Episode 1 | Epic Endurance

Alok Jha talks to legendary explorer Felicity Aston about what endurance means to her. 

In 2012, Felicity became the first woman to ski solo across the Antarctic landmass, a journey of over 1000 miles that took her 59 days and earned her a place in the Guinness Book of World Records. 

Felicity has gone on to organise and lead numerous expeditions to remote places around the world, but particularly to the Polar Regions. Her expeditions have included the first British Women’s crossing of Greenland, a 6000km drive to the South Pole and leading international teams of women on ski expeditions to both the North and South Poles.

She has been appointed an MBE for services to polar exploration and awarded the Polar Medal for services to the Arctic and Antarctic. 

Images: ©Felicity Aston

Watch our short film 2 minute watch

As part of our Antarctica In Sight marking 200 years since the discovery of Antarctica, we spoke to Felicity Aston about the her experiences and the history of scientific discovery in Antarctica.

Episode 1 Transcript Epic Endurance with Felicity Aston

Alok Jha (00:02): Let me take you on a journey to the coldest place on earth and it's last and greatest wilderness on A Voyage To Antarctica. Hello, and welcome to A Voyage to Antarctica brought to you by the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust. I'm Alok Jha. We've all learnt a thing or two about endurance in the past year, but few people know what endurance means better than Felicity Aston. An Antarctic scientist turned to polar explorer in 2012. Felicity became the first woman to ski solo across the Antarctic landmass, a journey of more than 1000 miles that took her 59 days and earned her a place in the Guinness Book of World Records. Felicity has gone on to organize and lead numerous expeditions to remote places around the world, but particularly to the polar regions, her expeditions have included the first British women's crossing of Greenland, a 6,000 kilometer drive to the South Pole and leading international teams of women on ski expeditions to both the north and south poles. She's been appointed MBE for services to polar exploration and awarded the Polar Medal for services to the Antarctic and Arctic.

Alok Jha (01:26): Felicity, you're an Explorer, somebody who's been through incredible hardships, during your expeditions, you know, you know, endurance means inside and out. I just wonder how have you dealt with the lockdown this past year?

Felicity Aston (01:42): I feel myself to being very fortunate cause I've been locked down in Iceland right in the north of Iceland. So we have quite a lot of freedom here. There's a lot of easily accessible, open space and not many people. So we've been really lucky in that respect, but it's amazing how a lot of the lessons I learned on expeditions made such a lower sense in lockdown, for example, expeditions our ruled by routine, certainly mine are you know, it's routine from the moment I opened my eyes to the moment I, I go to sleep at the end of the day because having a really strict routine helps to sort of take the emotion out of what you're doing. You know, you're not constantly trying to find the motivation to do every single little thing. It's just, if you have a routine, it sort of gives you a sense of momentum that powers you through a day, whether it's a great day or not.

Felicity Aston (02:39): And so using that in, in lockdown, it was really useful. I think maybe everyone has had a touch of the experience of if you don't have a routine, if you're like, oh, okay, I'm going to stay in my pajamas all day today. And oh, maybe I won't even bother having a shower today. I, you know, all that sort of thing, suddenly all the days roll into one, you can't, the date is, you don't know what time of day it is. And it just feels after a while, you know, that that ceases to be a joy and a luxury and it just becomes a big depressing muddle.

Alok Jha (03:09): So just describe for me the first time you actually went down to Antarctica, you know, this was something you'd expected to do. It was something that you, you thought it was going to happen anyway. But what, when, when you, when you got there, just describe that first moment for me

Felicity Aston (03:24): By ship. Because a lot of people do when you work for the big government programs it's the main way that you get down there. So, you know, I had, I think it was a three week voyage from the Falkland Islands down to Rothera research station. And and it's not so much the moment that we arrived that I remember. So clearly it was about maybe a month into my time there. And it was the first time that I got on a snowmobile and drove away from the base, maybe 10 kilometers, something like that to go and record some measurements from some snow state arrays that we had up there. And so I was on my own for the first time, a significant distance from base. And there was just this beautiful sort of snowy plateau with these really triangular, dark rock peaks, sticking up through the ice.

