A boat bound for Antarctica next week will carry two Wollongong researchers

Ready for adventure: PHD student Rachelle Balez and Dr Sarah Hamylton have been rugging up and preparing to brave the extremities of Antarctica. Source: Supplied
Ready for adventure: PHD student Rachelle Balez and Dr Sarah Hamylton have been rugging up and preparing to brave the extremities of Antarctica. Source: Supplied

“Adventure is just bad planning,” said Roald Amundsen, the first explorer to reach the South Pole back in 1911.

And now, over 100 years later, two researchers from the University of Wollongong are about to dip their toes into the icy Antarctic waters on the (well planned) adventure of a lifetime.

Dr Sarah Hamylton and Rachelle Balez are joining the 20 day journey as part of Homeward Bound, a leadership program for women with a science background. 

“I’m quite apprehensive. Excited. Confident. And I’m curious for where it will take me,” said Dr Hamylton.

Both women are well-seasoned travellers, their academic careers having taken them all over the world. But both have noticed a striking difference in this particular voyage.

“I’ve done a lot of travel to some pretty remote places, but going somewhere extreme like this ... it’s not like we’ll be stopping off at places along the way to restock,” said Ms Balez.

“And then there’s the environmental concerns ... I had to find environmental soap, environmental shampoo, things that will make the least impact possible.”

For Dr Hamylton, the difference lies in the tone.

“There’s something distinctly female about it,” she said.

“One of the ideas that’s gone round is a calendar of the trip … my two young boys at home will be able to count down the days until mummy’s home.”

The voyage is far more than just a holiday, or even a research trip. According to Homeward Bound, the focus is on equipping women to lead, collaborate and make an impact in their field.

The recent mass coral bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef showed Dr Hamylton how little society is doing about climate change.

“One of the reasons being hailed for this lack of movement is the lack of diversity in leadership,” she said.

“I can see that this program is working to address that problem. Having taken part, it is now incumbent on me to make a difference in society – along with the others. Two key tenets of Homeward Bound are that we are stronger together and that we have an impact.”

The group of scientists will be making a fabric map of their journey, sewing in their route and adding specimens and memories along the way.

The ship will depart on February 18 from Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city in the world.

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