Kent Scouts ReQuest Antarctica Expedition - Helen Smith
Between 26h December 20201- 25th January 2022, Helen Smith, took part in a Kent Scouts expedition to Antarctica, stepping in to join the team at the last minute. This was a historic expedition which recreated sections of the famous Quest expedition that Sir Ernest Shackleton embarked on in 1921, taking two specially selected Scouts with him on the voyage. The team of 10 Scout members, successfully sailed on a three masted, square rigged tall ship built in 1911 through the Drake Passage, taking turns in all aspects of ship life, including watch shifts, cooking, and cleaning. Whilst on board as a team they undertook important polar research on Krill (TASK), similar to James Marr's project in 1921, alongside their own individual research.
Helen has said it is simply too hard to summarise in a few words how the experience was. And can see the attraction as to why Shackleton fell in love with Antarctica and had a keen desire to keep returning. It is an experience that will quite simply last a lifetime and gave her so much time to reflect on the world around her and how lucky she is. The trip started with five days sailing through the Drake Passage which was challenging for many of the team, and sea sickness struck. Everyday Helen forced herself to get out of bed and take in this experience even when her body was urging her to give up. Living life with a 39-degree tilt added to the challenge. Helen was relieved to finally see land again though and see icebergs and penguins instantly, the discomfort of the last five days had finally paid off as they had finally made it to Antarctica. The next ten days were spent in Antarctician waters where the team were given the opportunity to get up close and personal with all wildlife, take part in the very daring polar plunge, stand on ice bergs and treasure the experience. Helen’s top three highlights, including seeing her first wild humpback whale, doing the polar plunge and stepping foot on mainland Antarctica for the first time. She spent many an evening sitting on the beach watching the penguins jumping on and off icebergs and walking up their penguin highways and was glad to acclimatise to their smell very quickly.
Whilst in Antarctica, the team were recreating part of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s final voyage – Quest – so held commemorative centenary events on 5th January to mark 100 years on from his death and carried out vital polar research on behalf of the British Antarctic Survey as part of our krill project which carries on the legacy of Scout Marr’s work (one of the two specially selected Scouts chosen by Shackleton to join him on his Quest expedition). They also paid a very special visit to Port Lockroy (Base A) which was set up by Scout Marr as part of his work for Operation Tabarin so was hugely important that they marked this occasion.