started off by proposing HB v2.0 – Women Scientists Go to Mars.  However, potential sponsors of v2.0, want proof of the beneficial impact of v1.0 (i.e., our group).  Can we attribute promotions or leadership roles in our normal lives to Homeward Bound?  Can authorship of a paper by a Homeward Bound member be attributed to her participation in Homeward Bound even if the paper is on an unrelated topic?  Suppose the paper is written by two or more team members who meet as a result of the program?  Are lectures given by team members an indicator of success?  Does it matter if the audience is a group of kindergarteners or college professors or TED talk attendees?  Is impact only defined by Homeward Bound initiatives like the gender fact sheet, mentorship program, or workshops proposed by the first Gender theme group?  Needless to say, this talk generated a great deal of discussion, and developing a way to meaningfully measure the impact of Homeward Bound will be an action item for the group in the months following our voyage.

 

We were supposed to have a landing in Neko Harbor, but the landing was cancelled due to icy conditions in the harbor making the landing unsafe.  Neko Harbor is in Andvord Bay.  One of our guides kept referring to Italy when describing the shape of Andvord Bay – looks like a boot.  Even though we weren’t able to land, we had a zodiac cruise around the harbor.  The day was overcast creating a palette that ranged from penguin black to penguin white, and every shade of gray in between.  We only saw a few penguins, though the penguin highway could easily be seen on the hillside.  Today, the ice was center stage and it was striking!!

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Penguin highway.
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Lonely penguin?
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Or innovator trying to inspire early adopters?
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They were a little far apart, but 4 species floating on an ice berg – seal, skua, Chinstrap, and Gentoo.

The skua takes off in the next series of pictures.

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Chinstrap penguin.

 

The ice needs no explanation.

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MV Ushuaia helps to add perspective.

 

We finished the day with another great session by Christiana Figueres.  In this session, members or our group volunteered to discuss challenges they may have experienced individually, with family, in academia, and in the private sector.  Again, I will confess I didn’t take the greatest notes, but for me the take-home message was the importance of self accountability.  Given that we are unable to control the actions of those around us, or guarantee that they will conform to our desires, it is important for each of us to be visible to ourselves, and in being visible to ourselves, we are more likely to be effective in creating change and finding peace.

Cuverville Island

January 7th, 2019

Today was another full day!!  We started with an Emerging issues session to address, well, emerging issues.

This was followed by another Visibility Session were the focus was on science communication and how to distill the message.  In addition to the larger discussion, we worked in pairs and did a couple of different exercises.

One member of the pair was given a picture and had to describe it to her partner in an effort to get her to replicate it in a drawing.  Next we repeated a similar exercise, but could not use the names of common shapes in trying to explain the picture.  Circles became Cheerios and ovals became eggs.  The point was that not everyone is familiar with the vernacular of our “science” and if we are going to be effective communicators, we need to know our audience and adapt to their needs.

Next we had to deliver a 2 minute elevator pitch to our partners about one of our passions.  For me, it was about the environmental impact of healthcare.  Then we had to cut it down to a minute.  Then to 30 seconds.  By then end, each our our 30 second pitches was remarkably much better than the original 2 minute version.  It was also valuable to practice on each other as we were able to adopt some of each other’s style and verbiage into our own pitches.  #StrongerTogether.

 

Next we had a science lecture about climate change in Antartica by Sharon Robinson, one of our on board science faculty.  Sharon is a professor who researches how Antarctic plants respond to climate change.  Our voyage was around the Antarctic Peninsula which is in the western portion of the continent.  The peninsula has already increased in temperature by 2.5 degrees Celsius over last 50 – 100 years.  As Sharon explained it, one of the forces driving this marked increase in temperature is a change in the southern hemisphere wind jets due to depletion of the ozone layer.  As a result of this warming, there has been an increase in glacial melt in the region.  At several different points on our trip, the crew commented on areas where they could appreciate a change in the landscape.

 

The afternoon started with another great Symposium at Sea session.  It really was so interesting to learn about one another’s work back home and these sessions really stimulated great conversations and hopefully continued collaboration.

 

We had an afternoon landing at Cuverville Island.  Curverville is the site of one of the largest Gentoo penguin colonies on the Antarctic peninsula.  While climate change has negatively impacting the Adélie and the Chinstrap penguins (the other penguin species we had seen thus far), the numbers of Gentoo penguins are actually increasing.  Gentoos are less reliant on krill, a small crustacean and the mainstay of the diet for the other species.  Krill has decreased in the Antarctic waters due to climate change and the impacts of commercial harvesting (I believe largely for human fish oil consumption).

