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Green Miniseries Part II: The Commitment

‘This ice was melting 4 months before it ever had melted and it was terrifying.  That, for me, was the beginning of saying ‘this is happening!’ Robert Swan

In celebration of Earth Day, Global GoalsCast will release the second episode of the Green Miniseries. In this episode, join veteran explorer,  Robert Swan on the bottom of the earth where we find him not elated, but heartbroken. He’s just discovered his boat has sunk, leaving him $1.2 million in debt and reneging on his promise to look after Antarctica.  

Robert’s exploration of the South Pole takes place the same year the hole in the ozone is discovered above the continent and the human impact on the stratosphere is beginning to be understood.  Global GoalsCast hosts explore the current ozone layer repair efforts and are joined by British Antarctic Survey’s Jon Shanklin – part of the team who discovered the hole in the Ozone layer – and Nathan Kurtz – of NASA’s IceBridge project documenting the glacial retreat – to dig into the realities that fueled Robert’s crusade.  

Travel with us to discover the surprising friendship, born of Robert’s obsession with Captain Scott, that restores his grit and determination to erase his debt, make good on his commitment to the southern continent, and become the first man to walk to both the North and the South Poles. Then, meet Barney, Robert’s son, and hear how climate action strengthens their relationship as they create a personal mission to protect the planet, together.

Featured guests

Robert Swan

Robert Swan is the first person to have walked to both the North and South Poles. His leadership and determination made his 900 mile journey to the South Pole, the longest unassisted march in history. He was awarded the Polar Medal by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II and is a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for Youth.

Robert is a polar explorer, a leader in energy innovation and founder of the 2041 Foundation. This story of unbelievable spirit will take you on a journey of inspiration, courage and humility. Robert committed to his dream at the age of 11, achieved it with a team after 22 years and is now, on a 50 year mission to help preserve Antarctica.

Barney Swan

Barney Swan was born in London, United Kingdom, and then moved to tropical Far North Queensland, Australia at the age of 7. Being raised off grid in Australia helped him developed an acute understanding of how valuable energy is, with conveniences often not being an option. With degrees in Business and Multimedia, Barney now lives and works in California, co-directing 2041’s expeditions and ventures. Over the last 5 years, he has applied and trained skills in outdoor leadership, team management, & project strategy.

Nathan Kurtz

Nathan Kurtz received the B.S. degree in Physics from Iowa State University in 2004, and the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Atmospheric Physics from the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) in 2007 and 2009, respectively. He joined the Cryospheric Sciences Branch in the Hydrospheric and Biospheric Sciences Laboratory, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in 2013. His research interests are in remote sensing of the polar regions with an emphasis on the use radar and laser altimetry data. He is currently the IceBridge Project Scientist and is the principle investigator responsible for the production of the IceBridge community sea ice data products.

Jonathan Shanklin

Born in Wrexham, and educated at King’s School, Chester, Jonathan Shanklin has worked for the British Antarctic Survey since 1977 after graduating from Cambridge University. In the early 1980s he was instrumental in the discovery of the Antarctic Ozone Hole with Joe Farman and Brian Gardiner. He has made 20 visits to the Antarctic and received the Polar Medal in 2006. Other interests include amateur astronomy, where he is an expert on comets, and botany, where he is county recorder for Cambridgeshire.

Additional Resources

Photo credit: British Antarctic Survey.

Click to view: The first comprehensive study of snowfall across Antarctica provides vital information in the study of future sea-level rise.

Photo: Dr Liz Thomas, lead author, measuring ice cores in the field. The study analysed 79 ice cores collected from across Antarctica revealing a 10% increase in snowfall over the last 200 years.

Transcript

Coming Soon!

Green Miniseries Part I: The Promise

‘The draw was the place itself, the tragedy, the drama, the story, the diaries of Scott.  There is no edge, there are no lies because it wants you dead.’ Robert Swan

Approximately 61% of all fresh water on the Earth is held in Antarctica.  The melting ice in Antarctica is a symptom of global warming, which impacts sea levels around the world. This treacherous, yet invaluable place, is the setting for the Green Miniseries as we follow the history and present day expeditions of explorers Robert and Barney Swan across Antarctica, and spreading the message about the importance of climate action to curb climate change.  This series begins with World Water Day, continues past Earth Day, until Ocean’s Day. 

