Scaling Antarctica’s Vertical Limits

An all-female team sets out in search of new routes and peaks in one of the most inhospitable places on earth


Goaded by a mighty tailwind the massive Ilyushin IL-76 TD aircraft hurtles southwards at a velocity approaching 495 mph (800 km/h). The Drake Passage below sparkles to a far horizon as we make our way westward from Punta Arenas in Chile, to the Antarctic Peninsula and finally to Union Glacier, a private base operated by Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions (ALE), located in the Heritage Range, below the Ellsworth Mountains.

After about four and a half hours in the air, we prepare to land on the Blue Ice Runway, a rare and naturally occurring ice strip as hard as concrete that is solid enough to support the weight of this monstrous Soviet military aircraft. This kind of ice is so dense—so devoid of air bubbles—that it absorbs long-wavelength light, which is why it appears mesmerizingly blue. It’s -15 degrees Celsius as we get off the plane and take our first steps on Antarctica.

The vast ocean of white unfolding before my eyes is simply magnificent. I look up to see the sun ablaze in the blue polar sky while the fierce wind makes me literally moonwalk on the frozen runway as I try to move from the plane to the four-wheel drive waiting to take us to the main camp.

“January is the heart of summer in Antarctica,” we’re told by one of the ALE staff, “It’s the best time to visit, because the weather is the least hostile.” Indeed, man has never permanently inhabited this remote landmass. Accessible only during its warmest months, from November to March, it has no metropolis or village to speak of, no habitat except perhaps the odd expedition shed or research station. It’s all just massive, desolate, glacial emptiness and bone-chilling temperatures that can range anywhere from -10°C to -80°C during the colder months.

Our all-female team arrives at Union Glacier Camp and, after a quick tour of the facilities, we get assigned to the dual occupancy “clam” tents. Most of us are based in equatorial Singapore, and it has taken us close to 48 hours to get here. No wonder settling in feels good, and the tents are surprisingly comfortable to live in. They are double-walled and designed to withstand polar conditions with a high-tech nylon covering and durable aluminium frame. The large “doors” and a tall interior allow us to stand upright and move around easily as we sort out our gear.

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Ten ways to be more eco conscious this year

There are many ways to do our part for the environment that we love. Here, we highlight 10 ways to act on it – it is afterall, the year of climate action! ;)

1.Go meat-free at least once a week. Animal agriculture contributes significantly to global warming as well environmental issues such as deforestation, soil erosion and habitat loss, among others. Our food choices can make a huge impact on the health of the planet, so whether it’s Meat Free Monday, being a weekday vegetarian, or going completely vegetarian or vegan, be part of the movement to have an earth-friendly diet. Learn more about vegetarianism from Vegetarian Society (Singapore), do check out their events! 

2. Be a a mindful visitor to nature spaces locally or overseas, consider picking 10 pieces of litter wherever we go. If we collectively removed 10 pieces of trash from the natural environment, it would make a noticeable difference. Visit 10 Pieces for more information on this movement.

3. Eliminate food waste at home. Plan your meals in advance to minimise wastage and save vegetable peelings to make vegetable stock. Have you got excess food or condiments that is good enough to share with others? Download the Olio app to redistribute food items to others who might need and want it. Keen on the topic of food waste and want to do much more? Join SG Food Rescue on their weekly veggie hunt!

4. Buy nothing other than essentials. Instead of caving to shopping impulses, buy only what you need. The more your own, the more things you need to take care of. Ask yourself, “Do I really need this? Will I use this often? Can I borrow this from a friend or rent it from someone else?” Consider sharing instead of owning, and use sites like Rent Tycoons or Lendor and be part of the sharing economy. 

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Green Drinks: March Mingle

We have been very quiet because we have been taking a break! We are back for March, please join us for a casual gathering and networking session. We can talk about anything.. everything, including the recently announced carbon tax! Join us!

Date: 27 March 2018 (Tuesday)
Time: 7pm – 9pm
Venue: Mahota (Pantry cafe), Kitchener Complex, 809 French Road, Level 3
Admission: Free (contributions to society accepted)
RSVP: Via Facebook or email

See you there!


24 Jan 2018 – INSIGHT Dialogue: The Flipside of Clean Energy

Dear members of the Green Drinks community,

Come down and meet the Channel NewsAsia INSIGHT producer and environmental leaders over some food and drinks.

The event will showcase exclusive behind-the-scenes footage which the INSIGHT team garnered from filming the episode in Japan – offering a better understanding of the condition of Fukushima’s road to recovery and repercussions from the nuclear power plant disaster in 2011.

Various environmental themes from the episode will also be discussed on a panel with distinguished leaders from the green industry and the INSIGHT team.

We hope to encourage a conversation around the search for sustainability and awareness for issues that affect not just Singapore but the world.

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19 Dec: Bea Johnson in Singapore!

Join us for an wonderful evening with world renowned zero waste advocate Bea Johnson, along with a modest zero waste marketplace and society fundraiser on 19 December!
Hear from Bea Johnson, mingle with members of the zero waste community and pick up zero waste essentials for yourself or as Christmas gifts from the marketplace. Vendors include Neishaus, and 元气竹牙刷/Feel Good bamboo toothbrush, among others.
This event is organised by Green Drinks (Singapore), and is made possible by venue hosts thebridge and Spacemob.

28-29 Nov: Sustainable Foods Summit

The premier Asia-Pacific edition of the Sustainable Foods Summit will feature health impacts, sustainable ingredients, and organic market potential. Hosted in Singapore on 28-29th November 2017, this is the first-ever executive summit dedicated to eco-labels and sustainability in the Asia-Pacific food industry.

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