Woman on voyage

QUEST FOR ADVENTURE

Green, blue patches, and two large toppings of white. The greens and blues on the atlas had names, were marked by capitals and cities, while the whites were unknown entities.

Priya Venkatesh, 36, vividly remembers those geography lessons in school. Those white toppings on the atlas were probably the beginning of her fascination with Antarctica, the southern tip on the globe.

And when she did get a chance to be part of a young explorers’ team for the International Antarctic Expedition (part of Mission 2041), led by renowned polar explorer and environmentalist and motivational speaker, Sir Robert Swan, she gave it her best shot.

Not that the funding was easy. “I barely had six weeks to put together the money. And I eventually managed to do it, thanks to the support of friends and corporates. Much before I was on that ship, I had learnt an important lesson, that of self-belief and clarity of thought. If you strongly wish for something and focus your energy on it, it will definitely come true, she explains.

After an acclimatisation programme at Ushuaia, the southern-most city of the world, life aboard the Sea Spirit was a lesson in leadership. It was also an eye-opener for Priya about how little things could make a difference to the eco-system. Watching the vast stretches of snow, the penguins, the seals, the rising moon, a golden sunlight washing over a huge ice shelf...are experiences that stay frozen in her mind.

As she shows me videos from the expedition, Priya, who has returned from her 15-day journey in March, explains that it is almost impossible to even comprehend  the sheer vastness of the region, and the emotions that one experiences on that beautiful stretch. Antarctica, is after all, the coldest, driest and windiest continent on the face of the earth.

Going from a warm Indian sub-continent, Priya knew what it would be like, but it was her motivation and determination that did the trick. That trip taught her valuable lessons in leadership, (the mission also included Swan’s ‘Leadership on the Edge’ programme) and also how little things could make a difference, when it comes to climate change and global warming.

Priya was accompanied by professionals from companies working towards creating sustainable energy options globally. The structured and unstructured discussions with resource people and people at decision-making positions in various organisations gave rise to creative and practical solutions, which go a long way in reducing  carbon footprints and tackling the issue at large.

But wouldn’t a journey across the Antarctic region itself consume energy and leave a huge trail of carbon footprint? That was a question that occurred to Priya too. Why have the expedition at all? She saw reason and understood the greater purpose when she saw first hand that the expedition brought a transformation in the participants who then function as active ambassadors bringing about a huge level of awareness on sustainable energy across countries. This would not only offset the expedition energy consumption, but would create a huge ripple effect in their organisations and neighbourhoods.

A visit to the 2041 E-Base on King George Island, a rectangular structure that operates on wind-turbine energy, was a great lesson in understanding renewable energy, she says

Convinced, Priya now wants to spread the message of how beautiful Antarctica is, and how to ensure that one of the world’s most enchanting spots is preserved for the future generations. This is where her experience in working with children will come in handy.

Priya also volunteers to work with  children as part of a group of professionals from varied backgrounds trying to make “fun a learning experience”. She hopes to convince authorities in schools to install a ticker that shows how much energy is being consumed, and how much can be saved by turning off lights when not needed. This, she feels, will encourage children to save energy.

The young explorer also teaches French, volunteers for a children’s movement, and has even directed a play under the ‘Bangalore Little Theatre’ banner. She shares her love for wildlife with her husband Karthikeyan, who is an avid naturalist and wildlife enthusiast.

Priya, who is an enthusiastic amateur photographer as well, has been part of a trek to the Everest Base Camp way back in the year 2004. And her bucket-list of explorations, it seems, is stretching out to newer territories.

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