In Part I of this miniseries, take a detailed look at the amazing career of veteran explorer, Robert Swan.  Listen and passionately experience how human vulnerability reflects the Earth’s fragility as this episode touches on the experiences of his previous expeditions to the North and South poles (he was the first explorer to reach both Poles) and the inspiration that these experiences played on his growing passion towards climate action and the preservation of Antarctica.  During this episode, Robert also reflects on the experiences, both the successes and failures, of great historical explorer Robert Falcon Scott who attempted a journey to the South Pole in the early 20th century.  Throughout the episode, hear how the impact of climate change affects Antarctica and the rest of the planet, from sea levels rising in Fiji to commercial extinction threatening the global shrimp population.

Featured guests

Robert Swan

Robert Swan is the first person to have walked to both the North and South Poles. His leadership and determination made his 900 mile journey to the South Pole, the longest unassisted march in history. He was awarded the Polar Medal by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II and is a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for Youth.

Robert is a polar explorer, a leader in energy innovation and founder of the 2041 Foundation. This story of unbelievable spirit will take you on a journey of inspiration, courage and humility. Robert committed to his dream at the age of 11, achieved it with a team after 22 years and is now, on a 50 year mission to help preserve Antarctica.

Adam Baukus

As a Research Associate at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Adam’s work focuses on marine fisheries. He studies the distribution, abundance and behavior of a variety of finfish and shellfish species, such as cod, monkfish, herring and shrimp. The projects he works on are interdisciplinary so he works with a diverse group of people and we apply what we learn to things like fishing gear design to reduce bycatch, increase our understanding of ecological systems and increased knowledge and opportunities in seafood marketing.

Colles Stowell

A seafood-loving New Orleans native, Colles brings passion and dedication to classrooms, restaurants and communities as he discusses the myriad issues affecting seafood systems. He launched the non-profit One Fish Foundation in 2015 to talk to students of all ages about such critical issues as how seafood is harvested or farmed, climate change impacts on marine ecosystems, and fisheries management policies. The One Fish Foundation mission is to ensure students, their parents, consumers and local communities understand that where their seafood comes from, how and when it was harvested and even by whom matters.

Tom Perry

Tom Perry has worked for over ten years telling stories from across East-Asia and the Pacific, including four in the Solomon Islands as part of the Pacific’s largest peacekeeping/development operation, the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI). Tom is currently the World Bank’s Team Leader for Pacific Communications where he has led the production of the World Bank’s Virtual Reality (VR) storytelling initiatives. Tom previously worked for humanitarian organization CARE International, leading CARE’s media and communications responses to disasters and humanitarian crises in South Sudan and Vanuatu.

Additional Resources

Transcript

[00:00:00] Robert Swan: The draw was the place itself.  The tragedy, the drama, the story, the diaries of Scott…

[00:00:10] Robert Falcon Scott: The eternal silence of the great white desert…

[00:00:13] RS: It was my first proper expedition…

[00:00:15] RScott: Cloudy columns of snowdrift advancing from the South…

[00:00:18] RS: The place itself has a fascination for me.

[00:00:21] RScott: Pale yellow grates held in the coming storm

[00:00:24] RS: There is no edge, there are no lies because it wants you dead…

[00:00:41] Edie Gorman Lush: Welcome to the Global GoalsCast.

[00:00:43] Claudia Romo Edelman: The Podcast that explores if we can change the world.

[00:00:46] EGL: This episode is the first in our Green Mini-Series, that we’re airing from Water Day to Earth Day to Ocean Day. 

[00:00:52] CRE: The whole series is about Robert and Barney Swan, Father and Son.

[00:00:56] EGL: I really wish I had a penny for every time I’ve heard you say that.

[00:00:59] CRE: I’d have some pennies for you.  Today, we are focussing on Water Day, and you might be wondering how this connects. Well, approximately 61 percent of all freshwater on the Earth is held in Antarctica. We’re talking about the Swans because their story mostly takes place in Antarctica and helps us illustrate how climate change could affect us all.

[00:01:23] EGL: The melting ice in Antarctica is a symptom of global warming which impacts sea levels around the world.

