Event Detail

1
Sep
2009

First to the Poles: Leader for the Poles

Robert Swan,OBE
Tuesday, 1 Sep 2009
Pacific Place Conference Centre, 5/F One Pacific Place, Admiralty
On 11 May 1989, Mr. Swan became the first person to have walked to both the North and South Poles. He speaks of his record breaking career as an explorer and how it led to him becoming one of the world’s great environmentalists.

THE ROYAL GEOGRAPHICAL SOCIETY HONG KONG

presents

Robert Swan, OBE

We are delighted to welcome to Hong Kong again to speak Robert Swan, the first person to walk to both the North and South Poles, but now also one of the world’s most famous environmentalists. Robert Swan is an adventurer who has tested his strength to the limit in the planet’s most hostile environments. His 900mile journey in 1986 across the treacherous Antarctic ice cap to the South Pole stands as the longest unassisted walk ever made. Mr. Swan is widely known as a fine speaker and the lecture is illustrated with superb slides. In this talk, he speaks of his record breaking career as an explorer and how it led to him becoming one of the world’s great environmentalists.

Working for the British Antarctic Survey, it took Mr. Swan more than five years to raise the £2.5 million needed for his expedition to the South Pole. The team, after spending a winter in the Antarctic, set off across the desolate ice cap for 900 miles reaching the Pole on 11 January 1986. It was the longest unassisted march in history and before the era of satellite radios, they pulled on their sledges their total needs for the walk.

Mr. Swan’s vision turned to the North Pole. The International North Pole Expedition was designed to draw attention to the environmental crisis confronting both the polar and world ecologies. Involving 500 sponsors, in March 1989 he set off with his international team to cross 500 miles of frozen Arctic sea. They had to deal with towering ice walls, temperatures of 55 degrees, and fragmented ice which was drifting six miles a day, leaving large stretches of open water ahead of them. In the appalling weather they had to be wary against the attack of polar bears. On 11 May 1989, Mr. Swan became the first person to have walked to both the North and South Poles.

Since then, Mr Swan has built on his adventures to become a leader on climate change issues and in particular to ensure that the world continues to protect the fragile resources of Antarctica beyond the current treaty due to expire in 2041. In 2041 the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty could potentially be modified or amended. In addition to preserving Antarctica now, Mr. Swan’s aim is to work towards the continuing protection of the Antarctic Treaty so that the last great wilderness on earth is never exploited.

Mr. Swan was a keynote speaker at the United Nations first Earth summit for Sustainable Development in Rio in 1992, has since established the first EBase on Antarctica which serves as an educational base to inspire teachers, educators and future leaders, is a UN Goodwill Ambassador for Youth and is Special Envoy for the Environment to the Director General of UNESCO. In January 2002, after three years of planning Mr. Swan lead his team successfully to remove 1,000 tons of waste from Antarctica. Following three years of planning, fundraising, and organisation, Mission Antarctica's ship transported the rusting remains of equipment and other waste from numerous Antarctic research stations to Uruguay.

Mr. Swan read Ancient History at Durham University and then joined the British Antarctic Survey. Following his South Pole Expedition, in 1987 he was awarded the Polar Medal by H.M. Queen Elizabeth II. Since his polar exploits, Mr. Swan has been involved in many other endevours, including international student expeditions. He was awarded a honourary doctorate in 1993 and the OBE in 1995. He has also been involved with many initiatives to preserve the Antarctic as the great wilderness on earth. His contribution to education and the environment have been recognised through his appointment as UN Goodwill Ambassador, together with numerous other honours.

Members and their guests are most welcome to attend this lecture, which is HK$100 for Members and HK$150 for guests and others.

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