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Former Gravesend Grammar pupil on pioneering polar trip

By Chris Hunter

Former Gravesend Grammar School pupil Lindsay Stringer and fellow scientists contended with 1.5m-3m ocean swells and temperatures between 5C and -5C on a groundbreaking Antarctic expedition.

As far as journeys over the world’s roughest sea to its coldest continent go, it's hardly up there with Scott of the Antarctic - it was colder in Istead Rise, as Prof Stringer’s mum told her when she got back home for Christmas - but this team of pioneers are journeying into challenging territory of a different kind.

The “Homeward Bound” project aims to amplify the voice of women in science, increase their impact on government policy, and increase their influence as leaders and communicators throughout the world - and it launched last month with a three week Antarctic expedition and training camp.

Former Gravesend Grammar pupil Lindsay Stringer (left) and fellow scientists at Port Lockroy in Antarctica, the world's most southerly post office

“We did a lot of work on board about how to communicate better,” said Lindsay, 37, from Istead Rise, who works as a professor in environment and development at University of Leeds. “I think the training was great. It’s given us the tools we need to have more of a say in the international arena.

“It was also great in terms of networking too - one of the reasons women’s voices are weaker in the international arena is there aren’t many of us, so networking is useful.

“The main thing is it’s not good enough to go to policy makers and say ‘hey look what we found’. It’s important to engage at the beginning of the research and it’s about developing a dialogue - instead of scientists just preaching.”

Scientists encountered magnificent scenes on the Homeward Bound trip

Aside from the training there were opportunities to enjoy the stark and magnificent landscape of the polar continent; observe seals and penguins; and visit Argentinian, US and UK scientific stations - the latter also serving as the world’s most southerly post office.

A seal enjoying the onset of the Antarctic summer

The remains of abandoned Norwegian whaling stations were an eerie reminder that mankind’s grip on the Antarctic has historically been fleeting - but for how much longer? The Southern Ocean felt cold enough for the group as they ‘enjoyed’ a polar plunge, but evidence of climate change is growing all the time.

That will no doubt be the focus of scientific expeditions to come; and for now Prof Stringer was just glad her worries about a rough crossing proved unfounded.

“My biggest fear was that I would get sea sick because we were travelling over the Drake Passage, which is the roughest sea in the world,” she said. “But we were really lucky because we were travelling between storms.

“On the way out we had 1.5m swell, and on the way back it was 3 metres, which was enough for me.”

The team head to shore

For more information on the Homeward Bound project visit www.homewardboundprojects.com.au

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