[00:01:29] CRE: This series is about Robert’s drive to walk to both the North and the South Poles.

[00:01:35] EGL: It’s about how he battled depression and financial ruin as a result of his polar obsession. 

[00:01:41] CRE: It’s about how Robert and his son, Barney, achieved another first – a trek to the South Pole surviving solely on renewable energy.

[00:01:51] EGL: We’re going to tell you about how human vulnerability reflects the earth’s fragility. And we’re going to tell you about how the Global Goals provide a way for us to protect the poles – the Earth’s early warning system.

[00:02:03] CRE: Well, that’s a lot of things in one episode.

[00:02:05] EGL: That is true, but we are ambitious!  We use stories to tease out the wider issues of the Global Goals.  With these episodes, we’re going to play some special music when we zoom out of Robert’s story to look at some other stories associated with Antarctica and what climate change and human impact has brought. Would you like to hear the music?

[00:02:24] CRE: I would.

[00:02:32] CRE: Well, that was nice music. Before we get to Robert Swan’s trek to Antarctica with his son, Barney, we want to take you back in history. Just at the time of the origin of Robert’s obsession with Antarctica.

[00:02:46] EGL: Let’s go back to before you knew him, to a time when he was discovering what really drove him.

[00:02:56] RS: “I saw a film on Christmas Day called ‘Scott of the Antarctic’…all about a very brave British explorer who got to the South Pole against huge odds, a tough journey.  You’ve got to imagine that Antarctica is twice the size of Australia and no one had ever been to the South Pole. And when Captain Scott arrived at the South Pole, they looked ahead and suddenly, they saw a flag in the middle of nowhere.  And realized that they’d been beaten to the South Pole by the greatest of all explorers, a gentleman from Norway called Roald Amundsen.  And he’d beaten Captain Scott and his poor team by one month. Think of that! And then very sadly on the way back he and his whole team died of starvation and cold out on the ice cap.  So deep down inside me, I had this feeling that maybe I could level the score. That was just a silly little thing as a kid I thought about”

[00:04:34] CRE: Even before those early explorations of Antarctica by Robert Swan’s heroes, came those looking for more than adventure and glory.   Captain Cook’s voyage in 1773 reported vast seal populations and that led to British and American hunters to head South. 

[00:04:54] EGL: I really like how you say voyage…OK, the polar region was considered untapped wealth. These original inhabitants of Antarctica were hunted and killed for their fur.  By the early 20th century seals were considered commercially extinct – no longer viable to catch.

[00:05:11] CRE: Yes, Edie, this is still happening all over the planet.  In the story you’re about to hear, commercial extinction is caused not by hunting, but possibly climate change, forcing fishermen in the Gulf of Maine to adapt.

[00:05:26] EGL: Colles Stowell of One Fish Foundation and Adam Baukus of the Gulf of Maine Research Institute tell us more.

[00:05:35] CS:It started in 2011 when the harvest of Northern Shrimp ‘pandalus borealis’ dropped off more than 50%. And then from 2011 to 2012, it dropped by more than 150%. It went from about 2500 metric tonnes of Northern Shrimp in the northern Atlantic, down to about 350 metric tonnes. So, they immediately put a moratorium on the shrimp.

[00:06:10] AB: “So right now the Gulf of Maine is warming faster than many other places in the ocean, making it less and less hospitable for shrimp. The survival of the eggs, the juveniles, the adults and their spawning behaviour is all closely affected by temperature, and shrimp prefer colder water. We use acoustic instruments which are basically a fancy version of a fish finder that you see in many boats. We developed a survey using 10 boats spread across the coast to go out and look for shrimp to determine if they are moving further East perhaps chasing colder water temperature. The preliminary results definitely showed us that we saw shrimp signal even further East in colder waters than historically would expect to see shrimp”.

 [00:06:55] EGL: And it’s not just Shrimp. There are worrying signs that Lobster numbers are declining, Colles Stowell again…… (Coles Stow-ell)

[00:07:02] CLIP: Colles “This recent study suggests that if global warming keeps at its pace in warming up the Gulf of Maine, as it has been which is, again, faster than 99% of oceans on the planet, the lobster harvest will likely be dropped by as much as 60%. That will put lobstermen out of business, that will affect waterfront communities”.