Cuverville and the surrounding ice and scenery was absolutely beautiful.  The day was overcast and there was intermittent snow fall.  Back home, this would have been a gloomy day.  In Antarctica, not so much.

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Gentoo penguin

 

As the penguins traverse the snow, they follow penguin highways, tracks in the snow that are maintained by constant use.  Humans are not permitted on the highways.

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Penguin highways
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Penguin highway entrance. A good reminder that all important journeys start with the first step.

 

The penguins were busy building and incubating their nests.  The nests were made out of small rocks that the birds would carefully arrange.  Given the proximity of the nests, sometimes the rocks for one nest were taken from a neighbors nest.

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Bringing back a rock to add to the nest.
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Area with several nests.

 

Penguins are as graceful swimmers as they are awkward walkers.  Often we would see groups of penguins swimming in the water together.  When floating together they are referred to as a raft of penguins.

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Raft of penguins along the water’s edge of Cuverville Island.

 

In addition to teaming up to swim, penguins team up to fight off their predators.  Skuas are predatory birds that will eat penguin chicks.  In this video, you see a skua near the penguin breeding area.  Several of the penguins work together to scare it off, though once the skua is gone, they quickly resume barking at each other to protect their territory.

Toward the end of the video, you hear me make the comment that the penguins need to be told the rules too.  The Antarctic treaty and tourist agreements state that tourists are not allowed closer than 5 meters to the penguins.  Simple enough, but the penguins weren’t aware of this rule and would often come closer.  The tricky part was figuring out what to do so as to not be too close, but also not be disruptive.

This video is a little long, but I set my camera on a rock and just hit record.  Toward the end there are a couple of penguins who walk by relatively close to the camera.

 

The scenery with the overcast lighting was really striking.  I love the comparison of these 2 pictures below.  My object of interest for both pictures was the penguin, but my camera focused on the background ice for one of the pictures.  I’m honestly not sure which I like better.

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Beautiful penguin.
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Beautiful scenery.

As always, the ice did not disappoint.  The change in lighting just made it beautiful in a different way and despite the overcast skies, the ice continued to glow blue.

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View of the harbor as we left.

Our wildlife encounter for the day was not done when we left the island.  We were lucky enough to come up on a pod of Orcas.  I’d never before seen Orcas in the wild, so this was pretty amazing.  The pictures don’t do it justice.  #AntarcticaisAmazing

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Likely a baby and a male.

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Hydruga Rocks

Today was January 6, 2019.

Penguins are indiscriminate poopers.  In close quarters, which you will note is the case in most of the nesting areas. they poop and get pooped on.  Ironically, most seemed to be fairly fastidious about cleaning their feathers as they got out of the water from a swim, only to go back to their nests to get pooped on again.

 

Today we had a landing at Hydruga Rocks.  Hydruga is the genus name for the leopard seal which is one of the largest predators in Antarctica.  I believe the crew on the ship said there are rarely leopard seals present at this location, so it may be a bit of a misnomer.

After going to Carlini Station we crossed the Bransfield Straight to the Gerlache Straight where we would spend a large portion of the remainder of our trip.  Hydruga Rocks was located adjacent to to Two Hummocks Island in the Gerlache Straight.

This was a really beautiful spot.  We spent a bit of time organizing 2 group photos.  I don’t have copies of them, but they are probably available on the Homeward Bound social media channels if you are interested.  Each of these photos was to acknowledge 2 of our sponsors – ACCIONA and Human Synergistics.  ACCIONA is global company that seeks to respond to the needs of society by providing renewable energy, infrastructure, water and services.  Human Synergistics is the company that provided the LSI testing and leadership coaching we received in the year leading up to our Antarctic voyage.  Both of these companies have made significant commitments to support the program and for which all of us are extremely grateful.

There is a colony of Chinstrap penguins on Hydruga Rocks.  In contrast to the Adélie penguins, the Chinstraps seemed to be a little more reserved, though it may just be because there weren’t as many of them in this location.

The next 3 pictures were taken from the spot where we took our group picture.  You can see we were by a small inlet (with the ship and spectacular scenery in the background).  What’s really cool, is that there is a penguin colony on the rocks to the left and cormorants breeding on the rocks to the right.  Another great mix of black and white birds.