Felicity Aston (04:23): And it was just so perfect. So put in all the snow was perfectly white, perfectly smooth, just all these beautiful blended colors. And then there was that sort of clean cold freshness to the air, but it was a beautiful sunny day and it just felt like a moment of absolute euphoria. I felt like I wanted to extend out my arms and just scoop up the whole wonderful beauty, pristine this perfection that it was. And and it was the first time in my life that I thought, yeah, you know, this, this is for me, this is what I want to do. I want to be here. And it was the first time I'd ever felt like that about anywhere. So it was a really sort of striking,

Alok Jha (05:07): Was that a surprising feeling?

Felicity Aston (05:10): Being surprised as much as just, you know, elated that I found something that just sang to me in this way because that had not happened to me before. I mean, I went to Antarctica I guess, with a certain amount of expectation because you know, now in retrospect, I realize so clearly how particularly having grown up in Britain and, you know, having this culture around us Antarctica is such a, a part of our culture, this whole idea of stoicism, of what it means to be a strong person of what it means to be a good decent person. You know, quite a lot of that. You know, Antarctica is something that's in our brain as a place where you go to prove yourself, where you go to find out who you are, where, you know, you come back with this big perspective and these big revelations. So, you know, for sure when I went to Antarctica, knowing that I was going to be there for two years, more than two years you know, I expected to be finding things out about myself as well as the landscape that I was visiting. But I, I, you know, that that moment was was a surprise to me. I hadn't meant to, I haven't realized, you know, it would affect me in quite that way.

Alok Jha (06:26): What made you want to go to Antarctica in the first place?

Felicity Aston (06:30): So when I first went to Antarctica, I was a brand new graduate straight out of university. And I got a job with the British Antarctic survey and it was my first ever proper job. So it didn't even occur to me why I wouldn't want to go to Antarctica. It was a huge, exciting adventure. And I couldn't think of anything else that I would rather be doing. It was only now that I'm what, 30 to 20 years older. And I've got my own family and lots more responsibilities. I look back on that and think, Ooh, actually. Yeah, you know, that, that was quite a big decision to make, to go to Antarctica. And, and because at the time for the British Antarctic survey, it was a standard contract of 39 months. So you were committing to being down in Antarctica, you know, not leaving Antarctica for pretty much two and a half years. But at the time it wasn't really a very difficult choice I wanted to go. And it was hugely exciting. I couldn't think of a reason why I wouldn't want to go,

Alok Jha (07:39): Perhaps it's worth just understanding a little bit about your research as well. So you, you, you say you're working for the British Antarctic survey. What, what kind of research were you engaged in at the time?

Felicity Aston (07:50): So I was employed as a meteorologist and my my main function was climate monitoring, which is a long term program that happens in Antarctica. And also looking at monitoring ozone as well because this was 2000 to 2003. So the seasonal thinning of the ozone layer was something that was still pretty new. They weren't sure what was going to happen with that. So it was a really important area of research. And then on top of that, there was a, another layer in terms of operational meteorology, because I was posted to Rothera Research Station, which is the largest of the UK's two research facilities. And it has a, a rock runway, which is unique in Antarctica. So the aircraft operations running through Rothera was really important. And so we had quite a lot of operational meteorology to do with the aircraft as well as the, as the purely scientific stuff.

Alok Jha (09:00): So, you, you you hinted that it here already that you spent two, almost two, well, two years, more than two years on Antarctica continuously, which boggles my mind that someone would go for that long, to be honest. And I'm someone who thinks that Antarctica's a wonderful place. And I know, I think everyone should go if they, if they possibly can in some form, but two years is a long time, especially given that, of course, in the Antarctic winter for up to six months of the year, there's no light at all. You're, you're in pitch black nevermind the cold and the wind and all of these other things. So it does sound like a very unpleasant place in that respect. Did that, did that not concern you when you were on your way there?

Felicity Aston (09:41): There were concerns, there were worries. You know, I worried when I was packing, you know, am I packing the right things? Do I have enough of everything? You know, and what are the people going to be like, because you're right. I mean, I turned up at Rothera in December of the year, 2000 and that's kind of already halfway through the summer season in Antarctica. And the idea of that long contract length was that you would complete a summer season sort of settling in, but then you would do your first winter season and that's you know, really the first test if you like, because you're there with just a skeleton crew of about 20 people. Whereas in the summer there can be up to 85 people and it's quite a busy place. You know, people are coming and going to forward field sites and all sorts of things, but in the winter, you know, everyone is on the base and it's just 20 of you and you don't know who those people are really until you get there.