[00:07:29] AB: “In the world of fisheries, there is a lot of effort right now thinking about how we adapt? The species that we’re used to seeing are potentially going down, cod and shrimp are two examples in the Gulf of Maine, and new species are coming in and so it’s all about working together to try and adapt to the changes”.

[00:07:50] CRE: Adapting to change is a common theme on a global, as well as personal, level and is often fraught with difficulties. The conditions needed for good change require resilience and innovation, themes that are essential for the Global Goals to be delivered.

[00:08:07] EGL: Colles and Adam’s research is ongoing and there are still a lot of unanswered questions. One thing we do know is that the planet’s average surface temperature has risen by about 2.0 degrees Fahrenheit since the late 19th century, that’s a change driven largely by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere.  The oceans have absorbed much of this increased heat, with the top 700 meters of ocean showing warming of point three degrees Fahrenheit, just since 1969.

[00:08:37] CRE: We will catch up with Colles and Adam in a future episode to find out the latest developments. Thanks to our partner, Slow Food for their help with this story.

[00:08:48] EGL: Back to Robert Swan. That moment in front of the TV on Christmas Day watching Scott of the Antarctic was the beginning of a lifetime obsession. During his time at Durham university, Rob discovered a set of Scott’s journals in a used book shop. 

[00:09:03] CRE: He says this ‘foolhardy purchase’ of a hard bound, two volume set, emptied his bank account.  It also deepened his obsession to follow in Scott’s shadow.

[00:09:16] EGL: He still wanted to be a polar explorer, but there were a few obstacles in his way.

[00:09:21] RS: “The day I left university, I realised two things. One is that I had no experience at all.  So, I had no credibility.  So, there were two things on my mind.  One is that I had to find the right people and I didn’t know anybody. And secondly, I’d have to raise a huge amount of money because through my research I’d realised that If you wanted to go there you’d have to buy a ship, you’d have to spend a year living in a hut on the edge of Antarctica.  Then you’d have to walk to the pole and hope to hell is to your ship returned to collect you.  So, the first thing was to get credibility. And the only credible thing I could think of doing was to visit Antarctica. Normally, the British Antarctic Survey only takes scientists and serious mountaineers. So, I applied to join the British Antarctic Survey as a box mover.  I’ve always been quite good at moving boxes.  So, after a bit of a struggle I was accepted by the BAS.  Went to Antarctica, fell in love with the place and met the people that I believed were the right people that could execute the expedition to the South Pole. And I remember writing them all a letter at the end of this six months period in Antarctica saying, ‘Would you like to join me, one day I’m going to walk to the South Pole”, and nobody replied.  Six or seven years letter, I wrote to them again, and all of them said, ‘yeah we’ll come’.”

[00:11:05] EGL: In 1984, Robert found support in one of the sponsors of his past heroes, Shell, who fuelled Scott’s ship 75 years earlier. Without Shell’s support, Robert admits the trip never would have happened.

[00:11:18] CRE: Sir Peter Scott, the son of Robert’s hero, also became a patron in exchange for Rob naming the expedition, ‘in the footsteps of Scott’.

[00:11:30] EGL: We asked Rob what kept him going through the seven years it took to raise the 7 million dollars he needed to fund the journey.

[00:11:37] RS: “The draw was the place itself. To actually relive this historic journey to the South Pole. I had no idea what it was gonna take. I had absolutely no idea how much it would hurt, I had no idea what it was going to be like, but it was the tragedy, the drama, the story, the diaries of Scott, the film ‘Scott of the Antarctic’, all of these things to rather a naïve brain were driving me forward.  And as people joined us, then the thing took on a life of its own.  And suddenly ships were arriving”

[00:12:23] EGL: Rob’s mother named the ship that would take them to Antarctica the Southern Quest.  They nearly didn’t make it out of London.  At a launch attended by press, broadcasters, well-wishers AND a full military band, they ploughed straight into Tower Bridge. As the papers said the next day, their trip was “Starting out with a bang!”

