Mahu Whenua Expedition Team

Inspiring Explorers - Mahu Whenua Traverse

credit: Antarctic Heritage Trust

Find out more about our Mahu Whenua expedition team

Isaac Giesen

28, Christchurch

Twenty-eight-year-old Isaac Giesen thrives on pushing himself to the limit.

He is the first Kiwi to row across the Atlantic Ocean solo. He set off from the Canary Islands and finished in Antigua, with the whole trip taking 70 days. Isaac raised awareness and funds for depression and mental health along the way, a cause close to his heart after losing an aunty and two mates to suicide.

He is also the first person from the Southern Hemisphere to row across two oceans in one year.

Isaac then set a Guinness World Record for being part of the first team to row from Europe to Cuba. The team set out from Portugal on a six-man boat and the entire journey at sea took 74 days.

Here in New Zealand, Isaac’s expedition accomplishments are impressive too. Since the Covid-19 lockdown ended last May, Isaac has climbed Mount Aspiring, Mount Fishtail, Mount Tapuae-o-uenuku and to the summit rocks of Aoraki/Mount Cook. He has also rowed solo across Cook Straight in 19 hours and across the Foveaux Straight in under 9 hours.

Isaac now shares stories of his expeditions and positive mental health tips with schools, businesses and the wider community – his mission is to get people out, experiencing New Zealand’s playground for themselves and live life more.

Emily Wilson

30, Wanaka

Emily Wilson is a seasoned explorer with too many expeditions to count.

Facing the additional challenge of managing Type 1 diabetes, Emily has a heart for sharing her love of the outdoors while raising awareness that it is more than possible to live a full life and enjoy your passions through whatever challenges you may face.

Living with Type 1 diabetes means Emily has a huge amount of resilience. She uses that drive to raise awareness for young people with Type 1 diabetes, and has organised events, written articles and set up support groups for diabetics, as well as biking and paddling the length of New Zealand to inspire others to achieve their goals. From 2015-2017 Emily was the Diabetes Youth Leader for New Zealand and represented New Zealand at the 2015 World Diabetes Congress.

A seven-time Godzone adventure race competitor, Emily was part of the 2019 winning team, the first ever equal mixed gender team to win a Godzone and World Series race. Emily was also the youngest Godzone winner.  She mentors young teams in adventure racing and Rogaine and through her involvement in the outdoors community has inspired others to explore and push outside their comfort zones.

“That feeling of setting off into the unknown, into remote wilder places, is something I can’t quite describe but these adventures have enriched my life and I am drawn back to them again and again.”

Cameron Marshall

18, Queenstown

Cameron Marshall is excited to represent Wakatipu High School and encourage others to get out and explore New Zealand’s awesome backyard.

With a deep love for the mountains, Cameron often gets up early to go for a ski tour up Coronet Peak before school starts.

An experienced skier and freeride athlete, he has travelled extensively pursuing competitions overseas, exploring some of the best mountains and terrain in the world, skiing in places such as Japan, Switzerland, France, America, Italy and Canada.

In three seasons of freeride skiing, his achievements include coming third in one of the U16 World Junior Freeride Tour events in Verbier Switzerland, winning the 2019 NZ Junior Freeride Tour overall and placing second in the overall 2020 NZ Freeride Junior Tour U18 category. He was also the 2016 U14 South Island slalom champion in ski racing.

Ana Ross

23, Melbourne

Ana Ross works as a science communicator for the Monash Climate Change Communication Research Hub. From Arctic Svalbard to Afghanistan, she also has a passion for exploration and enjoys the challenges and uncertainty that outdoor expeditions bring.

Ana has skied back and cross country in New Zealand, Australia, Norway and Svalbard (a high Arctic archipelago 1,000km from the North Pole), both recreationally, as a guide, and while conducting ecological and climate field work.

During her year in Svalbard, she faced avalanche danger, extreme weather, 24-hour darkness, and had to keep a look out for polar bears.

Ana has also hiked through remote areas in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan, challenging herself mentally and physically.

Always ready to go out and explore, Ana is keen to get stuck in and share the beauty of the Queenstown Lakes District with others through the Inspiring Explorers Expedition™.

Blake Hornblow

25, Dunedin

Dunedin-based Blake Hornblow is passionate about the environment and through his blog and photography, aims to connect people with nature and inspire them to care for it.

Blake’s love of the outdoors has taken him on many expeditions, including kayaking from Alaska to Vancouver Island, kayaking down the source of the Amazon in Peru, and most recently circumnavigating Stewart Island by kayak to raise awareness of human impact on the ocean in New Zealand.

