New Delhi: Aiming to spread the message of saving the planet, a select few youth, among other Indians are embarking on a global expedition to "the last great wilderness on earth" led by noted polar explorer and environmentalist Robert Swan.
Drawn from diverse background ranging from a primary teacher in Pune to a technology analyst in Chandigarh, a team of about five Indians are set to join the main crew on February 28 in Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city in the world, before heading to Antarctica on March 3.
The two-week long International Antarctic Expedition (IAE) 2013, under the leadership of British explorer Swan, will see over 30-40 participants from various parts of the world, who would join core `2041` main crew on board the `Sea Spirit` on their landmark southern sojourn.
For 23-year-old Anurag Maloo who teaches grade three kids in Pune, going to Antarctica is nothing short of a dream.
"The whole journey of it, from applying for the expedition to raising funds to now anticipating the great white Antarctica, it has taught me a lot of self-belief and has reaffirmed my faith in my ideas about environmental sustenance which I teach in my classroom," says Maloo.
The "larger purpose" of the `Antarctic-size exercise` drew him to this journey of a lifetime says Maloo who met Robert Swan at a motivational talk event a few years ago.
"It doesn`t matter, from where we come from. What matters, we are human beings born on our planet mother Earth and giving back with a sense of responsibility is what we intend to do. We believe in solving and curbing problems in one life time, not to pass that problem to the next generation," he says.
Sonal Asgotraa, 26, a Chandigarh-based technology analyst at a private firm is overwhelmed at being chosen for the journey.
"It hasn`t sunk in yet. Needless to say, I`m extremely thrilled at the same time extremely gratified and humbled as well. I`ll be seeing places that I have always seen on a map, which is hardly part of our geography lessons in the classroom and that is why this expedition holds such importance," says Sonal.
"For me this would be a transformational journey. After we return, we`d like to create a fresh, personal diary and build a new tool for education in the context of Antarctica in particular, and environment in general," she says.
Sonal and Anurag would be meeting each other and fellow members of the expedition from India and abroad in Ushuaia on February 28 where they will be welcomed by Robert Swan and his team leaders. At Ushuaia, they will undergo a two-day official training programme to prepare themselves to withstand the rigours of the tough journey ahead.
Maloo says, "Oh! yes, Robert and his team are already there preparing the camps for us in Ushuaia and I think Robert`s journey and achievements as an extraordinary explorer inspires many as it did when the Expedition first began in 2003."
Robert Swan`s message to the world on his eponymous `2041 Foundation` official website exhorts youth to become future leaders and protectors of environment.
"As the last unspoiled wilderness on Earth, Antarctica is currently protected by the treaty prohibiting drilling and mining until 2041. Decisions made by today`s youth will impact our entire planet`s ecosystem and the future of life on Earth.
"It is our mission to build on this by informing, engaging and inspiring the next generation of leaders to take responsibility, be sustainable, and know that now is the time for action in policy development, sustainable business generation and future technologies," says Swan.
The IAE 2013 `Leadership on the Edge` programme would also equip all participants with leadership skills to make them clearly understand the role to be played by them as future leaders and protectors of the environment.
In the year 2041, the Antarctic Treaty 2041 is scheduled to come up for review as the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the treaty (signed on June 23, 1961) "could potentially be modified or amended".
The present voyage marks the 10th anniversary of the expedition works towards the "continuing protection of the Antarctic Treaty so that the last great wilderness on earth is never exploited".
Paras Loomba (26), a Delhi-based engineer who was part of the IAE 2012 team last year applauded the efforts of Anurag and Sonal in raising funds.
"...They have fought hard for their sponsorship which at times becomes difficult to come by for an environmental cause like this and they stand a chance to change and affect people when they come back as young leaders," says Loomba.
"Raising fund was itself a big challenge for me but I raised the 10-13 lakh amount needed through a mix of corporate sponsorship and individual philanthropy," says Maloo.
The expedition is set to pass through the historic Drake Passage. "Although they are aware of the size of waves and force of the gale winds there, one has to be there to actually experience the thrill of it all. You will actually feel your body parts moving inside you as the ship navigates the choppy waters," Loomba said of his experience.
Another experience the expedition members are looking forward is to meet penguins.
"Oh! Though I`m not a swimmer I want to do that crazy thing too of taking those famous polar plunges. That would be a little way to forever and indelibly mark my eventful journey to the great white canvas of the earth," says Sonal.
The expedition is set to end on March 13.