[00:12:42] CRE: The southern quest was originally a fishing trawler, it needed work, mainly done by volunteers, to strengthen the hull, fit ice deflecting plates and supplies to fuel the 10,000 + mile voyage to Antarctica via New Zealand.

[00:12:57] EGL: While this was happening, Rob’s companions, Roger Meers and Gareth Wood worked on navigation, logistics and the materials to build a hut they’d use as basecamp.

[00:13:08] RS: “We will come back because we’ve taken every measure including having our wisdom teeth out and our appendix to make sure that we don’t suffer the same fate Scott did. But I’m not stupid enough to say the Antarctic and its winds and its weather temperatures down to minus 50 minus 60 degrees centigrade winds up to 125 miles an hour. I’d be crazy if I didn’t say that that didn’t frighten me. But we feel that we’ve prepared sufficiently to have cautious optimism about the expedition.

[00:13:37] CRE: That was Robert Swan in 1984.

[00:13:44] CRE: The southern quest left the UK in November 1984, calling into Cardiff for coal supplies.

[00:13:50] EGL: Rob, Roger and Gareth joined the rest of the crew in New Zealand and Rob used his time at sea to ground himself in the expedition. After many months of being in what he called ‘salesman mode’. He spent weeks working below deck in the ships engine room before he and his companions arrived in the most famous waters of the Southern Ocean, McMurdo Sound. Those birds you hear are the south arctic skuas, widely known as the pirates of the avian world.

[00:14:15] CRE: Rob climbed into the ships crow’s nest contemplating what he was doing in one of the most inhospitable places on the planet and saw Cape Evans, and the building he had spent most of his life dreaming about.

 [00:14:33] RS: “There was Scott’s Hut that I’d studied in history and I knew every inch of it and I had it in my head.  And I remember walking into Scott’s hut and truly expected somebody to come around the corner and say, ‘you know well we’ve been expecting you for a while, Swan’. There was a real sense that I was back in this place that perhaps I’d been before, in some strange way”

[00:15:07] EGL: Captain Scott and his team had built the hut in 1911. It had room for 25 men, 19 Siberian ponies and months of supplies. It was the base for Scott’s fatal trek to the South Pole and was inhabited by Scott’s crew until 1913, when the Terra Nova expedition officially ended.

[00:15:26] CRE: With the failures of Scott’s expedition in his mind, Robert started to fully comprehend what he’d got himself into. After seven days offloading 64 tons of supplies,

[00:15:39] EGL: Well, he did say he was good at moving boxes…

[00:15:42] CRE: He and his companions watched the Southern Quest sail off, leaving them alone in the icy wilderness.

[00:15:49] EGL: They knew they had nine months ‘wintering over’ with only 2hrs of sunlight a day at their newly erected base, and 900 miles to march before they would see their ship again.

[00:16:01] RS: “It was frightening to be left for a year on your own with no communications with the outside world and know that at the end of that year you’d have to deliver a journey of nine hundred miles on foot with no back up at all to the South Pole. And it was my first proper expedition.  So, it was a very, very soul-searching year there before we even left for the Pole. With people that didn’t like each other very much. So, you had that problem too.  Strong, different characters which I was very glad I chose, because I’d learned something as a kid, being number 7 in a family, that the reason that people upset you is because normally they’re right. So, I didn’t choose my best friends, I did choose people who were very very different than me.

[00:17:04] CRE: The ship was essential because they were wintering over before starting their march across the ice. That meant they needed shelter, a generator, fuel and supplies for nine long months of Antarctic winter.

[00:17:17] EGL:  It was one of the questions Rob was asked the most, ‘why did you have to winter over?’

[00:17:22] CRE: Their schedule was squeezed by weather at both ends. In November, the summer made it warm enough to walk, but it wasn’t warm enough to break up the ice for the ship to get to McMurdo Sound until January.

[00:17:36] EGL: So, they left Britain in the northern hemisphere in the autumn, arrived in the Southern Ocean in December, made it through the ice pack to drop off expedition members and supplies, and then got the boat heading North before the ice imprisoned it. They then had a nine month wait before expedition season – that is the optimal three months when the weather is inhospitable rather than lethal.

[00:17:59] CRE: During those nine months, Rob struck up a long-distance pen pal relationship with John Mills, the actor that played Captain Scott in the film that had inspired him nearly two decades earlier.

