Last December, Airbnb and Ocean Conservancy announced the Antarctic Sabbatical, an unprecedented opportunity for five passionate individuals to travel to the Earth’s most remote continent and join Antarctic Scientist Kirstie Jones-Williams, on a first-of-its-kind scientific research mission to collect snow samples and study the extent to which microplastics have impacted the interior of Antarctica.
UAE resident Rasha El Saleh was one such selected volunteer to partake in the month-long expedition. Following on from her return home on Tuesday 17 December, 2019, we sat down with the budding explorer to get a feel for what it was really like researching the coldest place on Earth...
Harper's BAZAAR Arabia: Why was this sabbatical important - not just for you, but for everyone?
Rasha El Saleh: This sabbatical allowed us to see with our own eyes, the impact of our actions on the world as it affects even the most remote place on earth and its ecosystem. We are living a life of convenience and we need to question ourselves about the decisions we make every day, consciously and especially unconsciously, that could leave a negative impact on our planet.
Rasha El Saleh
HBA: You're based in Dubai - what are the things we're striving towards in the region to create a more sustainable planet? And what could we do better?
RES: Dubai has a great leadership that's always supporting and pushing towards protecting the environment and growing in the field of sustainability. We need to ignite the flame of hope for our planet in everyone and make sure that every single person understands their single impact on our environment, as many people think it's insignificant and small but the reality is that one person can make a huge impact, negative or positive, for our planet.
HBA: What did you hope to achieve from this sabbatical?
RES: I wanted to expand my knowledge and understanding of one of the world's biggest problems, plastics in our oceans, and to get a hands-on experience and learn from the team and volunteers joining from different regions in the world for the same goal.
HBA: What were you most looking forward to?
RES: I was really looking forward to visiting a new part of the world, especially a part that is uninhabited with humans. I was really excited about the disconnection away from a busy city like Dubai and a full on connection with nature.
HBA: What did you anticipate to be the biggest challenge?
RES: The cold weather! I always say, I'm a desert girl. I love going to sunny places, to beaches, moving around a lot and avoiding the cold weather. So this was definitely a one-of-a-kind experience as I'd never even seen real snow before in my whole entire life!
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