(Supplied: Antartica Sabbatical -Staff accommodation area at Union Glacier Camp, with Mount Rossman behind)
Would you take a break from your career to dedicate time to an Antarctic research mission?
Over tens of thousands of people from all around the world applied to take part in the Antarctic Sabbatical - a once-in-a-lifetime programme that will send five citizen scientists out to the ends of the earth to focus on collecting snow samples and study the extent to which microplastics have made their way to the interior of Antarctica.
The volunteers have finally been chosen after an exhaustive selection process spearheaded by Airbnb and Ocean Conservancy, led by environmental scientist Kirstie Jones-Williams. While we will be singing carols and exchanging gifts, the expedition will see the volunteers working tirelessly in some of the harshest conditions to create global awareness about a growing epidemic.
The fantastic five will bring insight into how we can protect the home of the North Pole and the world at large.
READ: Antarctica sabbatical? Here's how you can be one of 5 volunteers wanted for special Research Mission
So who are these passionate individuals?
Ecology professor Spencer, 33, from Hawaii is particularly passionate about the mission because his own experiences have been evidence of how small, individual actions can impact environments thousands of kilometres away.
“I live about 100 metres from a beach that is often empty, yet on any given day you can find hundreds of pieces of plastic, netting, microplastics, and polystyrene foam that wash onto our shores with the prevailing winds and currents."
Rasha, the 25-year-old conservation education and outreach coordinator at Emirates Nature-WWF in Dubai, has the adventurous spirit needed for the project, passionate about martial arts and hiking. Much like Spencer, she wants to make a lasting change.
"Our planet depends on me; it depends on every single one of us.”
The other three volunteers include former executive Vivek from India, Arizona resident Tynthia and someone who's already accustomed to the cold is Kjersti, the 37-year-old from Norway. Each of the citizen scientists has a background in education, sustainable development and climate change.
Hailing from different countries, the participants have one thing in common - the need to leave the planet better than they found it and mission leader Jones-Williams agrees.
"This is an incredible opportunity for the five volunteers who all bring their own experiences and perspectives to the project. Collaboration is a fundamental part of solving environmental problems and, through first-hand experience, I know that they will be inspired to share what they have learnt when they return home.
"I was overwhelmed with the level of interest and quality of applications, and I’m really excited for our message and expedition to be shared by our volunteers on this global platform with Airbnb and Ocean Conservancy.”
WATCH: A King Penguin has waddled onto the beaches of Cape Point - all the way from Antarctica
This is what the citizen scientists will be doing on the exciting project
- Attend an immersion training in Punta Arenas, Chile, where they will prepare themselves with courses on glaciology and field sampling as well as lab work and equipment practice.
- Fly to Antarctica to begin their scientific mission, landing on a naturally formed blue-ice runway deep within the continent where the research will be conducted.
- Collect snow samples from the interior of Antarctica and study them for foreign microfibers to determine how far waste and pollution has travelled across the world.
- Visit the South Pole, where they can walk around the globe in just a few steps.
- Get the chance to explore the beauty of Antarctic sites like the Drake Icefall, Charles Peak Winds coop, and Elephant’s Head to learn about the continent’s geography.
- Return to Chile where they will continue to study their findings and work with Ocean Conservancy to become ambassadors for protecting the oceans. In this advocacy role, they will deliver insights on how the Airbnb community and others can help minimise their collective plastic footprint to support Ocean Conservancy’s mission.
WATCH: 10 Things You Didn't Know About Antarctica
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