 [00:18:13]RS: “So I wrote to John Mills saying, ‘Dear Sir John it’s all your bloody fault.  I’m stuck in a hut with four people I hate.  We’ve been here for nine and a half months. I’ve got nine hundred miles to walk to the South Pole.  I haven’t seen a lady in a year and it’s all your bloody fault.’ So, I got a reply which was just a really nice photograph of John Mills in Ealing Studios with plastic snow on his face from the 1949 production of Scott of the Antarctic saying at the bottom, ‘Dear Rob, if you don’t look like this after a while you’ll know going the wrong way, Yours, Jonny”

[00:18:55] CRE: I love this story.  This fledgling friendship with the man Rob considered to be Scott, would come in handy later in his life.

[00:19:06] EGL: Here’s a diary entry from Captain Scott – Arctic prose at its best.

[00:19:11] RScott: The eternal silence of the great white desert. Cloudy columns of snow drift advancing from the south, pale yellow wraiths, heralding the coming storm, blotting out one by one the sharp cut lines of the land.

[00:19:25] RS: I spent a hell of a lot of time living the history of Scott, feeling what it would have felt like, looking at their old equipment.  So, once we started the journey it became a machine. Where you are using minimal energy to do everything. So, you pull your sledges up, you put the tent up, so there is a well-oiled machine that gets better oiled as you go.

[00:19:56] CRE: Robert, Gareth and Roger left their hut on October 25th, 1985. They put on their sledge harnesses and began to pull loads double their own body weight.

[00:20:08] EGL: As they left, they passed the McMurdo Williams airfield, used by the Hercules aircraft on their way to the South Pole, a mere three hours away by air. Rob wouldn’t see the South Pole for another 90 days.

[00:20:23] CRE: He wrote in his book about the expedition:

[00:20:26] EGL: “Early on, for me, there was only the sledge, the harness. I tried to make it my friend. I saw no other option. But how do you not grow to hate your torturer? Always it was there, the weight, the pull, the dull slog. Slide one ski forward and pull. Now slide the other ski forward and pull. Repeat ad nauseam.”

[00:20:49] CRE: After 450 miles, Rob’s dream shuddered.

[00:20:54] “My sledge was starting to get heavier and heavier and heavier.  And I started to feel much weaker than I thought I should be feeling. One day, 450 days into the journey I stopped, and I couldn’t move. And Roger, came back, very kindly, and said Rob, don’t’ worry, I’ll pull your sledge the last 500 meters to the camp which they’d set up waiting for me. And he put the harness on and he could hardly move the damn sledge. And he wrote in his book, that moment I realized Robert must have had a muscle for a brain. How the hell he wasn’t complaining pulling the log through the sand “

[00:21:49] EGL: In the tent that night, Roger examined Rob’s sledge and discovered the runners had been put on backwards, creating extra friction and requiring excess effort.

[00:21:58] CRE: Can you imagine?

[00:21:59] EGL: I can’t bear to think about it.

[00:22:01] “The next day, very kindly, Roger and Gareth said, ‘Hey Rob you just go ahead’. And I went ahead, putting in the same amount of energy as I had been.  And after about an hour I looked back and I couldn’t see the other guys.  They were miles behind me.  And on that day, I knew I had another 500 miles in me to make it to the South Pole.  That was a very, very difficult time.  At that time of those runners, and that very hard weakening of me mentally and physically was something that came back to haunt me very badly on the South Pole energy challenge that we’ve just undertaken. “

[00:22:53] CRE: We will get to the South Pole Energy Challenge in episode 3 – it’s the journey he did last year.

[00:023:01] “Had the situation just been a weakness of mine, not a practical weakness I think at that stage we might have been able to turn ‘round but probably not.   And we’d made a decision between us as a team that if somebody could not keep going then that person would be left to die. And the only decision that we’d never got ‘round to making which it was too hard to make was did you leave that person food. The place itself has a fascination for me because there is no edge, there are no lies it is entirely truthful because it wants you dead.

[00:23:48] CRE: One thing I’ve learned about Robert, his commitment to Antarctica is deep.  Here’s where he makes the first of many promises to the place he has idolized since his childhood.

