GGEF Youth Ambassador Tan Chee Wee emerging from the water after taking the polar plunge

Introducing our very first GGEF ambassador to participate in the 2041 Antarctica Expedition – Tan Chee Wee!

“Do you remember me packing that winter jacket into the bag?” Chee Wee would ask his wife. A mixture of anxiety and anxiousness filled the air as a dozen questions flash through his mind. After all, it will be a long and cold journey to the southern end of the earth. There were high expectations and Chee Wee embarked on the trip with an open mind, ready to embrace the full spectrum of experiences awaiting him.

Iceberg in the distance

After more than 22,000 km of connecting flights and another 2 days aboard the Sea Spirit, the ship that took him across the infamous Drake Passage, Chee Wee awoke to be greeted by a giant tabular iceberg out at sea.

The size of more than 20 football fields combined, this iceberg now float unrestricted having broken off the west Antarctic shelves. It melts bit by bit, contributing to the global sea levels. The inconvenient truth is now staring at Chee Wee in the face.

It is this same truth that we often overlook because of our hectic lifestyles, remembering it only occasionally during days of uncomfortable weather. At the same time, a chilling thought races across his mind: that the days of beautiful seashores may not last beyond another generation.

While exploring Antarctica, Chee Wee got to know people of different countries, different upbringings and different perceptions on sustainability. They discussed expedition objectives, working and academic experiences, motivation factors and national interest, all with a flavor of sustainability. Despite the varying viewpoints, something was unanimous: the belief that both developed and developing countries alike have a role to play in preserving Antarctica for future generations.

Sessions on board the ship

On board the ship were numerous speakers who were experts in their own field. There were sharings on plastic pollution, the history of Antarctica expeditions, the identification of Antarctica mammals and leadership principles.

The animals he sighted along the way were simply captivating. Chee Wee was heartened to know that they are thriving well because Antarctica is left untouched. There were Gentoo Penguins, Chinstrap Penguins, Black-browned Albatross, Southern Giant Petrels, Antarctic Terns, Humpback Whales, Leopard Seal, Crab-eater Seal and the most priced of all, the Sperm Whale.

It was as if every day brought along new surprises when photo-hunting for these magnificent creatures. There were a few ingredients for success – an excellent eye for movement, stable hands, a sophisticated camera, tons of patience and most importantly, just plain good luck.

The milky way

One night as Chee Wee gazed out of his sleeping bag, he was stunned by the Milky Way above! The colors, the stars and the waves, he simply couldn’t take it all in!

The expedition team for Year 2014

The trip to Antarctica certainly exceeded all expectations. However, there was now a renewed sense of urgency upon returning. Chee Wee takes it upon himself to share his experience at business forums, with his colleagues and clients, academic universities and environmental NGOs and anyone interested to know about the last pristine place on Earth.

Quoting from an old adage,

“We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we merely borrow it from our children.”

 


 

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