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Article: Robert Swan OBE: Man on a Mission

Robert Swan OBE: Man on a Mission

Robert Swan OBE: Man on a Mission

For a man who ‘hates bloody walking’ not to mention ‘having ice in his underpants’ Robert Swan OBE has spent rather a lot of time on his feet, risking death in extremely cold parts of the world. In fact he is still looking for an insurance company that will offer him life cover!

This remarkable explorer-turned-environmentalist is the first person in history to have walked to both South and North Poles. That’s a hefty total of 29000km. He might well be the last, as he so ominously warns in his enlightening lectures.

Robert is the kind of man we might like as our favourite uncle. Awarded the Polar Medal by HRH and acting as special envoy for youth for the United Nations he’d certainly be the perfect dinner guest, entrancing the audience with tales of derring-do, bravery and high adventure.

Make no mistake though, there’s nothing thrill-seeking about Swan or his missions.

He has dedicated his life to the preservation of Antarctica by the promotion of recycling, renewable energy and sustainability to combat the effects of climate change.

This comes as a result of Swan’s personal experiences during his many expeditions. Back in 1986 his eyes actually changed colour, from blue to grey: a direct result of a hole in the ozone layer and his prolonged exposure under it.

On the same trip Robert made a pact with the frozen world – promising to pay back Antarctica if his team’s lives were spared – and this still drives his lifelong commitment to the last great continent: Antartica.

Twice the size of Australia, to most of us a terrifying vastness of snow and ice, Robert hails Antarctica as ‘the last great wilderness on earth’ and urges us to preserve it. He wants Antarctica to avoid the same fate as the Arctic, which is currently being fought over for its natural resources.

'Looking after our world is a survival issue,' Swan says.


But Swan warns that the clock is ticking. The year 2041 (also the name of Swan’s company) brings the re-negotiation of the moratorium on mining and drilling in Antarctica.

When James Mann Wordie, another eminent polar explorer (who died when Swan was only 6 years old) claimed that Antarctica was of geologically profound importance, he couldn’t possibly have known how that fact might end up destroying the continent.

2041 is the year that drives Swan to speak out to the world. When he shares his tales of adventure, failure and triumph in Antarctica, he wields a power that cannot but leave you inspired.

Yet despite all the odds his message remains one of hope and positivity, of just how possible it is for us to make changes in our lives in order to save Antarctica and our planet.

Robert and Barney Swan


Later this year Robert and his son, Barney, will embark on the first-ever expedition to the South Pole powered solely by clean energy technologies (The South Pole Energy Challenge). In eight weeks they will cover 600 miles on foot.

They will demonstrate and showcase cutting edge technologies in order to drive home the message that we must all change the way we use energy if we are to save our planet. If they can survive in the harshest of continents using only renewable energy, then, the message goes, think what the rest of us can achieve.

Robert is clearly a man to inspire us all. 

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