“Antarctica exposed herself to us — Robert Swan, the leader of 2041, told us our expedition saw more wildlife, more extremes in weather, and more effects of humanity on Antarctica than any other he has led,” said James Bray in an interview after his return last week. He spoke from his living room in his Ashley Plantation home in Daleville. His wife Kimberely sat nearby listening intently to her husband’s experiences while their daughters played happily with the neighbor’s children.
Bray lived almost two weeks using sustainable energy with 2041’s Leadership on the Edge.
He had a video and pictures to prove it. In the known history of Antarctica only about 150,000 people have ever been there, Bray said, and the video of Robert Swan confirmed it as he spoke with the 73 team members of “Leadership on the Edge” during the expedition.
Bray came back with the video and slide show made by the expedition photographer John Luck of the Washington Post who volunteered his time to be on the expedition and the videographer Kyle O’Donahue who also volunteered his time to film the expedition.
“It was a story book trip next to perfection — the beauty, pristine air and waters,” said Bray even though they faced blizzard-like conditions on King George’s Island, and a harrowing 48-hour return trip across the Drake Straight in hurricane strength conditions that came close to capsizing the ship they used as home base the entire trip.
Bray saw an iceberg — ten stories high — implode into the ocean at Brown Bluff. The resulting powerful concussion caused a mini tidal wave to sweep across the bay. “It made an incredible sound as it collapsed into the waters,” said Bray. “We watched in astonishment and the whole thing happened in less than 45 seconds! (Later in the week the Wilson Ice Shelf — about 160 square miles began its break-off from the Antarctic continent.)
Paradise Bay was truly heaven on Earth, he said. The place named Iceberg Alley was clear and beautiful and in many ways did not appear real, said Bray. As the video played on his Dell computer everything he said flashed true before the eyes.
Humpback whales breached and slapped tale flukes at the expedition. A seal swam alongside the Zodiac rafts they piloted during the expedition. Orcas swam together in pods alongside. Penguins waddled among the expedition members on the ice shelf among the rocks. The full moon graced the night sky with a few hours of beauty in the land of the long day now becoming shorter as the continent enters the fall season for the southern hemisphere.
Indeed he did hit three golf balls and he was able to retrieve all three. The longest shot came as hit his third attempt using a neon yellow ball. The “golf ball recovery team” had a time finding the second ball but in the end — Bray did not leave a carbon footprint on the continent with a lost golf ball. The third swing sent the ball 297 yards. He will present a certificate of authenticity from the expedition and notarized no less, including the GPS coordinates, to Ashley Plantation Clubhouse, where it will be framed and displayed with the Ashley flag that stood in the ice as his marker and the golf ball and club.
He will make a shadow box for himself with the remaining ball. Swan presented the third to a fellow expedition member.
As for the significance of the trip, “I will not get into the politics of global warming,” he said. “It sidesteps issues. The fact of the matter is we are rushing towards 10 billion people on this planet and by mid-century our sheer numbers will add to the depletion of this planet’s resources without worrying about who is right or wrong where global warming is concerned.” He displayed pictures of ice melting, taken through the viewfinder of John Luck’s camera. The steady drip of the ice melt is worth a thousand words in a place that is supposed to be permanently frozen.
“I have seen humankind’s impact on Antarctica,” he stated simply.
“I am all about trying to reduce my family’s carbon footprint, the carbon footprint my company leaves and telling folks how they can reduce theirs. The internet has websites that tell you how to determine how much energy you use. First, I will deal with my family and then my company and how we can improve the situation.”
James Bray came back with a mission. “I will be an ambassador. My perception has changed and I hope from every day forward the decisions I make are influenced by the trip.”
He also plans to stay in close contact with Robert Swan, who will embark on a two-year trip called “The Voyage for Cleaner Energy.” He hopes to bring Swan to young people here either in a university setting or schools so that those whose futures are affected the most get to hear the message of sustainable energy.
Photo: A humpback whale flaps his tail fluke amid the icebergs of Antarctica. Submitted photo, James Bray.