Posted in Lessons

Antarctica Myths Busted

In my interactions with people, I’ve had the most interesting reactions when I told them I was going to Antarctica. One of the first few questions I am asked include concerned enquiries about Polar bears and the igloos melting. There is no polite way of busting the myths surrounding the poles than to just state the facts and hope as hell that the people are indeed lifelong learners and are open to being told the difference between Antarctica and the Arctic.

Antarctic myth busted #1:

There are no polar bears in Antarctica. You must be thinking of the Arctic. The only native  inhabitants of Antarctica are Penguins, Seals, and Whales.

Antarctic myth busted #2:

There are no indigenous inhabitants in Antarctica and the population of Antarctica varies anywhere from between 2000-5000 people in a given year and mostly constituents of tourists, scientists and researchers. You are probably thinking the Arctic, Eskimos and Igloos who have been living in the harsh polar conditions for thousands of years.

Antarctic myth busted #3:

Antarctica is melting. Yes, the ice on Antarctica is melting but Antarctica itself is a landmass surrounded by an ocean. The Arctic on the other hand, is a frozen ocean surround by land, where if the ice itself was to melt there would be no Arctic. Hence, the threat to polar bears who would have nowhere to live and would have to swim forever before eventually drowning. 😦 

Climate Change has serious consequences on the entire planet!

Here is a wonderful video that sums it all up:


Posted in Lessons

Quotable Quotes

A summary of the things that were said Today: 14th March 2016.


“You will never look at the map the same way again.”

“We are an Expedition. Not a Trip or an Excursion”

“This expedition is NOT an Anecdote”

“you have 140 Team members from 30 different nations; it is like the planet in one room”

“We are proud to say, there are more women than men in this expedition. We didn’t design it this way, it was by their own Choice!”

– Robert Swan


“Find your personal sweet spot- Least effort highest impact”

“Our power as leaders comes primarily from our experience- our life story- look into your own life story”

-Mattias Malessa


“You can only control 2 things: Yourself and the timing of your actions. Everything else is external.”

“We’re gonna make a 1% change, not change radically, but commit to 1% every day! ”

” Have the courage to walk away from the Sacrifice Syndrome.”

“This(expedition) is your ZPD(Zone of Proximal Development).”

-Nigel Paine


“Because no one in this room swam here…”

-Intro to Xavier from Shell on Climate change


“Our brains are conditioned to look at the world with Antarctica at the bottom. here is a picture of earth from space…..”. A picture of Antarctica at the middle. From space, there is no north/south, top/bottom, the universe is expanding and our concepts on earth

“All the knowledge in the world won’t give you the emotional impact as this (experience)”

-Don Kent



“Why did Herly(Frank Herly) feel compelled to tell the story when there was no hope for survival?

…. because he felt compelled to tell a story to people who will never have a chance to do so (experience it).”

“Stories shape information into meaning. are tools for engaging others. stories are more likely to be shared”

-Kyle O’Donogue (a self-proclaimed polar nerd) on Storytelling


“We are going to a place that wants you dead! It’s all about safety- your teams are your family!”

“Branco 5: if we say 7:30, we mean 7:25!”

“This is not a chapter or a footnote in your life; this is going to Change your life!”

“The ship pitches, rolls and yaws…” (said with much drama speaking of the drake)



“Disconnect to connect.”

-Oli Wheeldon


“Keep nothing in the draws, on table tops, selfs or outside! Drake proof your room, unless you want to hear this all night….” Special sound effects with the mic on a plastic box with pens and pencils rolling side to side.

“Patches only work as a ‘prevention’, not as a ‘cure'(for sea sickness).”

“Sea sickness pills are the way to go, so here is your chance to Drug up with consent.”



One of the longest poems in English literature is said to be The rhyme of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. I remember this dreaded poem from our tenth class textbooks and the one distinct long-answer-question about the Albatross. While in the Drake Passage our ship was being followed by Albatrosses all throughout and every time I saw one its reference to “the Albatross around the neck” kept coming back to me.

Albatrosses can fly for miles together and have the longest wingspans of all birds. When a Sailor spots an Albatross it is considered a sign of good luck and hope for land. But in the poem ‘the mariner’ shoots the Albatross with a crossbow from which the metaphor “albatross hung around the neck” comes, which means a curse or a burden to be carried as penance.

Excerpts from the poem:

Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung.


Even for all sailors it is very rare to see an albatross. Only ships sailing in the subpolar regions of the Southern Hemisphere have the chance of seeing one. While we were in the Drake, I came across this quote that soon became my favorite and which I still hold close to my heart.


I now belong to a higher cult of mortal, for I have seen the Albatross. 

-Robert Cushman Murphy


Why is it my favorite? I don’t know. Something about how it captures how unique this entire experience is (Antarctica) and it kind of makes you feel special, like a part of a legacy or something.  I mean when was the last time you felt special by just seeing a bird?



The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner

Posted in Lessons

We now know-Lessons from the Nautilus Lounge.


15th March 2016

“Penguins are not fish or Amphibians even though they can swim.They are birds. How do we know? The definition says: If you have feathers you are a bird. But the penguin’s feathers are designed for insulation and not for flying.”

“Their feathers are waterproof.”

“They aggregate in large colonies but they are not social creatures and prefer not to keep any relations other than to their partner. An albatross is more faithful than a penguin!”

