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6 December 2016

Largest Ever All-Women Expedition Heads to Antarctica

Friday just passed was a marvellous day for the underappreciated and underutilised women of science, as the largest ever expedition group comprised entirely of female scientists set out for Antarctica.

Img source: Dr Jessica Melbourne-Thomas / Homeward Bound
The expedition is just one of a number of trips planned as part of the Homeward Bound Initiative, an Australian programme which aims to increase the number of women in important scientific roles around the world. The initiative is the brainchild of Dr Jessica Melbourne-Thomas, an expert in Antarctic ecological modelling, and Fabian Dattner, management expert and Partner at Dattner Grant. Meeting at a leadership development course run by Dattner, the pair shared a frustration at the challenges faced by women in science and decided to do something about it; thus, the Homeward Bound Initiative was born.

Speaking to the BBC, Dr Melbourne-Thomas talked of the initiative’s formative days and her hopes for its future:

"For various reasons it can be difficult for women to get to Antarctica or the Arctic, Homeward Bound came out of discussions around that … and the lack of representation of women in science.

"It's been two years and a hell of a lot of work, but support from many different angles and Fabian's company Dattner Grant have played a very central role.

"I've started thinking about Homeward Bound as one part of a wave of initiatives that together might mean we are able to move forward, rather than seeing this very slow rate of change."

Over 1000 women applied to be a part of the initiative, with only 76 ultimately chosen to take part in the self-funded expedition (participants are expected to pay for their own travel and accommodation aboard the boat). The team set out from Ushuaia, Argentina; a cold, southern port often referred to as’ the end of the world’ by the various tourists that pass through the area. Spending 20 days conducting research at sea, the trip will also include a series of lectures, leadership workshops and networking opportunities.

Applications for the next expedition, planned for 2018, will be open from January next year.


Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor in an attempt to expand his horizons.