Sangeeta Sharma

Inspire Antarctica Expedition 2014: Leadership On The Edge - Part 1

Blog Post created by Sangeeta Sharma on Apr 25, 2014

Those of you who have gotten to know me over the last year may be aware how much I embrace staying connected to the 'Edge'. In relation to HDS, the 'Edge' of technology to be more precise. In particular with regards to developments influenced by or impacting the third platform.


With Big Data Analytics being a key part of the 'Platform 3' mix, it's relevance as a key influence on our business at HDS is undeniable. The success of SAP HANA and the development of products such HCP Anywhere by Hitachi, for me, are examples that embody just how diverse the changes brought about by this shift can be. It's the kind of thing that inspires me ask the question of "how can we do things differently?", pretty much on a daily basis.


You won't be surprised to hear then that in Oct 2013, my curiosity and interest led me to be invited to TEDxUNPlaza. An event, where some great minds and 'do'ers' of amazing things take the time to share their stories with the world. The day was filled with stories that inspired and challenged the thinking that "we've always done it this way". Yet there was one person whose story inspired me so much, it has genuinely changed my life. That person is Robert Swan O.B.E.(Order of the British Empire), the only person on earth to have walked to the North and South poles.


Robert Swan O.B.E.

"In the Footsteps of Scott" (1984–1987)


Robert Charles Swan, OBE, FRGS (born 28 July 1956) is the first person to walk to both Poles. Southern Quest set sail on November 3, 1984 to travel the 14,842 nautical miles (27,487 km) to Antarctica. The expedition stopped over in Lyttelton, New Zealand to meet Bill Burton, who at 96 years old was the last surviving member of Scott's expedition in 1912. Swan's initial Antarctic expedition was thus officially dubbed "In the Footsteps of Scott".

Inspire Antarctic Expeditions, 2003 – present

After 23 years of sustainable leadership and teamwork experience, Swan led the first corporate expedition to Antarctica in 2003. The expedition members witnessed firsthand the effects of climate change in Antarctica. They were tasked by Swan to become leaders in sustainability upon their return home. Between the 2003 – 2007 expeditions, Swan's dream of building the E-base became a reality. Each successive year's expedition members helped plan, build, and promote the E-base—the world's first education station in Antarctica to be used as a resource for teachers and young people from around the world.


Little did I know at the time that my brief conversation with him that day would spark off a chain of events that would take me literally to the Edge. The Edge of Antarctica to be more precise, as part of an International Expedition called: "Leadership On The Edge." How could I refuse? (I'll talk more about my experience on the course in Part 2.)

Robert Swan's organization 2041 which runs the Inspire Expedition is dedicated to protecting one of the most precious places on our earth: Antarctica. So along with 87 others from 28 nations, I am lucky enough to have gained first-hand experience of why renewable energy & sustainability are crucially important to our survival here on Earth. 



90% of the worlds fresh water is held in Antarctica. 70% of which is frozen. With global warming on the rise, the effects of climate change on this region have sadly resulted in an estimated 40% reduction in ice over the last few years. The ice is melting more rapidly now than ever. Now I could go into the numbers and provide droves upon droves of statistics for you. I could also detail how Antarctica alone supports two thirds of the Marine life on earth and what those changes mean for us 'Hu-Mans' (not good I'm afraid and Captain Paul Watson agrees).


I could also go on and on for days and nights about how drop dead gorgeous Antarctica is BUT here's the thing; I'm no eco-warrior and I'm certainly no expert in climatology. In fact the debate around climate change (for those of you who may require evidence) actually reminds me of the one resting within the 'Platform 3' discussion. Why? Because the world of technology that we live in, has been and is still responding to elements of 'disruption' that have altered the 'traditional' way of doing things.

Penguin Love.jpg

"Penguin Love" © Sangeeta Sharma 2014

Interestingly, representatives from 'Shell', my team mates on the Inspire Antarctic Expedition 2014 confirmed, that for the Oil & Gas industry, the disruptor is 'Climate Change'. So guess which question they're trying to find answers to? You got it. "How can we do things differently?".