“A good mnemonic for learning the hierarchy of the classification of animals is- King Phillip Came Over for Good Spaghetti to remember the sequence: Kingdom-Phylum-Class-Origin-Genes-Species”

“like for corporate parents, penguins chicks gather together in creches while their parents are bringing home bread/krill”.

-‘Penguins: A Natural History’ with ornithologist Fabrice



“The speed of the Glacier was measured using a simple contraption of just a wheel and a stick using frugal innovation/Jugaad”

“Glaciers can move at speeds of 2 feet a day or an inch an hour.”

“Just when you think, ice has shown you everything it has to show you, it always surprises you”

“Fun fact: If all the icebergs were to melt, how much would the sea level rise?

Answer: Zero! As they are already floating and not contributing additional water”

-‘Ice with an Antarctic Twist’ our glaciologist Colin



“The British started having dogs pull the sledge, which was quite a technological advancement, back in the day.”

“…Jhon Fraco discussed it with Sigmund Freud… because back then people would know each other, especially if you were on top of your fields.”

“Early explorers thought of Antarctica as a series of Archipelagos and not as a continent…”

“Early explorers can be dated back to 1525 and 1578 like Hoces and Drake who were greek and Spanish… because the Portuguese never ventured out south then..”

-‘Unveiling the Antarctica’ by Damien.

Posted in Leadership, Lessons

The Expedition Philosophy

Why are we on a ship to Antarctica to learn about climate change?

Our leadership coach, Nigel Paine beautifully explains the philosophy that rides our expedition. Below is a picture of a brain scan after sitting quietly and a brain scan after a 20-minute walk. See the vast difference in brain activity between the two?


Picture source: Nigel Paine’s presentation

Nigel says, “Now imagine what this is doing to your brains!” pointing all around us at Antarctica. Our brains are like sponges right now. They will absorb any information thrown at us instantly. The same is the case when we travel. Not just Antarctica but also the people who are present in the room this very instant have the same effect. The people whom we are interacting with from all the diverse backgrounds and also all the unique new experiences which we are having every day are contributing by magnifying this experience.


Picture source: Nigel Paine’s presentation

We are in the coldest, driest and the windiest continent in the world! Imagine how highly stimulating this environment is and even challenging to some degree. “The magic begins when you step out of your comfort zone.” Our brains are so malleable right now that we are capable of rewiring it to do anything we want to achieve! This effect will last for about 3 months after we go back before it gets set in its ways again. The idea is to make the most of it.

We are surrounded by people who are doing brilliant things to fight climate change in everyday life. A lot of us pledged to turn vegetarian even, in an attempt to do our bit for preventing Climate Change. I know what you are thinking… We got brain washed into turning vegetarian. But that’s ok! Because we signed up for it. Each one of us signed up to lead a more sustainable life and most of us are here because we already are doing so.

This is the reason we are learning about climate change in Antarctica and the leadership on the edge is happening in Antarctica and not as a conference in New York or Hyderabad.

“All the knowledge in the world won’t give you the emotional impact that Antarctica will”

-Don Kent.

Posted in Leadership, Lessons

Leadership on the Edge

If you put a group of highly motivated individuals in an extreme environment, you bring out the best in them. Mediated by some of the best leadership coaches on board, we learnt how pushing yourself out of your comfort zone creates magic. We learnt to collaborate in teams and built lasting friendships with 140 people from 30 nations and all walks of life! We learnt how to overcome fear with the trust and support of your team, whether it be the fear of plunging into the freezing polar water or the fear of heights while climbing a glacier rife with deep crevasses.
Here are 10 Lessons from the Icy-Classroom:

#10: “Putting extraordinary people in extraordinary places changes people in extraordinary ways.”
-Our leadership Coach Nigel’s Book.


#9: “We might peer into the future at the generations yet unborn and ask ourselves if we are really trustworthy custodians of our heritage. Do we have the right to tell them that they can never see a whale again?”
– David R.Brown
When you see your first whale pop out of water 5 feet from you, it drives down the above point in a way nothing else can. It was surreal.


#8: Great execution. That’s what you need when you are playing great teams. Practice. Practice. Practice.

Processed with MOLDIV
Getting our knots right; Safety first!

#7:”A team is not a group of people who work together, it is a group of people who trust each other.” -Simon Sinek

Processed with MOLDIV
Team Kershaw

#6: Switch to clean energy- today!
Advocate a movement to adopt clean energy at homes, Offices and communities.


#5: “The Greatest Threat to Our Planet Is the Belief That Someone Else Will Save It” -Robert Swan OBE

An embodiment of Leadership- It is such a privilege to meet the man himself, to talk to him one-on-one over tea, to meet him during, between and after sessions… you start to see why he is admired by everyone.

Leadership is making everyone feel included.


#4: Leadership is Collaboration over Competition.


Team India to Antarctica


#3: Leadership is also about having fun, as demonstrated by our Authentic leadership coaches. It’s about striking the work-fun balance.


Mattias in a Snowball fight on the ship’s bow.



#2: “We Do Not Inherit the Earth from Our Ancestors; We Borrow It from Our Children.”


#1: “Experiencing Antarctica is not just a privilege, it is a mammoth responsibility to go back and preserve the last known wilderness to man. And it begins now!”
– Rob Swan