Kia ora friends and supporters,
It is rare to combine one’s passion and work. I am fortunate to have done so at the Antarctic Heritage Trust for so long. In February 2023 I will finish as the Trust’s Executive Director to move to an Executive Director role in the private sector. This will complete 23 years of service growing the Antarctic Heritage Trust and giving it my all, in pursuit of our mission to conserve, share and encourage the spirt of exploration.
It has been an incredible privilege and I am so thankful to the Board, stakeholders, staff and supporters for the opportunity to have championed and led this wonderful organisation for so long surrounded by honest, dedicated and passionate people.
I take confidence in departing knowing the excellent state of health of the organisation, the depth of management and operational skills in the team, the hard-won conservation and expedition achievements and the positive direction in which the Trust is travelling. It also represents an exciting opportunity for a new chapter in the Trust’s leadership after such a long stint with me at the helm.
This is a role that has been challenging, exciting and evolving. Working in the world’s remote polar regions and leading a Christchurch, New Zealand-based organisation through the years of earthquakes, terrorist attacks, fires and life changing health issues for several staff has, at times, been extremely testing. But above all it has been a deep privilege. The personal experiences and interactions with many of you reading this newsletter have made this a memorable journey.
I will miss the Trust, but depart with the most incredible experiences and memories of our work to both safeguard this global legacy of exploration for current and future generations and inspire a new generation of explorers.
As this goes to print, I hope to be on the Antarctic ice cap on our latest Inspiring Explorers Expedition™ with a group of young New Zealanders and Norwegians (some half my age!) as we attempt to ski a thousand kilometres to the South Pole. Our seventh major Inspiring Explorers Expedition™, this expedition celebrates the 150th anniversary of Roald Amundsen’s birth. In connecting young people today with the legacy of polar exploration, we know from experience it will encourage them to understand, value and be motivated to protect the legacy the Trust cares for.
To patrons, trustees, politicians, advocates past and present; thank you all for your support over the years. To say that Antarctica, while devoid of Government is devoid of politics would not be true and I thank you for your guidance and support.
To the Trust’s loyal supporters and members; your steadfast and generous assistance has made it possible for our team to deliver conservation, youth and engagement programmes to fulfil the Trust’s mission and to safeguard the legacy we care for. The personal notes, connections and your friendships have meant so much along the way. I pinch myself recalling some of the incredible experiences this role has provided with many of you and will treasure these memories.
Antarctica attracts special people and I have been fortunate to serve under four exceptional Chairs. The common theme is that each of them guided and supported with wisdom and compassion – thank you. I want also to acknowledge the Trust’s impressive long-standing Deputy Chair, Anthony Wright, who has been a steadfast and loyal advocate for the Trust.
Since starting this role when the Trust had no full-time staff, no equity and very little operating capital it is now in very good heart with a staff of 22, assured New Zealand Government operational funding support and a healthy capital base. Most importantly, collectively we have managed to conserve the famed historic bases of Scott, Shackleton and Hillary. On conceiving and in the formative stages of the Ross Sea Heritage Restoration Project (RSHRP), I was uncertain whether the sites would survive. But with a lot of hard work the project took shape with the support of royalty, heads of state, eminent persons, media interest and supporters internationally. Having raised and spent tens of millions of dollars on the RSHRP, Scott’s, Shackleton’s and Hillary’s iconic Antarctic bases and over 20,000 artefacts conserved, I know that with continued dedicated maintenance these incredible places will stand for current and future generations.
Close to 100 special people have given long periods of their working careers to make this a reality. They have worked season after season in Antarctica in challenging conditions, including through the dark winters, when asked. I want to thank you all, having enjoyed time working with many of you at site over the years. Many (and with apologies for any omissions) including Nicola Dunn, Gordon MacDonald, Noel Saxon, Robert Clendon, Sarah Clayton, Martin Wenzel, David Harrowfield, Jaime Ward, Neville Ritchie, Sue Bassett, John Taylor, Jane Hamill and Megan Absolon have done multiple seasons. Others in our design team like Chris Cochran, Pip Cheshire, Julian Bickersteth and Win Clark have sat in the background for years guiding and assisting.
I wish to single out our conservation programme managers, Al Fastier and Lizzie Meek, who between them have taken on the lion’s share of the project oversight when I brought them into the fold in 2005 and 2008 respectively. They have done a fine job supported by the likes of many in the Trust’s backroom of operations over the years. This includes longstanding staff, past and present, like Karen Clarke, Fiona Lady Sydney (nee Wills), Robyn Brunton, Helen Keimig and our current outstanding COO, Francesca Eathorne, who have collectively always supported our conservation teams and ensured we could actually deliver programme. The Trust’s team has continued to grow and the culture is something to be treasured.
Our Inspiring Explorers™ programme has grown rapidly over the last seven years from the first tentative expedition I conceived retracing Shackleton, Worsley and Crean’s journey across South Georgia Island to mark the centenary of that incredible journey. I am delighted our programme has grown to incorporate Young Inspiring Explorers™ programme, which helps brings the legacy and spirit of exploration to a new generation. The future of the Trust demands this next generation engages and connects with our vision of ‘Inspiring Explorers’.
The leading-edge digital technology the Trust has embraced in our Inspiring Explorers Education™ is another exciting development that is engaging and inspiring people everywhere with the spirit of exploration. These digital experiences continue to bring Antarctica and the legacy in our care to the world with no carbon footprint of actual visitation.
In closing, I have been fortunate to visit Antarctica many times in this role with people from all over the world including royalty, heads of state, celebrities, politicians, high profile business people, billionaire benefactors, film-crews, children, heritage experts, young inspiring explorers, scientists, students, tourists and colleagues. One constant I have observed is that visiting Antarctica changes people … for the better. It is a great leveller. Some people mull over the immensity and fragility of this place and importance of it to our very existence. Others recognise in it the insignificance of humanity amongst the grandness of nature. But all come home changed, a little humbler, in awe of nature at its rawest and the tenacity of those first few who put a tentative foothold of humanity on the seventh continent.
Finally, and most importantly, I want to publicly acknowledge my wife, Kerry who enabled me to spend large quantities of time away from home in Antarctica and around the globe in pursuit of the Trust’s mission. I am truly grateful for that opportunity and support.
I look forward to seeing the Trust continue to grow and thrive in the future.
Ngā mihi nui,