When Antarctica came calling!

Young crusader

With an unwavering determination, he has set out to save environment with an emphasis on renewable energy.

This 20-year old’s aspirations, coupled with an equal amount of effort, will bewilder you, to say the least. Shreyak Mahajan, a student of mechanical engineering who recently graduated from Maharaja Agrasen Institute of Technology, Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, went for a two-week long expedition to Antarctica as a part of the ‘Leadership on the Edge’ program. The young environmental crusader talks to Metrolife about his trip and plans for the road ahead.

As a youth ambassador in the leadership programme, Shreyak was a part of a team comprising CEOs, scientists, polar explorers and social entrepreneurs who were working towards the mitigation of climate change. Having experienced Antarctic wildlife from close quarters, the young explorer recounts the expedition he embarked upon late March 2014.

“With the highly erratic Antarctic weather, we experienced high winds and extreme sunlight within minutes of each other. Exhaustion impacted many of us as we trudged through deep snow, but the desire to experience Antarctica however overcame the exhaustion and everyone completed the expedition.” 

As a part of this program, Shreyak got the unique opportunity to interact with Sir Robert Swan, the environme­ntalist dedicated to the cause of Antarctica, and the first man to walk on both North and South Poles, who undertook training sessions and shared experiences from his expeditions. 

In the Antartic peninsula, almost completely cut-off from humanity, when he plan­ned to sleep under the stars, the thought of sleeping only a few feet away from the penguins and seals excited him, recalls Shreyak as he shares a life-altering experience that helped him find his calling! 

“I reached the ship when the captain announced that humpback whales had been sighted. I was sleep deprived for 36 hours and yet fully aware of my surroundings, when we encountered the humpback less than five nautical miles from the ship. As the mighty beast twisted and turned under our boats, the clear Antarctic waters allowing us to examine its every move, it suddenly became apparent what I had to do back home.” 

With a vivid memory of the humpback whale twisting under his boat, in his own words, he says, “It was my greatest inspiration and am committed to help preserve the Antarctic if not for the global climate, then for these helpless creatures whose lives are being devastated by our greed and actions.” 

It was Shreyak’s first journey by sea, its impediments quadrupled by the fact that to reach the Antarctic Peninsula, he had to pass through the world’s most treacherous ocean passage, the Drake Passage, which is surrounded by three oceans---Atlantic, Pacific and Southern ocean. 

Relating that experience, he says, “As the waves subsided and the ship became steady, we slowly entered Antarctica. Sub-zero temperatures with raging winds and a resounding silence; the white continent seemed inhospitable in every aspect imaginable,” but the zestful adventurer adds, “As we trekked, taking up more challenging terrains with each passing day, the inhospitality of Antarctica was paralleled only by the awe and beauty it emanated.”

Currently, he is working with TERI and Tetra Pak as a LEADearth fellow, running an educational program E3--Education, Environment, Empowerment. Besides, to preserve the last great wilderness on earth, Antarctica, he has recently initiated India’s first youth organisation committed to preservation of the Antarctica, the Antarctic Youth Coalition. For more information, the young environmental enthusiasts and volunteers can reach him at shreyakmahajan321@gmail.com.

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