Most Students on Ice alumni that have been to Antarctica will know and love David Fletcher. He has been on almost all of our Antarctic Expeditions over the past 20 years. He is wonderful person, story teller, mentor and friend of SOI.  He spent many years with the British Antarctic Survey (B.A.S.) as a dog driver, Base Commander and Field Operations Manager. David is a Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society and was awarded the prestigious Polar Medal. He has also received the Fuchs Medal from the British Antarctic Survey. The following are some reflections by David written for The Bridge.

Only available in English and
French at this time. Thank you for your understanding. /Disponible uniquement en anglais et en français pour le moment. Merci de votre compréhension. /Maannaujumi Qallunaatitut kisiani atuinnautitaummata. Qujannamiik tukisittiaratsi taassuminga.

I first went to the Antarctic in 1971 as a Dog Driver with the British Antarctic Survey. 

After school, I did not want to go straight to University and I was lucky enough to get a job at the Aberdovey Outward Bound School in Wales, teaching Rock Climbing, Sailing and Canoeing, and while there my life changed because of the colleagues I worked with. All of them had been to the Antarctic and it inspired me to try to get there after a College degree. I spent three years studying Physical Education for a Teachers qualification. During College, I played all my best loved sports including my favourite Rugby. I was still able to hone my Outdoor skills, including Mountaineering, learning to drive Dogs in Greenland and learning whatever I could. That was the background for wanting and being able to go to the Antarctic. Once there it was everything I dreamed of so much so that now in 2020 I am still going having spent 4 Winters and 49 summers, what a lucky person I am. 

The pristine beauty and the power of Antarctica’s nature is what I love about the place. The challenges it poses for humans is colossal and you have to rise up and meet these challenges, and it gives you something to match up with. For me it is the ultimate environment. It is so important to the rest of the world, not as a source of resources but to give humankind a chance to show that it does have the capability to look after this gem, it is the last truly pristine environment left. Let’s get this one right. 

In terms of my favourite experiences down there, it sounds glib, but everyday has been my favourite experience. The sheer majesty of the scenery, the weather and the wildlife, and its ability to make you look so small. There have been times on various long expeditions when I have stood and cried because I had no idea how I would get out of a situation, but you do because the Antarctic demands you rise to the challenge. 

My hope for the future of Antarctica? I feel hopeful for its future, as there seems to be a growing realization that we need to treasure these places. Much of these feelings in me have been driven by my involvement in Students on Ice (SOI). As young people your drive and inspirational outlook has given me hope. Just being with you as a group has increased my sense of hope for the future. The sheer awe in your faces when you see this place, the importance you place on its history, all this shows interest and that plus the dynamism of youth will take the world forward. 

I have always been amazed at how SOI students meet challenges and move on. I well remember a wonderful saying when I was working at the Outward Bound School in 1967. It was written by Kurt Hahn, one of the Founders of the Outward Bound Movement. He wrote, Young People should not be coerced into ideas but impelled into experiences.”

I get massive inspiration from some of the early explorers like Sir Ernest Shackleton. Their sheer determination to press on but not at the cost of human lives. This wonderful touch to deny yourself the ultimate goal set for yourself if it means endangering your colleagues, that is magical and something always practiced by Shackleton. 

And finally, Geoff, you mentioned my keeping of a Diary. I have written a diary every day since I was 15 years old. Somedays a few lines, other times a few pages, I try never to comment on my colleagues but always to keep a factual record of the day’s events. Looking back over the years I find it amazing how your mind plays tricks. You think you remember something clearly but when you look at your diary, it is often completely different. 

To all of you nothing is beyond you, always try, be mindful of other people and do not waste a day.

David Donald Fletcher