2014-03-13 17.05.01.jpg"Oh Antarctica" © Sangeeta Sharma 2014

It's only 27 years or so to go after all, until the question of mining and drilling in Antarctica comes up for review. Consider the changes we have seen in the last 27 years. Whoever thought we'd be paying to drink water out of plastic bottle for example? Or that the flow of water from the Colorado Basin, that roughly 30 million people depend on (farmers, tribes, industries, anglers, power distributers and rafters) would even be a cause for concern?


If All The Ice Melted - Interactive Map
Ice Melted.jpg


It's no wonder then that this question has become one of the most prominent of our time. Especially since there is so much 'disruption' occurring across the world at this moment. In the case of technology, I see it as a very important factor in our ability to truly respond to social innovation.

It's at the heart of why Robert Swan and his team at 2041 will be returning to Antarctica in October 2015. Their return expedition has one exciting, yet critical twist; can he and his team survive by relying solely on renewable energy sources? It'll be a 50+ day trek on foot in super sub zero temperatures.  Aside from a 101% chance of a seriously frosty beard and an equally high risk of frost bite, getting from A-Z over a frozen desert without clean drinking water and some kind of heat source for food etc WILL kill a person. I think you'd agree that this is a challenge with some pretty high stakes. I'm also pretty sure that 27 years ago, it wouldn't even have been possible to accomplish using only renewable energy.

Under the IceThe Antarctic Treaty


Key: Ag - Silver, Au - Gold, Co - Cobalt. Cu - copper, Cr - Chromium, Fe - Iron, Mb - Molybdenum, Mn - Manganese, Ni - Nickel, Pb - Lead, Ti - Titanium, U - Uranium, Zn - Zinc

Size of Antarctica relative to the U.S.A

The Size Of Antarctica.jpg

The 12 nations listed in the preamble (below) signed the Antarctic Treaty on 1 December 1959 at Washington, D.C. The Treaty entered into force on 23 June 1961; the 12 signatories became the original 12 consultative nations. As of April 2010, 17 additional nations (Brazil, Bulgaria, China, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Finland, Germany, India, Italy, Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Republic of Korea, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine, and Uruguay) have achieved consultative status by acceding to the Treaty and by conducting substantial scientific research in Antarctica. Russia carries forward the signatory privileges and responsibilities established by the former Soviet Union.


Another 21 nations have acceded to the Antarctic Treaty: Austria, Belarus, Canada, Colombia, Cuba, Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, Malaysia, Monaco, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Portugal, Romania, Slovak Republic, Switzerland, Turkey, and Venezuela. These nations agree to abide by the treaty and may attend consultative meetings as observers.


The 50 Antarctic Treaty nations represent about two-thirds of the world's human population.


When the original Antarctic Treaty was signed in 1959, the exploitation of resources was not discussed at all for fear of jeopardizing the Treaty. In the 1980's the issues were raised again, and led eventually to the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (an addition to the treaty).

The Madrid Protocol was signed in 1991 by the signatories to the Antarctic Treaty banning mining, this is up for review after 50 years in 2041.

The Madrid Protocol became law in January 1998, it sets out the principles under which environmental protection in Antarctica is to be regulated. This includes a ban on all commercial mining for at least fifty years. Though it might sound like an impressive piece of regulatory legislation, it was quite clear before it became law that there was no real commercial interest in mining or oil exploration in Antarctica for the foreseeable future.


Thankfully Robert Swan isn't the only one trying to find some answers. We at Hitachi are too, in a global fashion. For example, our team in Japan have developed a Carbo-Hydride Energy Storage system (CHES), already tested in Antarctica at the Japanese Showa station, The Hitachi Group have also completed amazing projects for wind and solar power generation for example, contributing significantly to providing clean water and promoting sustainability. The level of investment and engagement is significant. In fact, whether you believe or don't believe in 'Climate Change', one thing is for sure; the development and implementation of renewable energy technology is most definitely a part of our global future. Here at Hitachi, it's one that I'm proud to note, we have most definitely embraced.


So here's a question I put to you and our amazing team at Hitachi. How can we help Robert and his team? Can we use Microwave technology to help them heat their food at least?  It'll be a first, that's for sure. And if anyone can do it, I bet we at Hitachi can. So how about it team Hitachi? Can we "Inspire The Next" and promote the use of renewable energy technology to protect Antarctica for future generations? I for one sincerely hope so.


By the way, did I mention Antarctica is Drop Dead Gorgeous and completely magical!


© Micha Klarenbach 2014