His drive for making a difference has led him to engage and educate on behalf of a number of not-for-profits, including a summer with the Alaska Whale Foundation on remote Baranof Island, and as a Science Ambassador for Sir Peter Blake Trust traveling to Antarctica’s Ross Sea.

Blake says he finds a lot of meaning and purpose in these journeys, and is excited by this new opportunity to share his experience, helping to educate young people and connect them with the land around them.

“I want to be able to share my thoughts around the need for people to connect with nature through education, adventure and understanding. “Protect what you love” expresses my purpose and vision for why exploration is so important.”

Sam Davis

16, Queenstown

Year 12 Wakatipu High School student and skiing enthusiast Sam Davis has a unique connection to the Mahu Whenua Traverse, having been involved in the Turks construction and placement in the sites on the Harris Mountain Range.

An experienced skier, Sam has toured at Coronet Peak and the Remarkable ski fields over the last four seasons.

In 2020 Sam joined Mountain Turk Club Founder Erik Bradshaw and other members of the Club to fly up and help dig the foundations for the Vanguard Turk.

Sam is excited by this opportunity and looking forward to experiencing the Turks in winter, with the chance to stay inside something he contributed to making.

Sam thrives in environments that are outside of his comfort zone and through previous running and biking adventures has always found himself coming alive and enjoying the activity most when it’s at its toughest.

Libby Clifton

25, Christchurch

For outdoor instructor Libby Clifton, her adventurous spirit means she is continually chasing opportunities to up-skill and have experiences that will make her a better person.

Throughout her career in the outdoor industry, Libby has developed her love of storytelling and uses this to share her experiences with young people to show them the opportunities that they can pursue.

Her aim is to inspire others to care, protect, and explore their natural environment.
In 2018 Libby was a member of a team that received a Federated Mountain Climbers Youth Expedition Scholarship to undertake a five-day trip to the Findlay Glacier, attempting to recreate John Findlay’s original two-month traverse from the 1930s. For Libby this challenging expedition was one of pure endurance and resilience against severe conditions.

A triathlete and multi-sport athlete, Libby has completed Ironman70.3 in Taupo and has set her sights on Coast to Coast for 2022.

Libby has worked across many different programmes that have given her opportunities to ignite others’ passion for the outdoors, including teaching refugee children how to ride a mountain bike, and taking children on their first overnight tramping experience.

Nigel Watson

AHT Executive Director, Christchurch

Nigel is the Executive Director of Antarctic Heritage Trust. The Trust cares for the first expedition bases left in Antarctica’s Ross Sea Region on behalf of the international community. These include iconic huts left by the Captain Robert Falcon Scott, Sir Ernest Shackleton, Carsten Borchgrevink and Sir Edmund Hillary.

Nigel conceived and has overseen the Ross Sea Heritage Restoration Project – the world’s largest cold-climate heritage conservation venture. He has led expeditions to Antarctica over the last two decades. With a background in mountaineering and skiing, he has skied the Shackleton route across South Georgia Island, skied to the North Pole, traversed the Greenland ice cap, and climbed Mt Scott in Antarctica.

Nigel is passionate about sharing the legacy of early polar exploration with a new generation of young explorers, with the hope that they will in turn share their own experiences to inspire others.

Marcus Waters

AHT General Manager Commercial and Partnerships, Christchurch

Marcus joined the Trust in 2019 and was previously General Manager of People, Culture and Communication at Southland and Otago’s Electricity Management Company.  He has spent over 20 years in Human Resource Management and People Development.

Prior to working in the corporate world, he was an outdoor instructor and assessor at the Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuit Centre. Marcus is also an explorer, and with his expedition team in the 2000s, completed a number of world first expeditions. He was the first person to complete an extended sea kayak journey in Antarctica, paddling over 900km from the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, past the Antarctic Circle to the base.

He is looking forward to sharing the amazing alpine environment with the 2021 Inspiring Explorers.

Erik Bradshaw

Founder of the Mountain Turk Club, Arrowtown

Arrowtown-based adventurer Erik Bradshaw is the brains behind the Mahu Whenua Traverse.

During a solo ski traverse the length of the Southern Alps, Erik decided there was a need for better, more affordable backcountry accommodation to get more people in the mountains over winter.

After years of thinking about how to create an easy-to-build alpine hut, he came up with the ‘Turk’ concept; a modified 26,000 litre plastic water tank. “It’s not a hut, it’s not a yurt, it’s not a tank, so it must be a Turk”.

Erik helped the Trust to establish two Turks as part of the field camp at Cape Adare in Antarctica to support the conservation of Borchgrevink’s Hut.

Erik is excited to join the 2021 Inspiring Explorers Expedition for the official opening of the Mahu Whenua Traverse.