Tag Archives: Robert Swan

Best Wishes from Robert Swan.

22 Nov

When I first met Hap in Ushuaia, Argentina, I admired his determination and resilience in facing insurmountable challenges to reach his goal of living and working in every continent.  I wish him every success in reaching Africa, and ultimately achieving his dreams.

Robert Swan, OBE

The words above are pretty special to me. As some of you may know Robert Swan was the first polar explorer to walk unassisted to both the South and North poles. Rob is also one of my inspirations behind my Final Continent Expedition (FCE) after I met him in Ushuaia, Argentina this time last year when I was trying to gain work in Antarctica (read more below). I asked Rob if he wouldn’t mind writing some words of support for my Hilary Expedition Grant application and the FCE in general. So to gain these words from such a busy man of this calibre really does mean a lot.

It’s great to have the support of both my expedition inspirations, the other being Kiwi Rob Thomson who gained the world record for longest unassisted skateboard journey with his amazing 12,000km skateboard odyssey he completed in 2008.

Below is what I wrote about Robert Swan under the inspiration section of my blog, which answers who Robert is and how he inspired me. Enjoy.


Who is Robert Swan?

Robert Swan is a polar explorer and is known as the first man to walk unassisted to both the South and then the North Pole. He is currently an advocate for the protection of Antarctica and renewable energy. He is also the president of 2041, a company which is dedicated to the preservation of the Antarctic.

His interest in polar exploration began at school in England with the race to the South Pole between Robert Falcon Scott and Roald Amundsen. It was Scott’s tragic final journey to the South Pole that inspired Swan’s commitment to follow in his footsteps to the Pole.

In 1979, he began to raise the necessary funds to reach the Pole. It took him five years of planning and fund raising to reach the $5 million he needed for the expedition.

He procured a ship and called it the Southern Quest. It set sail on November 3, 1984 to travel Antarctica. Upon arrival on the frozen continent, Robert and his team wintered over waiting for the summer to kick off their “in the footsteps of Scott expedition”. When the winter had passed, Robert and two others set out to walk 1,400km to the South Pole. They arrived at the South Pole on 11 January 1986, after 70 days without the aid of any radio communications or back-up support and having hauled 160kg sledges. His team had achieved the longest unassisted march ever made in history. Once at the pole, they received the bad news that their ship, ‘Southern Quest’ had been crushed by pack ice and had sunk, leaving him with a $2million dollar debt! – just what you want to hear!.


Three years after reaching the South Pole, he assembled a team of eight people from seven nations for an attempt at the North Pole calling the expedition “Icewalk”. His team reached the North Pole on 14 May 1989. The team nearly drowned during their expedition to the North Pole, due to the unseasonable melting of Arctic ice. Their journey made him the first man to walk to both the North and South poles.

From then on he dedicated his life to the preservation of Antarctica and renewable energy. You can read all about his expeditions and inspiring environmental advocacy and achievements in his book Antarctica 2041: My Quest to Save the Earth’s Last Wilderness. I highly recommend it.

How Robert inspired me?

I really am not a stalker, although if you asked Robert Swan he would probably tell you otherwise.

In November 2009 I found myself in the port of Ushuaia, the southern tip of South America and the jumping off point for Antarctic bound ships. As I sat in the hostel chair that had become my office where I would spend all day churning out emails to potential Antarctic employers I got talking to two guys staying at the hostel. They were both going to Antarctica the following day on an educational/awareness expedition with the organisation 2041. Jelle the dutch fella asked me, “do you know who Robert Swan is?” No. He then told me briefly about him and said that I should go and check out the 2041 website.

The next 3 hours I spent on the 2041 website and reading about Robert and the obstacles he overcame to get to Antarctica and what he is now doing for the continent in an environmental capacity. Then I knew that if I could talk with him and if he had a spare berth on his expedition ship he would be the kind of person to give me the opportunity. So the next day armed with a letter to Mr Swan I jumped in a taxi with the two guys who were off to meet the rest of the 40 expedition participants at the prearranged hotel. If you would like to read the blog post I wrote on this stalking event please click here.

After this first stalking event I was so humbled by Robert giving me his personal email address and telling me to keep in touch and he would see what he could do for the next year’s expedition. I wanted to read more about this famous Antarctic explorer that had just given me a precious couple of minutes to talk with him over the phone whilst he was in a meeting.

A week or so later I got hold of his book and read it cover to cover in 3 days. I felt so inspired by his story and his dedication to climate change and the protection of Antarctica I wrote him a 6 page letter telling him so. In true stalker fashion I found out roughly when his flight would be leaving Ushuaia after he got back from Antarctica and I waited for him there. He finally arrived and I approached him with a parcel containing the 6 page letter and one of my “I will do anything to work in Antarctica” T-shirts.

When I approached him and introduced myself he said “So you’re the man are you?”, referring to me being the person that he had talked to on the phone at the hotel 2 weeks prior, who had left a letter for him at his hotel reception, had talked to his co-workers, had emailed him, had commented on the organisation blog………..basically your everyday stalker kind of stuff. And then his following words I will always remember “well Hap, I admire your determination” – wow, coming from a guy that had walked unassisted to both the north and the south pole that really meant a lot. Anyway, in that 6 page letter I gave to Robert I sincerely told him that he had inspired me and that I wanted to help his organisation and I wanted off set my Antarctic carbon foot print (At that point my Antarctic cruise ship waiter job was in the pipeline).

