I can still remember being a kid and spending hours sifting through my parent’s collections of National Geographic. Of imagining the day when I could be an explorer, discovering new species and overcoming large challenges.
Growing up in suburban America, most of the exploring I did was in the forest behind my daycare or at strip malls after school. We didn’t have the stunning mountains and incredible landscapes of New Zealand back home in Virginia. I never heard stories of Sir Edmund Hillary or even laid eyes on a glacier until I was traveling in my twenties.
But in spite of my small-town upbringing, I always dreamed of traveling the world. Eager to see penguins on the ice and majestic whales breaching on the open seas, nowhere captured my imagination quite like Antarctica. I couldn’t wait to travel there one day following in the footsteps of the original Antarctic explorers.
Always a curious person, I couldn’t get enough of learning about Antarctica over the years.
It wouldn’t be until I was in my thirties before I managed to land a lucrative spot on an expedition ship heading down to Antarctica. In the years leading up to it, I spent my time devouring stories of the first explorers there, of Shackleton and Scott, learning about the wildlife and the history of exploration on the last continent. Biding my time until it was my turn.
Whenever I met anyone who had been to Antarctica or worked down on the ice, my eyes lit up with excitement as I tried to pick their brains for 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 frequently than you might expect. With scientists and engineers passing through down to Scott Base (the NZ base) or McMurdo Station (the US base), there were plenty of interesting folk with profound knowledge of my favorite place to chat.
Early on I met the incredible team behind the Antarctic Heritage Trust in Christchurch. Their mission is to conserve, share and encourage the spirit of exploration. The Trust cares for the historic explorer bases belonging to Scott, Shackleton, Borchgrevink, and Hillary, and the thousands of items 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 couldn’t be a more fitting charity to support.
They often lead incredible expeditions for young people aged 18 to 30, like traversing Greenland or retracing Shackleton’s footsteps across South Georgia as part of their Inspiring Explorers Expeditions™, as well as working hard to engage younger students aged 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, right this moment I was supposed to be down on the ice, but COVID got in the way.
As an advocate for Antarctica, I can say how hard it is to inspire people to truly care and engage with a place that’s so remote. Few people if ever will visit, yet Antarctica symbolizes and stands for so many of our greatest triumphs and struggles today. I often find myself whipping out my phone to share stories and videos from Antarctica with friends to try and 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 partnership 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 truly step into one of the least accessible places on earth. Download the activity booklet – My Explorer Journal from nzaht.org and use it in conjunction with the app to bring Antarctica alive. 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 on his return. It brings to life the stories of the original Antarctic explorers.
In another life, I might have been a teacher. Wait, in another life, I actually was a teacher. Eleven years ago, while living in Spain, I worked teaching English to elementary school kids, a beautiful experience that inspired me to both start this blog and share the things I’ve learned with the world.
Since living with kids over the past couple of years combined with a passion for storytelling, I’ve come to truly believe in the power of sharing stories and experiences with others. Especially when it comes to kids, we have a real opportunity to inspire future generations to care for and look after our planet. Nowhere symbolizes this more than in Antarctica.
While catching up with friends back in Wanaka, I couldn’t resist whipping out my copy of My Explorer Journal to share with her daughter Bella. Highly curious, she couldn’t believe it when I told her stories of sitting on beaches with millions of penguins or learning about the historic huts down on the ice.
“Liz, can I go to Antarctica when I’m seven?”
Oh, my stars, what a cutie! Six years old and full of spark and pomp, Bella immediately figured out how to use the AR app (way faster than me, wtf?!) and didn’t want to close it for dinner. I feel immensely proud and it’s now my new goal to inspire her to go to Antarctica as a scientist one day (can’t help myself). We need more women in science!
Proudly she read her own Antarctic journal sharing what she learned about the cold, storms, and wildlife with “pingwings” galore. While scanning the interactive pages of the journal with the AR app, you can step inside the world of Antarctica, truly getting a feel for this incredible place.
I can’t even tell you how thrilled I was to hear how she took her Antarctic journal 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, inspiring the next generation of potential Antarctic explorers.
Have you been to Antarctica or dream of visiting one day? Have you downloaded the free AR app from the Antarctic Heritage Trust to start learning about the Antarctic explorers? Share your experience!