All-female expedition brave Antarctica for the future of our planet

If you’ve ever watched the movie Sliding Doors you might already know that seemingly insignificant moments can shape the course of your life. For Briony Ankor, it was a comment on a Facebook post.

“I first heard the words ‘Homeward Bound’ while scrolling through Facebook. I didn’t think too much about it until the following day,” Briony said.

“As soon as I read the introduction to the program I was hooked — women, science, leadership, and perhaps the biggest hooks of all: adventure and Antarctica.”

A Ph.D. Candidate in geospatial sciences at the University of South Australia, Briony was just one of 76 talented women with a critical science background to participate in Homeward Bound — a ground-breaking leadership program culminating in the largest, all-female expedition to Antarctica.

Briony Ankor takes a selfie with some elephant seals
Briony Ankor takes a selfie with some elephant seals

Elevating women in leadership

The year-long program included some of the brightest women around the world — engineers, physicists, astronomers, doctors, and social scientists — all determined to shape the future of our planet.

“I have always known I would go to Antarctica one day, and I couldn’t imagine a better way of seeing the last continent than with a bunch of passionate scientists, who are prepared to talk about the big picture and the true value of the natural environment,” Briony said.

Finding Frontiers

Homeward Bound has lofty ambitions. In 10 years, it hopes to engage and empower 1,000 women in the science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM) fields to become key decision-makers and ultimately to influence policy.

As it stands, the current attrition rate for women in STEMM fields is 60%. While there are many reasons for this — Homeward Bound co-founder Jess Melbourne-Thomas says there is one major consequence:

“The voice of women in translating science into informed, sustainable decision-making is missing — or at least very, very soft,” Jess said. “It matters because it’s women who may stand to lose the most from poor environmental decision-making.”

But initiatives like Homeward Bound aim to challenge the role of women in the STEMM fields, opening more doors for women like Briony to facilitate positive change.

“Traveling and adventure provide excellent means to developing leadership skills,” Briony said. “You have to learn to think on your feet, be prepared for anything, get creative to solve problems along the way.

“Travel makes you step out beyond your comfort zone. But that is where the magic happens.”

A natural habitat under threat

Before she set sail, Briony had always wanted to contribute to the sustainability of the planet. Now, she’s determined to support and guide other young women to do the same.

“Antarctica is truly like another world, but seeing the impact that our world has on it — the pollution, the impact of climate change on penguin colonies, drought conditions due to warmer winters, changes in sea ice and ocean ecosystems — it is eye-opening,” Briony said.

The 2016 Homeward Bound participants
The 2016 Homeward Bound participants

“As we passed through a field of icebergs larger than you could possibly imagine, I was struck by the thought that no movie, no book, no story, could ever encapsulate or describe the feelings of awe and wonder experienced by those who have been there,” said Briony.

“It will be part of my story forever.”

You can follow the Homeward Bound journey here.

As part of our Adventure Sponsorship program, we supplied outdoor gear to help the women of Homeward Bound fight the severe weather conditions in Antarctica.

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