Felicity Aston (10:38): I mean, I'd met them once at the sort of training conference that you have, but not in any meaningful way. And so that's really your first test and then you have another summer and then you have a second consecutive winter, the idea being that you know, the first winter, you're just kind of getting to know the ropes, whereas the second winter, your an better run and you're able to pass on some of your knowledge to the people within the team for whom that's their first winter, you say, and then you do a third and final summer before you come home. But you know, it, it, it's, it's so challenging in all sorts of ways because, you know, Antarctica is not in this instance somewhere, you're visiting to take lots of pictures and see the wildlife. It's, you know, you're arriving there knowing that this is going to be your place of work. So that adds pressure because it's not just settling into the buildings that you're living in and getting to know the people that you're going to be living with. But you've also got to get to grips with the job that you're supposed to be doing. And then we weren't, we were in, I mean, the base was a, it was a pretty place.

Alok Jha (11:54): It was comfortable. It's not a word I associate with Antarctic living.

Felicity Aston (12:00): It's pretty institutional. I mean, in the summer, you know, you had a room where up to four people would be sleeping in that same room with you. But then when we got to my first winter, they just opened a whole new block of accommodation. So you shared a room with just one other person. There were only two people to are very many. You each had your own bathroom. So you're only sharing a bathroom with one other person rather than up to 40 people. As it was when I first got there. But of course, you know, during the winter you expand to fill this place when it's just 20 of you, this place becomes your home and you have the 20 people that you're there with. You're not just working with them, you're eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner with them. And then you're socializing with them in the bar in the evening.

Felicity Aston (12:44): And at the weekends, if you want to go skiing, you have to go with somebody else. So, you know, it's not just a matter of them being your colleagues, they're like your housemates, your colleagues. And in some cases, you know, the, the nemesis of your, of your day went through phases of, of getting on really well and then you know, not getting on so well. But that was all part of the challenge of it. So you were challenged in every single way, professionally, personally you were challenged in terms of the environment outside the window, but also the environment inside those buildings. And I guess that's why, you know, people say that you learn as much about yourself as you do about Antarctica because it's, it's challenging in so many different aspects.

Camilla Nichol (13:37): Hello, I'm Camilla Nichol, CEO of the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust and I hope you're enjoying the podcast so far. We work to preserve and protect Antarctica's unique heritage from the historic pioneers to the amazing discoveries in climate science. And our mission is to inspire current and future generations to discover, value and protect this precious wilderness. The pandemic has had a significant impact on our work, but we need your generosity now more than ever, find out how you can help save Antarctica, protect our planet, and even adopt a penguin at ukaht.org or search for the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust. Thank you, and enjoy the rest of the podcast.

Alok Jha (14:22): Now, given your sort of rich heritage with the scientific research that the British Antarctic survey was doing, the, you know, having to do the work on a metrology, and then all the other things that the British Antarctic Survey does being part of this big system of, of Antarctic research that goes as this stretches back many, many decades. I wonder what made you want to go to Antarctica by yourself for the first time?

Felicity Aston (14:47): Yeah, so, I mean, this was many years after I left. I left Rothera Research station probably about 10 years. And what has happened in those intervening years was that I become more and more interested in the sort of expedition side of polar travel. So I'd left the British Antarctic survey and I started putting together my own expeditions going to places like Greenland and Siberia anywhere really cold, but then eventually going back to Antarctica and putting together some expeditions there. So it was a sort of gradual process. You know, each expedition was more challenging for me personally than the one before, you know, there was something about it that scared me, and that's what made me wanting, wanted to do it. And throughout all of these. So over those 10 years there was this kind of idea bubbling away in the back of my mind because I was then familiar with how empty the landscape in Antarctica is.

Felicity Aston (15:51): It's vast, it's ancient, and there is no sort of human footprint there there's no human culture. I mean, the barest barest scratches. But you know, as though I was interested, what would it feel like to be there on my own? You know, what would it feel like to be in this very empty landscape when you're not surrounded by a team when you don't have that support and that motivation of the people around you, and then the idea of crossing from one coast to the other? There was something about the simplicity and yet the completeness of doing that. I mean, there was nothing, nothing in my motivation that was anything to do with any sense of conquering or overcoming or anything like that. It was more out of curiosity and, you know, I got this huge sense of, it would be a massive privilege to be able to see a cross section of Antarctica like that. You know, this place that at that stage in my life had been such a huge part of my entire adult life you know, to have the opportunity to go and do an expedition like that. You know, I just thought was a lifetimes opportunity as, and it was

Alok Jha (17:09): So in 2012, you, you became the first woman to ski across Antarctica alone. And I just wonder how you physically and mentally prepare for something like that. Let's start with the, the, the practical stuff, you know, w what do you do? How do you plan something like that? Did you, I'm assuming you didn't just turn up with some skis at one edge of Antarctica and just hope to make to the other end. What do you do? What'd you plan?

