Antarctica Leading the Way

Stefan Covic, our Project Manager here at CCANZ, was last year invited to visit Antarctica as a Sir Peter Blake Ambassador. As part of Leadership week, the Learning Hub team asked Stefan to share his story.

Stefan Covic, our Project Manager here at CCANZ, was last year invited to visit Antarctica as a Sir Peter Blake Ambassador. As part of Leadership week, the Learning Hub team asked Stefan to share his story...

Speaking to 48 people, Stefan admits he was nervous about presenting his experience as a Sir Peter Blake Ambassador in 2014, despite knowing the audience well. 
People ask why Antarctica?

Antarctica is a geographically unique location, with zero humidity and a lack of noise pollution in the environment it provides the perfect conditions to run complex scientific experiments. Scott Base is located on the Peninsula of Ross Island. When Stefan was on the island, the sea was frozen which great for the sports fanatics who learnt how to kite surf and cross country ski whilst there. "There are no words or photos that really capture the experience. It was so amazing that it's incredibly hard to describe how truly surreal and amazing it is." Stefan says of his experience.

Antarctica New Zealand's purpose is to "makes science happen". When in Antarctica you are surrounded by people who are the leaders in their field - including the seal wrestler - whose role it is to physically manhandle a seal in order to sedate and attach valuable monitoring devices to the seals. It's not possible to just shoot them with sedation as they will dive back under the ice before they can be nursed back to health. 

There are experts in all fields from ecology to space exploration. In such a fragile environment, it's heavily mandated on what can and can't be taken into the island. Permits rule when in Antarctica. The Physicists command spaces which run experiments on lightening strikes from anywhere in the world and other atmospheric changes to show long term trends in our world. It was from here they discovered the hole in the ozone layer. 

Stefan clearly learnt a lot from the leaders he met on Antarctica, he was able to explain clearly (and most importantly) basically, the connection between the rise in temperature and the impact on sea currents and why it's important for us to learn about them now, so we can confidently explore what this means for our future.

Stefan and the crew were asked to drag a sled along the ice, after managing 1km they were tired and appreciated that was the end of their journey. They found it to be a fantastic experience that highlighted how hard pioneers like Shackleton worked to pave the way for the future leaders and explorers that came after them, they dragged their full life support system thousands of kilometres. "These guys were tough, incredibly impressive and so resourceful" says Stefan.

Safety Manager Sue Lahood and her team will be pleased to know that everyone has to participate in field training when in Antarctica, to ensure they are safe and able to manage difficult situations at all times, things like how measure and build a bridge to cross cracks in sea ice, something Stefan had to participate in when on a visit to the historic huts of Shackleton and Scott.

It was in the historic hits you could see the difference in leadership styles. In Shackleton's hut, everyone was housed together. In Scott's hut, the primary focus was to conduct scientific research. He had an office and the hierarchy was evident. It was humbling to see how they lived and how courageous they were to take on such an unknown territory in the name of research.

There are no cell phones down there, nothing works. It was great for interaction forcing you to be social and provided so many learning opportunities when you take the time to hear the stories and listen to others experiences.

Everyone on the island is so engaged. There are 'base tasks', random chores that keep the base going like moving boxes of food stores into the kitchen. Stefan observed that it was noticeable how there were always so many volunteers to do these tasks, they were never a shortage. Everyone understands what the goal is, why they are in Antarctica, each role is unique but their common purpose is the same. "It dawned on me here the link between our business and the research and work conducted at Scott base. A common purpose provides clarity and understanding of the bigger picture. When leadership confidently communicates common purpose and as we understand that as a group, Sir Peter Blake did this by asking "Will it make the boat go faster?".

Stefan was on the trip to review the inventory supply process and provide insight into how the supply and stock management process could be more efficiently managed, while learning as much as possible to understand the significance of Antarctica on the world stage.