“The last true, great wilderness”

Robert Swan, Founder of the 2041 Foundation and fellow expeditionist Harriet Kelly, Senior Financial Modeller, Ventient, discuss just how much Antarctica has changed in the past few decades.

Harriet (HK): Robert Swan, thank you for bringing us to Antarctica!

Robert (RS): It’s great you’re here!

HK:  Well, I’m excited to be here and it’s my first time here, but I’m finding it quite cold, wet, and unwelcoming! You’ve come 35 times. What keeps bringing you back?

RS: I think two things really: one is I still don’t like being cold, I never have enjoyed being cold, but it’s the fact that no-one owns this place and that it’s the last true, great wilderness left on earth. That’s what keeps bringing me back, and that we have the chance to leave it alone as a natural place for science and peace. So, I’m always excited to come back and every expedition that we make here has different people, all from lots of different countries and it’s great to see them.

“And then you realise… the ice has gone”

HK: Have you seen much change in the continent through your visits?

RS: Huge change. We come to the top of the Antarctic – the Antarctic peninsula that sticks out to South America, somewhere up there (points with hands) so we’re here (indicates below), and that is the place on our planet that shows all of us, how much climate change is really happening. 

You see more change here than anywhere else on the planet. So, when you are here and you come every year like I do, suddenly I look and go, “Hang on a minute! I’ve never seen that island before!” and then you realise that that island used to be covered in ice. And the ice has gone. 

“I can’t believe it… it was raining.

And yesterday, I can’t believe it, that it was raining. And not just rain and snow, but all rain, coming on me, standing on our ship… And I’m going, “It’s raining!” And that has never happened to me since I’ve been coming here for 32 years. So there is change here. And I think the wildlife too are also seeing changes in their habitat and in their feeding, and some penguins are having a bit of a rough time staying alive…

Learn more about what Ventient is doing to save Antarctica.