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Robert Swan Leads the Ultimate Polar Adventure with a Special Antarctic Expedition

5 min read

Robert Swan could be a figure straight out of the Heroic Age of Polar Exploration. Thankfully, he’s of this era and still walks amongst us, dedicating his life to the preservation of pristine Antarctica.

Picture credit: Robert Swan

Still, as the first person to walk to both the North Pole and the South Pole, he’s earned his place in history alongside famous explorers Robert Falcon Scott, Roald Amundsen and Sir Ernest Shackleton.

As if being the first person to walk both the North and South Poles were't enough, he's also the author of Antarctica 2041: My Quest to Save the Earth's Last Wilderness and founder of 2041, a committed team dedicated to sustainable development and Antarctic preservation.

He was also awarded both the Polar Medal and the title of Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II and served as a special envoy to the director general of UNESCO.

Not content to rest on his laurels, Swan now works to engage and inspire the next generation of environmental leaders through speaking engagements and expeditions.

One such opportunity is the upcoming special voyage with Swan, an immersive Antarctic experience offered in partnership with Quark Expeditions.

Who Owns Antarctica and What Is the Antarctic Treaty?

Antarctica isn’t owned by any one country; rather, it is governed internationally through the Antarctic Treaty System.

Signed on 6 Dec 1959 by the 12 countries whose scientists had been active in and around Antarctica, the Antarctic Treaty is aimed at ensuring Antarctica is used for “peaceful purposes” and international cooperation in scientific research, and that it doesn’t become “the scene or object of international discord.”

The treaty has since gained many other international signatories. Further, the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, which was signed in 1991 and came into effect in 1998, prohibits the exploitation of mineral resources, except for scientific purposes.

Passengers gather on deck to appreciate the icy waters of the Lemaire Channel on an Antarctic expedition.
Lamarie Channel, Antarctica

What's Next for the World's Last Great Wilderness?

The legislation protecting Antarctica from mining, however, expires in 2041. That’s when the moratorium on mining activities is set to be renegotiated, and some world leaders are eager to explore mineral extraction on the 7th continent.

But Swan has said, “I think we should leave one place on Earth alone forever.”

Swan is being proactive by promoting renewable energy technologies worldwide. If by 2041 fossil fuels no longer have value, he surmises, there will be no reason to exploit Antarctica, and fossil fuel damage to the ozone layer will be reduced.

Exploring Antarctica and Developing Leadership with Robert Swan

Every year since 2003, Swan and his team have been transforming lives by taking young people and business leaders on Antarctic expeditions. In 2017, the team travelled with Quark Expeditions with the next generation of international leaders to the last pristine wilderness on the planet.

More than any other destination on earth, it’s the one place where they can see what is truly at stake in the war against climate change.

Picture credit: Sam Crimmin

Swan’s Leadership on the Edge program is what tied the entire expedition together. Using real-life examples of the power of individuals working together to overcome obstacles, the importance of teamwork as an essential part of success and what it takes to lead the fight against climate change, Swan and his team added even more excitement to what was already a spectacular journey. Set against the austere beauty of the South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula, this once in a lifetime expedition possessed the power to captivate and transform.  

Antarctic Expedition – Discovering the 7th Continent

After arriving in Buenos Aries, Argentina, you’ll board a charter flight to Ushuaia, where your journey begins. First settled by an English missionary in 1870, this quaint port town on the main island of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago is a major tourist destination, surrounded by mountains and glaciers. The southernmost city in the world, with a population of 60,000, offers incredible vistas and plenty of restaurants to please your palate.

From Ushuaia, you’ll spend 2 days crossing the legendary Drake Passage, which has a reputation for unpredictability. During the crossing, there’s lots to do: The Leadership on the Edge team will be introduced, and a series of lectures and talks will begin preparing you for the activities you’ll undertake in Antarctica.

Daily excursions are time and weather dependent, and there are many spectacular places to visit in the South Shetland Islands. Cuverville Island has more than 40,000 gentoo penguins; Neko Harbor also has gentoo penguins, as well as glaciers that regularly calve, and is an excellent spot to see whales.

The 7-mile (11 km) Lemaire Channel, widely known as one of the most beautiful places on the planet, is virtually invisible until you’re almost inside it. At landing sites, you may hike, cruise in a Zodiac and walk amongst wildlife and around various historic Antarctic sites. And don’t forget the polar bear dip! You may not think you’ll do it – but how many people do you know who can brag about swimming in Antarctica?


Crossing the Drake on the return journey, you’ll have many opportunities to discuss all you’ve experienced with our on-board experts. Robert Swan and our team here at Quark promise you’ll return to society informed, engaged and inspired to take action against climate change.

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