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The Story of Mission Antarctica
by Pippa H
The World Summit on Sustainable Development

iNet News Team at Mission Antarctica
Photo: Mandy Paton-Ash
Johannesburg, South Africa •• Aug. 27, 2002 •• SolarQuest® iNet News Service •• A 62 foot sea-going yacht docked in landlocked Johannesburg? Although it may sound weird to most, this is the brainchild of Robert Swan OBE who, as a keynote speaker at the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992, was challenged by UN leaders, to commit to a positive, decisive, environmental action plan involving industry, business and the youth. Thus Mission Antarctica was born.

With his report back at the 2002 Earth Summit in Johannesburg always at the back of his mind, Robert Swan partnered up with the Russian Antarctic Expedition to remove over 1000 tons of waste from the Bellinghausen base on King George Island at the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. He took 35 young people from 25 nations to assist the Russians in removing the waste, which was then shipped to Montevideo, Uruguay and recycled. The task was not an easy one but Robert Swan, the only man in history to have walked to both the North and South poles, was prepared to battle through it all. As Robert Swan said, “ to say it was a desperate struggle would be an understatement”. However the team managed to produce the most extraordinary cleanup story in history, and made it in time to deliver a positive message and visible results to the World Summit in Johannes burg 2002.

To be able to fully deliver the message to the Summit however, meant getting the yacht to the conference in Johannesburg, or in Robert’s words “Mohammed to the mountain”. This new task was dubbed “Earthship Mission possible” and involved trekking over 12000km of South Africa. This was an opportunity not to be wasted and a new partnership was born between Mission Antarctica and Lovelife, a South African organization targeting youth in the fight against HIV/Aids. A team of Lovelife “groundbreakers” was even taken by Robert Swan to witness the results of the cleanup in the yacht 2041. On the way to the “Ice station Johannesburg” in the heart of the World Summit media centre, Ubuntu Village, the expedition stopped in every town and city it passed. It explored and recorded what cities were doing about sustainability and management as well as encouraged young people to clean up and take responsibility for their environment and sexuality issues. This lead to the realization that it is vital to bridge the traditional environmental gap between the developed and the developing worlds a view which is evident in the video and tour shown at the Ice station.

A truly emotive video and an awesome exhibition make a trip to “Mission Antarctica” a definite must at the summit. The dynamic and helpful Ice station team only reinforces this statement and the opportunity to see and learn about their mission is an opportunity not to be missed.

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