Felicity Aston (17:36): No. Well, there's an awful lot of planning that goes into these expeditions. You know, this one was actually quite a short one to prepare for, it was about a year in preparation, but that's only because in the years before that had been doing, you know, expeditions on a sort of annual basis. So, you know, a lot of those connections, a lot of those relationships were already in place to, to get those logistics ready. You know, my own sort of training and skill level had been slowly built up over the previous 10 years. And it wasn't just about learning how to use the equipment. It was about gaining the confidence to put yourself in a really sort of exposed position. But here's where I started that expedition. It sort of felt like it was on the wrong side of Antarctica. So most of the logistics, most of the planes and things like that, they're all over on the the sort of Weddell sea side, the peninsula side of, of Antarctica.

Felicity Aston (18:38): Whereas I started my traverse on the Ross Sea side of Antarctica and that felt, yeah, really quite lonely, quite like those lines, those logistics lines, those very thin sort of safety nets that you had felt very stretched by going right over the other side of the continent to start. So it was building up the confidence more than anything else. That was vital in the preparation yes training physically at that point because I was doing expedition so regularly in a training was just a a standard part of, of my life then. So I was already pretty physically fit, but I did specific training in the buildup to this expedition, a lot of work on endurance. So it's not just about sort of sweating it out on a treadmill. It was about hours spent dragging tires just, just building up that stamina and endurance, but that's as much about building up your mental stamina and endurance as it is about building up your muscles.

Felicity Aston (19:52): You know, it's just about getting used to the idea of keeping going hour after hour, just spending those hours on your feet, you know, and, and the moving. But it was, you know, I certainly felt I had a responsibility to make sure I was as prepared as possible because I was very conscious of the fact that in choosing to put myself out there on my own, you know, if I got into trouble, if I gave up you know, somebody would have to come back out to get me and every flight that's made in Antarctica, there is a risk inherent in that, you know, it's not a safe place to be flying around. And so in a very real way, you know, you're asking others to put themselves at a higher risk just because you want to do something. So, you know, I, I felt I had a big responsibility to make sure that I was as prepared as I possibly could be to make sure that I wouldn't be asking people to put themselves in harm's way,

Alok Jha (21:00): The post, the mental preparation, like you, you, you hinted on this already. What do you have to do to prepare yourself mentally? And what is it about the, the, the, the mental toll that something like a project like this would take on you that you have to sort of really be aware of?

Felicity Aston (21:17): Yeah. And I mean, mental preparation is a big part of the training for all my expeditions. You know, even my team expeditions, it's a massive consideration right. From the start. And I think it has to be, but it's surprising how often you know, training for doing expeditions. Like this includes barely any mental training. And yet, you know, the journey is so much more about what's going on in your head than it is about the size of your muscles or your physical condition.

Alok Jha (21:48): That's a really interesting thing to say, because obviously it is a physical exertion, like no other,

Felicity Aston (21:54): It is, but it's far more about the sort of mental fortitude to keep going. You know, I've seen incredibly strong people, you know, physically incredibly capable people and yet, for whatever reason, they haven't had the right mental direction, you know, maybe it's because there's things going on in their life that has taken their attention away. Maybe it's because, you know, they don't really want to be there for some reason, maybe, you know, there's a hundred different reasons why somebody's head, isn't fully engaged in what they're doing. But that means that, you know, ultimately they failed. Whereas I've seen people who have been physically very petite, you know, physically not so strong. And yet, you know, there is a determination and underlying mental strength, mental toughness that you just get a sense, right. From the get-go, you know, they are not going to let anything stop them and, you know, that's carried them through, even though physically they've not been as strong. And you know, it's something that in a place I can't always occur, I'm willing to bet anyone who's spent any length of time there when I've seen this over and over again, that it is so much more about where your head is at than physically where you are.

