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I still remember when I was a kid and spent hours searching my parents’ collections of National Geographic. To imagine the day when I could be an explorer, discover new species and overcome great challenges.
When I was growing up in suburban America, most of what I explored was in the woods behind my daycare or in after-school malls. We did not have New Zealand’s stunning mountains and incredible landscapes back home in Virginia. I had never heard stories about Sir Edmund Hillary or even seen a glacier before I traveled in my twenties.
But despite growing up in the small town, I have always dreamed of traveling the world. I was eager to see penguins on the ice and majestic whales erupting on the high seas, nowhere captured my imagination quite as Antarctica. I could not wait to travel there one day in the footsteps of the original Antarctic explorers.
Always a curious person, I could not get enough of learning about Antarctica over the years.
It would not be until I was in my thirties before I managed to land a lucrative place on an expedition ship on its way down to Antarctica. In the years leading up to it, I spent my time devouring stories about the first explorers there, about Shackleton and Scott, and learning about the wildlife and exploration history of the last continent. I canceled my time until it was my turn.
Every time I met someone who had been to Antarctica or worked down on the ice, my eyes lit up with excitement as I tried to pick their brains as long as they tolerated me.
Living in New Zealand, the gateway to Antarctica on this side of the world, meant it would happen more often than you might expect. With scientists and engineers heading down to Scott Base (NZ base) or McMurdo Station (US base), there were plenty of interesting people with deep knowledge of my favorite place to chat.
Early on, I met the incredible team behind Antarctic Heritage Trust in Christchurch. Their mission is to preserve, share and encourage the spirit of exploration. The trust takes care of the historical explorers’ bases belonging to Scott, Shackleton, Borchgrevink and Hillary, and the thousands of objects they left behind – making them world leaders in cold climate conservation. They also share the world’s greatest polar exploration stories and encourage the next generation of Antarctic explorers. It could not be more appropriate charity to support.
They often lead incredible expeditions for young people aged 18 to 30, such as crossing Greenland or going back Shackleton’s footprints across South Georgia as part of their Inspiring Explorers Expeditions ™, as well as working hard to engage younger students ages 11 to 17 with stories from the ice through their Young inspiring explorersTM.
What would I give to be able to go offline in Antarctica now? In fact, I was supposed to be down on the ice right at this moment, but COVID got in the way.
As an advocate for Antarctica, I can say how difficult it is to inspire people to really worry and engage in a place that is so remote. Few people if ever will visit, yet Antarctica symbolizes and stands for so many of our greatest triumphs and battles today. I often find myself turning on my phone instead of sharing stories and videos from Antarctica with friends to try to convey how special this place is.
One of the cool ways the Antarctic Heritage Trust has made Antarctica accessible is through a free Augmented Reality app in cooperation with Staples VR. The app contains two experiences: Antarctic 3D Artifacts and My Explorer Journal.
Kids and curious adults can use the Antarctic Heritage Trust AR app to learn about the history of Antarctic exploration through augmented reality videos and photo galleries. You can really step into one of the least accessible places on earth. Download the activity booklet – My Explorer Journal from nzaht.org and use it with the app to bring Antarctica to life. My Explorer Journal was created by Anzac Gallate, who traveled to Antarctica with the Trust in 2020 as a way to share his experience with other young people when he returned. It brings to life the stories of the original Antarctic explorers.
In another life I could have been a teacher. Wait, in another life I was actually a teacher. Eleven years ago, while living in Spain, I was working on teaching English to elementary school children, a beautiful experience that inspired me to both start this blog and share the things I have learned with the world.
Since living with children over the last few years combined with a passion for storytelling, I have come to truly believe in the power of sharing stories and experiences with others. Especially when it comes to children, we have a real opportunity to inspire future generations to take care of and take care of our planet. Nowhere does this symbolize more than in Antarctica.
While catching up with friends back in Wanaka, I could not resist whipping my copy of My Explorer Journal rather than sharing with her daughter Bella. Very curious, she could not believe it when I told her stories about sitting on beaches with millions of penguins or learning about the historic huts down on the ice.
“Liz, may I go to Antarctica when I’m seven?”
Oh, my stars, what a sweet! Six years old and full of spark and pomp, Bella immediately figured out how to use the AR app (much faster than me, wtf ?!) and would not close it for dinner. I feel enormously proud and it is now my new goal to inspire her to go to Antarctica as a scientist one day (can not help me). We need more women in science!
Proudly she read her own Antarctic journal and shares what she learned about cold, storms and wildlife with “penguins” galore. While scanning the interactive pages of the journal with the AR app, you can step into the world of Antarctica and really get a feel for this incredible place.
I can not even tell you how excited I was to hear how she took her Antarctic diary to school to share with her friends. We now have a standing evening date to watch polar documentaries together. Honestly, this is the best feeling in the world that inspires the next generation of potential Antarctic explorers.
Have you been to Antarctica or do you dream of visiting one day? Have you downloaded the free AR app from the Antarctic Heritage Trust to start learning about Antarctic explorers? Share your experience!
Many thanks to the NZ Antarctic Heritage Trust for inviting me to explore Antarctica via their AR app. As always, I keep it real. All opinions are my own, just as you can expect less from me!