Caleb Fraser, the University of Canterbury student, selected as Christchurch’s representative on the Antarctic Cities Youth Expedition, unexpectedly went from a vacation soaking up the Bali sun, straight to Chile and on to Antarctica, due to a change in the expedition dates. Caleb joined youth representatives from each of the other four Antarctic gateway cities (Hobart, Cape Town, Ushuaia and Punta Arenas) and the expedition leader in Punta Arenas, en route to King George Island on the Antarctic Peninsula, for a once in a lifetime experience. While in Antarctica the expeditioners founded the Antarctic Youth Coalition. The coalition aims to build a network of passionate young custodians across the five Antarctic gateway cities, advocating for Antarctica’s future by running international events, developing multilingual Antarctic educational material and creating a sense of custodianship in our cities.
Tell us about your experience on the Antarctic Cities Youth Expedition
The Antarctic Cities Youth Expedition was the most incredible and inspiring experience of my life. One youth representative from each of the five gateway cities to Antarctica (Christchurch, Hobart, Cape Town, Ushuaia and Punta Arenas) were selected to represent their city and country on an expedition to King George Island, Antarctic Peninsula. Here we experienced what it was like to live, work and do research in Antarctica. King George Island was extremely unique in its cultural diversity. We travelled with the Chilean Antarctic Institute (INACH) and stayed at Julio Escudero Base. Closely proximate to us was a Russian, Uruguayan and South Korean research station that we were privileged to visit, learn from, partake in research with, and share our project to. This was international collaboration at its finest, showcasing the values of the Antarctic Treaty.
What was your favourite moment from the expedition?
One of my highlights was travelling to Collins Glacier. We were collecting ice samples from the ocean to monitor how sediments in the ice influence melting rate when off in the distance we saw the tail of a humpback whale swimming through the bay. Slowly it came closer and closer until it was curiously passing by our zodiac, showing off its tail as it dived back to the depths of the ocean.
How do you think the Christchurch public can embrace their Antarctic history and celebrate our important Antarctic gateway status?
Moving forward I believe that linking our history to our future will be critical. Christchurch has a rich Antarctic history that has enabled us to be recognised as a gateway city. This isn’t merely a label that acknowledges our city as a departure point to the continent. Rather, it is an ongoing duty to protect Antarctica and the future we share. We are inextricably bound and dependant on each other. Without Antarctica, Christchurch loses a significant part of our cultural identity and the future of our planet will be in question. Without a passionate and engaged Christchurch, Antarctica has one less voice fighting for its future. We need to role model sustainable practices and effectively educate our youth on the importance of supporting Antarctica so in turn, Antarctica can support us for generations to come.
What would say to any students looking to become a sustainability champion, like yourself?
Put yourself out there. Universities and organisations are recognising the importance of having young upcoming leaders that are passionate about a sustainable future. There are countless opportunities to interact with likeminded individuals, learn from academics, and apply to be a part of purposeful expeditions. All it takes is to be pointed in the right direction. It can be hard to feel like you have a voice alone, but in joining with others who want to champion sustainability we can make a difference together.
Tell us about the Antarctic Youth Coalition and what you seek to achieve?
The Antarctic Youth Coalition is an international youth led organisation that was founded whilst in Antarctica by myself and the four other representatives on the expedition. We want cities to come together to embrace the values of Antarctica for the protection of our shared futures. To achieve this we aim to build a network of young custodians across the five Antarctic gateway cities, advocating for Antarctica’s future by promoting sustainable communities and connected urban identities. This will involve running international events, developing multilingual Antarctic educational material and creating a sense of custodianship in our cities. The youth coalition will be open for membership soon and we encourage anyone who is interested in supporting us or joining to get in contact.
What is next for you?
As soon as possible I hope to be out engaging with the Christchurch community, sharing what I have learned, inspiring youth to be passionate about Antarctica and connecting people with the AYC’s mission. It’s going to be a busy year and I look forward to seeing just how much we can accomplish!