[00:24:00] RS:  If I make a deal, I do it. And we were suffering, I was suffering, and I went quietly out, and I said, look, to Antarctica, don’t do us in, I’ll look after you. I wasn’t really saying you know I’ll have a whole plan and campaign and I will devote the rest of my life to preserving you. It was more like trying to get out of jail. It was just to do something, to say something that hopefully Antarctica wouldn’t kill us. I didn’t realize that it would then become a lifetime’s commitment.  I was inspired by Scott, Shackleton and Jacques Cousteau to continue with that promise.  But the promise came from panic. The promise didn’t come from some good feeling that I want to be doing the right thing.”

[00:25:05] EGL: I wonder if he has ever regretted making that promise.

[00:25:09] CRE: So, let’s look at why Antarctica is so important to protect.  It may feel like you’re on another planet when you’re standing in minus 60 degrees centigrade, but we know that we are all connected. What happens in the farthest polar region affects the most tropical of islands. 

[00:25:28] EGL: Time to put on your sunglasses, Claudia. From the sub-zero temperatures of the Antarctic, we’re now going to go warmer climates now in the South Pacific, where the islands of Fiji are some of the first to experience the impact of global warming, and the melting of the ice caps.

[00:25:43] CRE: This story comes to us through one of our partners, the SDG Action Campaign. One of the finalists in the awards that they organize is a 360° virtual reality video called ‘Our Home, Our People’, that explores climate change vulnerability and resilience in Fiji through the stories of four people. Here, producer Tom Perry tells us about the challenges that they are facing.

[00:26:10] Tom Perry: The Pacific is really on the front lines of climate change and Pacific islanders have done almost nothing to cause climate change and yet the Pacific is really the part of the world that’s already seeing its impact so severely.  Catalina is really the main character in the film and she is from a small community called Vunisavisavi which is in the north of Vanua Levu in Fiji, it’s one of the larger islands in Fiji, and the significance of this community is that it’s one of the first communities in Fiji where homes have already been moved because of the significant impact of sea level rise on that community already. And it’s already changing some of the dynamics of how people plant their crops and what people are doing for food and for fishing as well.  One of the striking things when you walk into this community is the soil is just rock hard and that’s because the salt water has just completely swamped it.  Particularly during the king tides which happen 2-3 times a year and that, as the community says, it’s only a few years ago that that wasn’t happening. There’s an enormous strength and sense of community in Fiji that is really tackling this issue head on. They really are coming together to build whatever the necessary changes and developments are that are going to protect themselves from climate change.

[00:27:42] CRE: Tom’s film captures their story beautifully. Even if you don’t have VR glasses you can see a web version of it at ourhomeourpeople.com

[00:27:52] EGL: OK, Claudia, get the fleece mittens back on, we’re heading back to Antarctic. By the time the trio reached the Beardmore Glacier, they had bonded over their blisters, sores, aches and pains.

[00:28:04] CRE: As Robert wrote in his book, “Barrier, done. Glacier, done. Plateau ahead.”

[00:28:11] EGL: They walked faster, marching 9 hours a day, covering over 17 miles a day. Here’s Rob talking about his first sight of civilization for 90 days.

[00:28:20] RS: “We came up a hill and we could see the South Pole station for a good 20 miles. Which doesn’t sound very much, but that’s two days of walking, so it drove us nuts.  To be able to see this damn thing, it never seemed to get any bigger, but we could see it! We walked in to the under-ice station and everybody was clapping, and we felt so proud of what we’d done. Although we were very different people, we had come together, and we had done what people had said could not be done. And I was thinking about Scott and I was thinking about the upset that Scott must have felt arriving at the South Pole to find the Norwegian flag there.

[00:29:14] CRE: Before we go on, let’s hear what Captain Scott said when he reached the bottom of the earth.

 [00:029:20] RScott: We marched on, found that it was a black flag tied to a sledge bearer; nearby the remains of a camp. The Norwegians have forestalled us and are first at the Pole. It is a terrible disappointment.

We have turned our back now on the goal of our ambition and must face our 800 miles of solid dragging – and good-bye to most of the day-dreams!

