Emirati on Antarctica expedition reminded of 'purity of the dunes'

Five Emiratis are among dozens of people of various nationalities more than half way through a two-week environmental expedition to the south pole.

Photo caption:
Image 3: Ali Al Shamsi makes friends with the locals

Etihad AirwaysÕ Emirati employees Ali Al Shamsi, General Manager of Abu Dhabi Hub, and Taryam Al Subaihi, Corporate Communications Manager, are more than halfway through their expedition to the Antarctic, led by renowned polar explorer and environmentalist Robert Swan. Ali and Taryam are part of the group of 65 people hand-picked from 25 nations. By taking part in the expedition Ali and TaryamÕs findings will contribute to EtihadÕs corporate social responsibility initiative which is dedicated to increasing awareness of climate change and protection of the environment. For more information or to follow their journey, go to etihad.com or www.2041.com

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A little more than a week after setting off on an environmental expedition to Antarctica, a group of Emiratis have already sailed through five-metre-high waves, spotted penguins and camped on the frozen land.

The team, which includes executives from Dubai International Airport and Etihad Airways, is being led by Robert Swan, a veteran adventurer of both the north and south poles.

The purpose of the visit is to raise awareness about the effects pollution is having on Antarctica. One of the participants, Taryam al Subaihi, said the trip had already been eye-opening.

"Being surrounded which such foreign perfection has changed something in us, which we hope to discover more about in our journey," Mr al Subaihi, who is a corporate communications adviser for Etihad, wrote on his blog.

Five Emiratis are taking part in the expedition, down from an original 12. They are among 68 people from various countries, including China, India, the UK and Egypt, who are making the trip.

The team set sail from Ushuaia, Argentina on March 6, crossing the Drake Passage to the Antarctic Peninsula. The passage is notorious and although the team experienced tall waves, they were told it was one of the easiest recent crossings.

After sighting land, the team took a small inflatable boat through the calm waters of Lemaire Channel. In a blog entry, Mr al Subaihi likened the sparse beauty of the glaciers to the "purity of the dunes" in Al Ain.

Last week the team landed on Peterman Island, which is populated by seals and Gentoo penguins, as well as Neko Harbour, an old Norwegian fishing base.

During their stay they have been writing letters to their families and notes to themselves.

"The objective is to remind our future selves of the great respect we have to come to have for this white paradise," Mr al Subaihi said.

This weekend, the team camped on the ice at Leith Cove, near Paradise Harbour.

Mr al Subaihi led the call to prayer for the small Emirati and Egyptian delegations.

"It was an unbelievably rewarding experience," he said.

The team is expected to visit King George Island tomorrow, where they will visit Mr Swan's e-Base, a facility run entirely on renewable energy.

They will set sail for Ushuaia again on Wednesday, and are scheduled to land in Argentina on Thursday and fly back the following day.