 

While we were organizing for the group photo, there were 2 penguins watching us like we were crazy.  Once we were done with the photo, they followed us as we broke up from our pose and they became the subject of many, many photos.  I’ll just share a few.

 

There were also a few young chicks.  I’m not sure exactly how old, but I can’t imagine more than a week as there were only a few and many penguins were still incubating eggs.

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Chinstrap chick.
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Keeping the nest warm. And yes, all of the orange in the background is penguin poop.

Of course there were other birds beside penguins in Antarctica.

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Snowy sheathbill, a connoisseur of penguin poop, so it all comes full circle.

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Making lots of noise.

Here are a couple of videos to see what they looked like in motion – at least on the ground.

 

 

 

Following the landing we worked on Visibility, had our second Cover Story Session and another session of Symposium at Sea.  While we were working, we continued our travels in the Gerlach Straight and went to Wilhemina Bay which is surrounded by the mountains of the Antarctic Peninsula.  Within Wilhemina Bay, there are several smaller bays including Bandcroft Bay were we had an evening zodiac cruise.  This was a gorgeous spot and we were visited by more Humpback whales.  This was the perfect way to end the day!

 

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Humpbacks at the surface.
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And diving in unison.

 

Carlini Station

The date today was January 5, 2019.

After visiting Paulet Island, we made a complete 180 and headed back across the Bransfield Straight to King George Island to visit Carlini Station which belongs to Argentina.  Carlini is located on Potter’s Cove which is adjacent to Maxwell Bay, the site of the Great Wall station.

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Carlini Station Passport stamp

Admittedly, I was a little irritated when I realized we were going back to almost exactly the same place we had come from.  It seemed counterproductive.  However, I later learned a couple of things.  First, the ship has to make arrangements months in advance to schedule landings making the itinerary somewhat rigid (in a region of the world where being flexible is critical).  I also learned the ship didn’t drop an anchor at night due to the risk of fast moving ice bergs.  Once I realized the rigidity of the schedule and that the ship was traveling anyway, this doubling back wasn’t really a big deal.

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Carlini Station (Argentina)

Carlini is a research station.  This is definitely not a complete list, but we met SCUBA divers, the physician who oversees the hyperbaric oxygen chamber, an international team of microbiologists, and a psychologist.  All were very gracious in explaining their various jobs and research activities to us.

One thing I found very interesting during this visit was the Argentinian logo which shows a large triangular wedge of Antartica and the surrounding seas.

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This represents Argentina’s claim in Antartica.  There are actually several countries with claims in Antarctica, but none of them is enforced as a result of the Antarctic treaty which does not recognize or dispute such claims, and prevents new claims from being made while the treaty is in effect.  The treaty was enacted in 1961 with 12 countries as initial signatories.  Since then, a total of 53 countries have joined.  The current treaty expires in 2048.  The treaty essentially sets Antarctica aside for science and prevents military or commercial activity.  The map below shows the research stations and international claims on the continent (copied from Wikipedia).

Following the station visit, we had another session on Peer Coaching and a session on Visibility.  The Visibility session started with the critical question of “Why Be Visible?”  Though for all of us, the answer begins with “I want to be known for…”, the rest of the answer is unique and ties back to the Personal Strategy work we started in Ushuaia.  Critical to visibility is understanding one’s goals, audience, message and platforms.  It is also important to recognize that visibility is not just visibility to the outside world, but it starts with visibility to self.  It’s hard to have a meaningful external conversation without being genuine and honest internally.  I know, sounds simple.  Try it on for size and let me know what you think.

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Flat Glen and Glenda work on Visibility.

 

The Visibility Session was followed by another Symposium at Sea.

 

And the day ended with the first of 4 talks from Christiana Figueres.

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vo+ssgbbqfgwh3qhxi4njgChristiana was the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change from 2010 – 2016.  Essentially, she brokered the Paris Climate Agreement which was a herculean task.  Just being in the same physical space with her was truly inspirational.  Her motivation for working toward climate change is to leave the planet a better place for her children.  She credits her success to “Stubborn Optimism”.  She spoke about the challenges she faced and the strategies she used.  Her approach was practical, inclusive, diverse, simple, and very smart.  It was reassuring to hear the leadership strategies used were very much in line with the lessons we were receiving in the program.  It was also somewhat reassuring to hear that while she was busy saving the planet, she also had to deal the with some of the same routine “office drama” that we all encounter.  It helps to know that even rock stars have to put out fires too.