So to keep my word to Robert I have decided to offset one continent with another. Working on the Antarctica cruise ship disgusted me, as a mode of transport its criminal (read this blog post), the over consumption of passengers and not to mention the 10 tonnes of fuel used each day! So I scrapped ideas of doing Africa on motorbike and decided to make my final continent a human powered expedition.

Soooooo close!

18 Nov

Ohhhhhhh, it felt good. Let me share with you my experience of yesterday, in fact I had a similar experience today, but for now I will share with you yesterdays experience.

My previous post was about meeting Tom and Jelle who were about to embark on an Antarctic expedition of a lifetime with Antarctic legend and environmentalist Robert Swan. The purpose of the expedition is for the 40 hand-picked participants to experience Antarctica expedition, attend onboard seminars etc and then go back to their respective countries and spread the word of 2041 and global warming.

Before Tom and Jelle left the hostel in taxi to go to the hotel to meet with the other participants I wrote Robert a letter and attached my business card (gosh I sound so professional). I jumped in the taxi with the boys and headed 10km out of town to the hotel.

Through the sea of participants trying to check in, I spotted a gray haired man in his 50’s wearing a red “team leader” jacket. I approached him, said I had a letter for Mr Swan and explained to him my goal and showed him my t-shirt. He was such a nice guy, he introduced himself and said to me “ah just go in there, pretend your one of them, no one will notice, I will make sure Mr Swan gets your letter……….in fact let me tell you something. Mr Swan isn’t here at the moment, he’s up at another hotel up on the hill, he will be there a little bit longer, go there and you might be able to see him”. How awesome is that, one thing I have found as I strive to get to Antarctica are people are so willing to help you live your dreams.

Luckily I had printed off 3 letters, so I left another one with Tom, and took my last remaining letter and went to see if I could get a taxi, as I needed to get there ASAP. But in true traveller form, I checked my wallet and had no money, not even enough to catch a bus.

The vibe I had got from the team leader and from what I had read about Mr Swan I knew if I could meet him and he had a spare berth from someone not turning up I could live my dream. It was close. I started on the 10 km walk back into town, and all of a sudden I felt tears in my eyes, my Antarctic goal I have strived for the last 3 years felt like it could be in reach, I kept saying, “this could be it Hap”, the feeling was amazing, my heart was racing.

I started to walk, restraining myself from running. I stuck my thumb out at the same time and when I heard cars approaching I would turn to face them with my smile so they could see the positive wave that I was riding, the aurora or whatever you want to call it. The fourth car pulled over.

26 year old Nicholas was driving, I told him what I was doing, and he replied “that hotels right at the top of the mountain, but I can take you there as it just so happens I have to drop something off there today”. Nicholas hit the gas and during the conversation it turned up that he has an American wife that he met 3 years ago in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico! The same place I met my American girlfriend Mandy 3 years ago, how crazy is that.

We made it to the 4 star hotel, I walked into the foyer and told the receptionist I was there to talk with Robert Swan. I was expecting him to call security, but I heard him telling Mr Swan on the other end that there was a man here to talk with him and then handed me the telephone. My god, what do you say to a famous Antarctic legend that you’ve just stalked and doesn’t know who you are? Well, you tell him your name. “Hello Mr Swan, you don’t know me but name’s Hap” “Hello Hap, sorry I am just in the middle of a meeting organising this expedition, I can’t meet you, but quickly tell me what you want”. So I just let loose on my spiel about my goal, about Antarctica, about wanting to be a part of his organisation and helping with my public speaking etc, this is easy to do when you are this passionate. He was such a genuinely nice guy, he said to me “I’m sorry Hap, I have no berths available, but leave me your letter and I will read it, but take down my email address and send me an email again on what you can offer my organisation and I will see what I can do, good luck”.

Wow, so I didn’t have a berth, but the genuine words from someone I had spent all morning reading about and admiring left me floating on a cloud as I made my way all the way back down into town.

Then I made my way back to the hostel and spent the night battling to keep my eyes open as the night before I was awake from 4am as my dorm room mates organised their packs for their 5am bus. But I finally I got the email sent off at 3am with the small chance that a participant could fall ill in the one day they had in Ushuaia before departure. In hind sight I should of had taken more time and written the email with a fresh mind, but you gotta do what you gotta do. So what part is 2041 going to play in my future?

2041 – A number worth mentioning!

16 Nov

Hey folks,

It’s your man on the ground in Ushuaia, yep still here looking for my passage to the illusive continent. Everyday I am meeting people that have worked in Antarctica, knows someone working there, someone that has just got back from the continent, or someone who has just paid the last minute price of US$4000 for their 11 day cruise to Antarctica.

But today I met two Antarctic bound guys here in Hostel Antarctica that are worthy of a mention, and an organisation that is doing wonderful amazing things for the frozen continent. The two fellas are Jelle from Holland who studied Industrial Ecology and Tom a journalist from England. They are about to embark on a 2 week journey with the 2041 expedition, organised by the passionate Antarctic explorer and protector, Robert Swan, the first man to walk to both the North and South Poles.

The Antarctic treaty was first signed in 1959, to protect it’s natural resources from drilling and mining, and the year 2041 is when that treaty is up. Swans 2041 organisation is about the education of the next generation about climate change and use of sustainable energy so that there will be no need for Antarctica’s abundant untapped resources to be exploited. I have spent the last 3 hours on the 2041 website, Robert has also just released his 2041 book, can’t wait to get my hands on it. Go to the 2041 website and check it out.