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.

 

Paulet Island

Today was January 4, 2019.

We started off the day meeting the Captain of the ship.  He spoke about his experience and life at sea, followed by a brief question and answer session.  While his English was quite good (he is Argentinian and Spanish is his primary language), he had translation assistance from one of our teammates, Yalimay Jimenez.  Yali is Venezuelan, but currently lives in Perth on the western side of Australia.  She is a geochemist and is currently pursuing her PhD in hydrogeology.  She is also the mother of 2 little ones.

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In the year leading up to our voyage, we were assigned various triads with other members of the cohort so we could start cultivating relationships before our arrival to Ushuaia.  Yalimay was in my second triad, along with Lorna Slater, an engineer, circus acrobat, and aspiring politician who lives in Scotland.  As you can imagine trying to find a time that worked for our vastly different time zones was a challenge, but we still managed to have several conference calls.  I can’t say we spent a great deal of time together on the voyage, but I think maybe it’s because we didn’t need to – we were already good friends.

 

Following the meeting with the Captain, we had an Emerging Issues session.  We frequently started the day with this or an Open Frame.  Different in structure, both gave us a chance to incorporate the realtime events of the voyage into the program curriculum so that appropriate issues were addressed and adjustments could be made.

 

Next we had our first Symposium at Sea (S@S).  The S@S is a chance for each member of the team to share their science.  It is strictly formatted to a 3 minute presentation.  At 2:30 minutes a red flag was waved, then the faculty member keeping time stood up and slowly started walking toward the speaker.  If the speaker was still going at 3 minutes, the faculty member lovingly put her arm around the speaker and took away the microphone.  I know, sounds a bit odd, but honestly it worked perfectly!  On average there were 10 speakers per S@S session.  At the conclusion of their talks, each was asked one question.

When I first heard about the S@S I wasn’t too happy.  First of all, as a surgeon, I didn’t feel like I had a “science” to talk about (presumably my Imposter Syndrome trying to resurface) and second, how could you fit anything meaningful into 3 minutes.  Turns out, the S@S was one of the best parts of the program.  Everyone was able to showcase their work and it stimulated a great deal of discussion and collaboration during the remainder of the voyage.  My S@S talk was not until later in the voyage, so more to follow.

 

Prior to the voyage, we were also assigned to Science Themes.  Each theme worked on a specific topic with the goal of developing a fact sheet and preparing a 20 minute presentation on the ship.  (I was in the Sustainability group.  We spoke much later in the voyage, so again, more to follow.)

Two of the science themes looked at gender related issues.  One of the groups looked at the gender gap in STEMM (science, technology, engineering, math(s), and medicine) fields and presented their work today.  They reviewed the gender fact sheet that was developed by the previous Homeward Bound cohort, confirming accuracy and making relevant updates.  Not only are there fewer women in STEMM fields, but they have lower rates of promotion and hold fewer leadership roles.  Some of the reasons for this include, “stereotypes around science and gender and biology, beliefs around intelligence, self- assessment, beliefs about spatial skills, school and University environments and processes, and implicit and workplace biases.”

To help combat these issues, the group proposed 3 actions items.  First, we work to get the Homeward Bound gender fact sheet into the hands of everyone, everywhere – scientists, teachers, university officials, politicians, etc.  The more people who know the facts, the more we can work to overcome them.  Second, we build on the Homeward Bound intercohort mentoring program.  In this last year an intercohort mentorship program was launched matching members from our group with members of prior cohorts.  (I was paired with Shelley Ball from HB1 and Rebecca Waddington from HB2.  Shelley is from Canada and is a biologist and the founder of Biosphere Environmental Education.  Rebecca is from the US and is a pilot for NOAA.)  By continuing and strengthening this program, we continue to support one another and foster scientific collaboration.  Third, they proposed a standardized workshop that could be given by any Homeward Bound member to help raise awareness and encourage more women to purse STEMM careers.