[00:29:53] RS: “5 minutes after our arrival, the base commander came out from the South Pole and said sorry rob your ship just sank ‘five minutes earlier before we arrived. And the loss of Southern Quest suddenly mixed up history, mixed up me for, thirty-two years it completely screwed my head because – suddenly I was Scott”

[00:30:23] EGL He was Scott AND Shackleton – another great polar hero – all bound up in one.

Shackleton’s ship, Endurance, was crushed beyond repair by the force of millions of tons of ice on its 1914 attempt to cross the vast south polar continent.

[00:30:40] CRE: Robert’s boat, the Southern Quest, had cracked under that same immense power of nature. His escape vessel had become another shipwreck, joining Shackleton’s Endurance in some of the most lethal seas in the world.

[00:30:56] EGL: So Instead of revelling in the tremendous achievement, something he’d been looking forward to since he was 11, Rob stood there contemplating how he was going to get everyone home, thinking about the $1.2 debts secured by the boat, and the mess he promised he would never leave in Antarctica.

 [00:31:15] RS: So, I felt just as Shackleton must have felt when his ship went down, and I didn’t know what to do.  All I knew was that I’d lost a ship, I had twenty-five people standing on an iceberg, I had three people at the South Pole that all looked like somebody had forgot to have buried us. And I’d made commitments to leave Antarctica as clean and tidy as possible.  To Jacques Cousteau, I’d made the promise, although a bit hollow, I’d made the promise to look after Antarctica.  I realised if we did not pull something round, we’d just be seen as a failure.  And I don’t like that word very much.  It’s never been a part of my vocabulary, actually until recently.

[00:32:13] EGL:  Talk about a cliff edge!  I can’t imagine how Robert must have felt, but we won’t have long to wait to find out, because that’s coming up in the next show. In the meantime, let’s talk about water.

[00:32:22] CRE: We’re looking at the Swan’s journey, not only because we find it really interesting and close to us, but also because it helps us shine a light on how climate change is going to impact our life.  Global warming is causing the shrinking of the ice cap. 

Global warming is also causing the intensification of the water cycle that causes more extreme floods and droughts globally.

[00:32:47] EGL: Many dry regions, including the Mediterranean and southern Africa, will suffer badly from reduced rainfall and increased evaporation. Scientists estimate that around one billion people in dry areas, that’s thirteen percent of the world, may face increasing water scarcity.

[00:33:06] CRE: So here are three important facts. Water is a right, not a privilege: 2.1 billion people do not have access to safe water today.  That means one in four cannot get safe drinking water at home when they need it.

[00:33:23] EGL: Water is a daily chore.  For 263 million people – that’s more than the size of Brazil – it takes over 30 minutes per round trip to collect water.  Most of the time, this is women and girls. 

[00:33:38] CRE: By 2025, 1.8 billion people are expected to be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity.

[00:33:48] EGL: And here are three actions for today.  You can follow the Swan’s journeys on 2041.com

[00:33:54] CRE: Visit the UNICEF website to see what they’re doing to improve water, sanitation and hygiene in over 100 countries worldwide

[00:34:02] EGL: You can also make a big difference yourself, in your own consumption

Join our social media campaign  #ICommitTo and commit to turning off the lights, walking more, carpooling or, even better, riding a bike instead of driving.  Eat the food you buy and make less of it meat.  

[00:34:23] Coming up in our next show, we head back to the South Pole, where we left Robert, his ship sinking and a team of explorers to get home. We’ll be hearing about what Rob did next, another chance meeting with an old hero, and a reconnection to those promises that Robert made to do everything he could to look after Antarctica.

[00:34:44] EGL: And, if you want to make sure you don’t miss that or any of our episodes, subscribe to us via Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. While you’re there, give us five stars, and follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, @globalgoalscast, for the latest news and developments.

[00:35:01] CRE:  That was Edie lush and I am Claudia Romo Edelman.

[00:35:04] EGL: That was the Global GoalsCast

[00:35:10] CREDITS: Thanks to HARMAN, the official sound of Global GoalsCast. 

Music in this episode was by Andrew Phillips, Angelica Garcia, Simon James, Aasheesh Paliwal and Ellis.

Excerpts from Journals: Captain Scott’s Expeditions, used by permission from Oxford University Press.