Inspiring others to go exploring – Ara staff member kayaks in Antarctica

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14 May 2019

Travelling to one of the most remote places in the world and kayaking for ten days in ice cold waters is just a matter of the right mind set.

That is what Ara Learning Advisor for Pasifika students Georgie Archibald thinks after experiencing ‘the trip of a lifetime’ to Antarctica in early March.

“Our mind sets determine what we can succeed in. A willingness to explore is one way to develop your skills and knowledge and this trip has impacted me personally a lot! I’m still reflecting on it because it was such an enormous experience in such a short, yet intense timeframe of ten days.”

Georgie Archibald is kayaking through ice in Paradise Bay. Photo credit: Nigel Watson 

Antarctic Heritage Trust is a New Zealand-based charity with a mission to conserve, share and encourage the spirit of exploration in the 21st century. Their Inspiring Explorers’ Expeditions provide opportunities for young people to experience the world’s Polar Regions and learn about their environments, wildlife and history.

Archibald was one of five young New Zealanders who the Trust selected from hundreds of applicants to participate in the 4th Inspiring Explorers’ Expedition – this time to the Antarctic Peninsula.

“I’m really proud to be an ambassador for Antarctic Heritage Trust now and to support them. They are managing the world’s largest cold-climate conservation project which includes conserving five explorer expedition bases in Antarctica. Through their work they want to encourage young people to connect with the spirit of exploration and go out and explore the world themselves,” says Archibald.

Archibald, who had only been in a kayak recreationally before the expedition, started training about three months before the trip.

“Before training, I wasn’t very confident in a sea kayak and I was a little bit worried about falling out but I managed to stay in the entire time.

“Paddling the Antarctic coastlines was incredible! We got out on the water every morning and afternoon for around three hours each time.

“Some days we covered quite a bit of distance but other days it was a slower pace and we got to check out shipwrecks, the massive ice formations and the incredible wildlife.”

Kayakers and the The Governoren shipwreck. Photo credit: Mike Dawson  

“We stopped often because the animals were very curious about us humans, too. We weren’t allowed to go closer than 5m but the wildlife would quite often come to you. I had a cute penguin surprise me by tugging on my pants one day.

Playful Gentoo Penguins on ice. Photo credit: Siyan Wang 

“We also had humpback whales surface just meters away from the kayaks and all different kinds of seals playing around the boats. Leopard seals were probably the one creature that I felt a little bit intimidated by. They’ve got this strange, sly smile on their face the whole time and are such ruthless predators,” says Archibald.

Leopard seals are ruthless predators, yet they have a 'strange, sly smile' on their face. Photo credit: Georgie Archibald 

The group that Archibald travelled with consisted of Expedition leader and Trust Executive Director Nigel Watson, Olympic white-water kayaker Mike Dawson, two students and their teacher from Sir Edmund Collegiate and four other Kiwis selected from across the country, including Sir Edmund Hillary’s grandson, Alexander Hillary.

The Inspiring Explorers team and supporters on the bow of the Akademik Ioffe. Photo credit: Alexander Hillary 

Archibald says one of the reasons she was chosen to go on the trip is the mentoring skills she could bring to the team, developed through her role as Learning Advisor at Ara.

“One of my roles was to check in regularly with our younger team members to make sure that they were in a good headspace and weren’t having any physical challenges during the kayaking and hiking.”

“The mentoring role continues for me: I’m keeping in touch with the two high school students and supporting them as they transition from Year 13 to tertiary study. My personal study experience and work at Ara has given me the confidence to mentor them to set goals, manage challenges, and celebrate their successes,” Archibald says.

Archibald has taken away a lot from her Antarctic exploration – not just for her personal life but also for her work at Ara.

“It was physically, mentally and emotionally challenging at times but I would definitely tell anyone to ‘go for it’ and apply for the next adventure.”

“The trip definitely helped me to develop my mentoring and team work skills because they were essential to kayaking in such an extreme environment as a group. We constantly had to look out for each other and help to get through obstacles. It hit home for me that you can do anything as long as you put the effort in and find people to support you and seek out the right knowledge.”

Kayaking in Paradise Bay. Photo credit:Alexander Hillary 

If you want to find out more about Georgie Archibald’s Antarctic experience see this interview or come to the Ara Library presentation at City Campus on 22 May (12.10-12.50pm, Imagitech Theatre) to hear Georgie relate her polar experiences to the power of exploration and growth mindset.