 

Building on the gender theme presentation, we had our first Cover Story session.  With the Cover Story, you imagine the best possible outcome – what the headline would be if your were on the front cover of a magazine – and then work to figure out how you got there.  Thinking this way felt rather abstract, so this process was quite challenging for a room filled with very concrete thinkers.

We were broken down into smaller groups, and each group was assigned one of the 3 proposals from the gender theme presentation.  Our group was assigned the topic of the standardized workshop.  Our initial ideas were all over the place, but we decided that within a year we wanted to be on the cover of Rolling Stone with the headline “Encore for the Environment”.  Over the next several sessions, we worked out how we would get there.  Sounds simple, but we had divergent opinions and our varying leadership styles became apparent.  Needless to say this activity was challenging.

 

In the afternoon we visited Paulet Island.  We had crossed the Bransfield Straight and the Antarctic sound to reach the island which is the remnant of an extinguished volcano.  Paulet Island is the home to an Adélie penguin colony.  An area of penguin breeding is know as a rookery.  Adjacent to the penguins was also a large area of breeding Cormorants.  Both species of birds were black and white.  Initially I didn’t realize the cormorants were also there and was very confused when it looked like the penguins were flying.  Both species of birds were rearing their young at the time of our visit.

Adélie are about 18 inches to 2 feet tall (actually all of the penguins we saw were about this height) and full of personality.  At the time of our visit, there were chicks present that were about 1 week old.  The breedings pairs were taking turns going to out to sea and returning to feed the chicks.  Adélie feed on krill (a small crustacean) and silverfish.  The Adélie are dependent on sea ice and their numbers in the Antarctic peninsula are declining as a result of increased temperatures in the region.  You can tell by the number of pictures, it was easy to fall in love.

 

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Great Wall Station

We woke to calm seas off the shore of King George Island – we were back in protected waters.  We were told King George Island is also known as the shopping center of Antarctica as it is the location of stations from several different countries including China, Chile, Argentina, and South Korea.  While waiting to make the landing, there was time to take in the scenery which included penguins jumping in and out of the water as they went swimming by the ship (more to follow on penguins in the coming days).

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Glen and Glenda take in the scenery while waiting to head to the Great Wall Station.

 

Today’s landing was to the Great Wall Station.

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Great Wall Passport stamp.

 

To go from the ship to shore, we rode in smaller boats called zodiacs.  These are essentially super-duty dinghies with heavy duty inflatable sides and a metal bottom.  We would on and off load these from the back of the ship.

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Zodiac in transit with the MV Ushuaia in the distance.

 

Going to the Great Wall Station was clearly a source of pride for the Chinese women in our group.  Many of them said people, once hearing about their Antarctic travels, would ask if they would be going to the Great Wall Station.  We did a quick tour of the facility and visited the museum.  I’m pictured with Charlotte Wang.  Charlotte is the founder and CEO of EQuota Energy.  Her company has been able to demonstrate the financial benefits of sustainability resulting in reduction of coal powered energy in China.  She is MIT educated, has personality to fill the room, and has promised to feed me good Chinese food when I visit her in China.

The symbols on the cliff stand for Patriotism, Pragmatism, Innovation, and Endeavor.

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Antarctic ATVs.
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Greenhouse for fresh veggies.
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Charlotte and me.
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Patriotism. Pragmatism. Innovation. Endeavor.

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After returning to the ship, we headed south across the Bransfield Straight.  The afternoon was intended to be filled with program activities.  (I’m really wishing I’d kept better notes from this session.)

We did some additional LSI work.  I’ve shown the circumflex with the 12 categories in prior posts.  Within each of these categories are several “line items” which are specific traits that contribute to the larger attribute of each of the 12 categories.  Scores for each of these “line items” were also included in our LSI results.  By doing a deeper dive into these results, we were able to identify specific traits or behaviors that are contributing to our results – some of these might be strengths, but the benefit is to target areas for improvement.  For example, I had a high score in the Dependent category.  One of my high scoring line items in this category was over-cautious.  So, to work on decreasing my Dependent score, I might benefit from taking a more risk.