Alok Jha (23:31): I just wonder what you thought about endurance as a sort of in historical terms and Antarctic endurance is a very masculine thing. You know, it's all the, the, the great explorers, the 1912, 1913, Scott, Shackleton, all these people, they, they did some incredible things and, you know, of course Shackleton's ship was even called the endurance. So it really is. It it's essentially, where did the idea of heroic activity back then, and for many, many reasons that as we've discussed on this podcast as well, women were shutout of that for a long time. And it's taken a long time for women to be involved in Antarctic research and Antarctic exploration and the way that you know, that men have been provided on time. But it's it's the, the, the, the hangover is still there. That endurance toughness is a male thing. Now, I don't think anyone would argue now that, that that's simply to preserve the men. And in fact, there's probably lots of evidence to show that women who are ultra insurance athletes tend to tend to do better than, than men in similar situations. I just wonder what you think about that. What do you do, what do you think about the sort of the genderedness of, of endurance and the way we think about it?

Felicity Aston (24:46): Yeah, so, I mean, it's a perception that, like you say is still very much out there. You know, I get told a lot, oh, what is it like going to Antarctica when, you know, it's just men that go to Antarctica. And so I find myself frequently sort of correcting people and saying, well, no, actually there's, you know, if you go to an Antarctic research station, now you're likely to find as many women there as men. And you know, since I guess the early nineties, you know, there's been lots of women that have made some astonishing journeys. And as you say, it seems that when you get to sort of ultra endurance and ultra distance marathons and undertakings, that the difference between the performance of the genders tends to narrow somewhat. I mean, I know that in some of the really ultra ultra distance marathons you know, they don't even have a separate male and female field, you know, everyone competes against each other because, and interestingly, it tends to be women that are slightly older that do better.

Felicity Aston (25:49): So sort of late forties, early fifties you know, there is something about endurance where women really hit some kind of sweet spot when they're in kind of that age group. And so if you look back particularly at sort of polar expeditions you know, you had Liv Arneson the Norwegian who went solo to the south pole, and I think it was 94. And then she, and Bancroft, the American polar Explorer had already skied to the south pole. It did a huge crossing of Antarctica in 2000. And then for example, as we stand at the moment, the person who's skied to the south pole, more times than anyone else is a British woman Hannah McKeon who, when she went to the south pole solo, sort of smashed the speed record and made sort of sit up and go, oh my goodness.

Felicity Aston (26:44): You know, she smashed it by so much that then there was a big run for a few years after that to sort of get this speed record down as low as, as though now I think it's something like 27 days at the speed record of skiing to the south pole. But so, you know, there are incredible stories of women who have really been at the forefront of polar exploration and sporting expeditions, incredible feats of endurance, but somehow that hasn't sort of leaked through, into the general consciousness the general perception of polar exploration and sporting expeditions and endurance, as you say. So I, I'm not sure why that is. Is it because people are less interested in these stories? Is it because, you know, they're not being reported enough, is it because they're not sort of supported and sponsored and therefore they'll get the same press or, you know, I'm not sure what the answer is, but for sure, it's definitely still, there's a, there's a gap in the perception. People still see it very much as a male dominated preserve. Whereas that certainly hasn't been my experience, although, you know, a lot of the Antarctic expeditions that I've done in mixed groups, I've been the only woman or one of very few women, but, you know, there are women out there doing amazing things. And as you say, really proving the point that women have a capability for endurance that certainly in the heroic age of exploration, people like Scott, Shackleton, Nansen would, I imagine never have credited.

Alok Jha (28:22): I wonder you say in the public consciousness, perhaps it hasn't quite filtered through yet, but I wonder at the sort of elite explorer level amongst the, your, your peers and the exploring community, the people who do these things all the time, is it, is it well accepted that men and women are equally capable of doing these things and should be doing these things?

Felicity Aston (28:41): I do notice when I've been out on an expedition with an all female team and we come back having done really well. People will say things to us. Like you were really lucky with the weather, won't you? Oh, you know, you guys, you were, you know, you were really lucky there wasn't so much sistrugi this year, or, you know, things like that. And I do, you know, it makes me rile a little bit because, you know, when an all-male expedition comes in, you don't hear that so much said, you do think, ah, you know, why do you have to do that? You know? And you know, I still get things thrown at me like, oh, I bet you girls had a lot of fun out there doing that to my male colleagues when they came in. Probably cause you get a bump on the nose, I would imagine.