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Fabian Dattner, the founder of Homeward Bound, takes us on a deeper dive into the LSI.

Another point of discussion was how to avoid getting hooked by the stories or dialogues we have with ourselves in our own heads.  Byron Katie’s 4 questions were recommended as a tool to avoid getting stuck.  Simple questions, but a powerful tool.  (I’m beginning to realize that many of the tools to good leadership are simple and yet, we often don’t see them until someone else points them out.)

  • Is what you are saying to yourself or others true?
  • Is it really true?
  • How does it make you feel believing it’s true?
  • Who would you be if you didn’t believe it was true?

Following this leadership work we had a session on peer coaching – the first of several.  The mindset of coaching is “Nothing is Broken, Nothing Needs to Be Fixed.”  This differs from mentorship in that a mentee is seeking expert advice from a mentor.  The coach is not an expert, but rather someone to help the coachee learn to work through her own problems, issues, or concerns.  My sense is that with coaching, we all sort of already know the answers to our questions, we just need someone else to help us hear the answers more clearly.  Coaches are truly present, but they don’t give advice.  They listen with generous curiosity and don’t pass judgement.  Being a good coach is a lot harder than it sounds.

 

After coaching we were supposed to have a science session, but that got scrapped as we were all becoming too distracted by the scenery around us.  First there was the huge tabular ice berg the ship’s Captain was kind enough to take us around.

 

Then we tried to reconvene, but “Whales!!!”  No matter how hard anyone might have tried, no one could compete with whales.img_2975img_2984img_2990img_3056.jpgimg_3071

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There really is something magnificent and magical about whales.  They are big and strong, yet they move through the water with patience, ease, and grace.  Once you hear the explosion of breath as they come to the surface and watch their tails gently slip back into the sea, your heart is forever changed and you can never go back to being the person you were before.

The Drake Passage, Another Day…

Due to strong winds, additional time was required to cross the Drake, so most of the day was spend finishing our transit of the passage and our first landing was delayed until tomorrow.

The Drake Passage probably deserves some additional explanation as it seems to take on a mystique all its own.

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The Drake Passage is 600 mi wide – spanning the distance between Cape Horn (the tip of South America) and the South Shetland Islands (our first stop in Antarctica).  It is were the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, and Southern Sea converge.  At this latitude there is no landmass to impeded the flow of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current which squeezes through this narrower passage.  One site estimates the flow of this current to be 600 times the volume of the Amazon.  In addition, there can be very high winds in this area.  Combine the huge current and the strong winds and you can get some very rough seas.  Having said that, there are also times when the Drake can be very calm, so when crossing the Drake, one can experience the Drake Lake or the Drake Shake.  (Map above taken from Wikipedia.)

While most of our group outwardly expressed a desire for a Drake Lake, there was a subset that saw a Drake Shake as a right of passage and secretly hoped for rough seas.  Admittedly, I fell into the latter category, after all, what’s a little seasickness between new friends.

We experienced waves that peaked at 4 meters and to us, we were rocking.  Many of us felt we had a reasonably rough crossing – that was until our expedition leader told us we just experienced a 2 on a 1-10 scale of rough crossings.  No pun intended, but that took the wind out of our sails.  To our credit, the flag was flying strong and there were white caps on the water.

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We were also accompanied by some beautiful painted petrols for most of the day.

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Today was also marked by our first iceberg sighting.  Trust me, if you look hard enough at the horizon, there really is a white block – it’s in the middle.img_2717

 

A short while later we encountered this beauty of the starboard side of the ship.  Seeing this iceberg so close was truly magical – we’d arrived.

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As we continued, land came into view and Antarctica started to take shape.

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First landing tomorrow!!