Felicity Aston (29:34):

But so there, there is still a little bit of a way to go, I think. Oh, and, you know, for example, just the other week there was an event that was focused on endurance and I noticed that the lineup of speakers was completely male. You know, and again, you just sort of think, you know, there really is no excuse for that now. And it's really, I think, quite damaging when, you know, I'm also contacted by schools teachers who have been appalled by the fact that when they've talked about exploration to their class of eight year old eight year olds the general consensus has been that, oh no, you know, girls, aren't explorers boys are explorers. And that's so upsetting to hear that now because, you know, I think you know, all the women that are polar explorers out there kind of assumed that we've made it better for the next generation somehow.

Felicity Aston (30:35):

But so to hear that that is still something that is being spoken and, and expressed by eight year or eight year olds is, you know, really quite depressing and demoralizing. But you know, it just means that we have to work harder to, you know, change that perception and make sure that that everyone is aware of everybody that goes and does great things. But I think it's, you know, makes it more clear that representation is so important. And particularly in this past year where we've had big movements like black, black lives matter you know, representation in all sorts of ways is so important. It's not just about making the women feel better, that they're being represented. It's about knowing, letting girls know that, you know, they can do anything. And it's really important

Alok Jha (31:31): Just, just on that point, actually. Why, why is it that you think that the, the, the whole world should have access to the insights or even to the ability to perhaps go to places like this? What is it about the whole world understanding this that is really important?

Felicity Aston (31:53): I think the importance of that now is that in the future that we have coming up very fast in the next few decades, certainly in the next century, we need people out there achieving what feels impossible. You know, we need some big solutions. We need some big answers. We need some, you know, incredible things to be happening. People don't go out with huge ambitions unless they've been inspired. And, you know, I was inspired you know, the ideas I've had, the things I've wanted to go out and do those ideas have come from somewhere. And, you know, it filters in from what you see around you. And I mean, there's a, there's a phrase isn't there, you don't become what you can't see. You know, and so if we don't inspire the next generation, if we don't inspire our own generation, you know, let's not lay it all on the kids, it's up to us to you know, we all need to be so ambitious in the years that are ahead of us as a species that, you know, now it's more important than I think it's ever been before that.

Felicity Aston (33:03): We're really emphasizing the fact that we can go out and do amazing things and, and a brilliant way of doing that is reminding people of what has been done in the past. You mentioned Shackleton earlier, you know, that story of survival when the endurance sank beneath the ice and he refused to give in and got all his men safely away you know, the stories of the first teams to get to the south pole you know, hugely ambitious undertakings and inspirational stories.

Alok Jha (33:36): Felicity has been an absolute pleasure to talk to you. Let's can I just finish by asking you one thing, which we're asking all of our interviewees for this podcast, why does Antarctica matter to you?

Felicity Aston (33:47): Perspective, you get a perspective in Antarctica that I don't think anywhere else on the planet certainly gives you because it is so others so fast, it's so ancient. And it's so untouched by humans still that you get a sense of perspective of yourself, but also of us as a species and Antarctica, there's something about the emptiness of it. And that this sort of permanence, and yet the frigidity of the place that just you come away with a renewed perspective. And I don't think necessarily you have to be there maybe to gain that. I think again, in the, in the world that we're moving towards Antarctica is becoming a symbol. I think that that achieves that same sense of perspective that, and it's a perspective that we really need.

Alok Jha (34:52): Thank you very, very much for your time,

Felicity Aston (34:54): And it's been a pleasure. Thank you very much.

Alok Jha (34:59): Thank you for listening. A Voyage to Antarctica is brought to you by the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust. To find out more about our guests, including photos and videos, head to our website at www.ukaht.org, or follow our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages. If you enjoyed this episode, please don't forget to follow us and rate us wherever you get your podcasts. Next time I'll be talking to Dr. Suzy Imber about the extraordinary space research happening in Antarctica from studying the night sky and collecting meteorites to testing robots, which might one day look for extraterrestrial life. The UK Antarctic Heritage Trust is the charity championing the public understanding of and engagement with Antarctica. This podcast is part of the trust's Antarctica insight program, celebrating and reflecting on the past 201 years of human endeavor across this fascinating continent. The Antarctica insight program is supported by the Arts Council England, the Garfield Western foundation, and the foreign and Commonwealth development office. A Voyage to Antarctica was presented by me, Alok Jha, and produced by Jessica Norman. Ben Hewis is digital producer and the music and sound design is by Alec Hewes. See you next week.