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Robert Charles Swan, OBE, FRGS (born 28 July 1956) is the first person to walk to both Poles.[1]

Robert Swan in 2018 At Union Glacier Camp

He was born on 28 July 1956 in Durham, England, and attended Aysgarth School and then Sedbergh School (1969–1974) before completing a BA degree in Ancient History (1976–1979) at St Chad's College, Durham University. He is currently an advocate for the protection of Antarctica and renewable energy. Swan is also the founder of 2041, a company which is dedicated to the preservation of the Antarctic[2] and the author with Gil Reavill of Antarctica 2041: My Quest to Save the Earth's Last Wilderness.[3]

In November 2017, Swan undertook the South Pole Energy Challenge, the first expedition of its kind: a 600-mile journey to the South Pole with his son Barney Swan, surviving solely using renewable energy.[4]

"In the Footsteps of Scott" (1984–1987)Edit

Southern Quest set sail on 3 November 1984 to travel the 14,842 nautical miles (27,487 km) to Antarctica. The expedition stopped over in Lyttelton, New Zealand, to meet Bill Burton, who at 96 years old was the last surviving member of Scott's expedition in 1912. Swan's initial Antarctic expedition was thus officially dubbed "In the Footsteps of Scott". Upon arrival on the frozen continent, Swan and his team spent the Antarctic winter at the Jack Hayward Base with colleagues John Tolson and Dr. Michael Stroud. When the winter had passed, Swan, Roger Mear and Gareth Wood set out to walk 900 miles (1,400 km) to the South Pole. They arrived at the South Pole on 11 January 1986, after 70 days without the aid of any radio communications or back-up support and having hauled 350 lb (160 kg) sledges. Swan's team had achieved the longest unassisted march ever made in history. Once at the pole, they received the bad news that their ship, Southern Quest, had been crushed by pack ice and had sunk, just minutes before they arrived. There was much criticism of the adventure from the scientists working in Antarctica as time and money had to be spent in flying some of the party back out to New Zealand. However, Swan returned in 1987 with a ship to collect the rest of the team at Jack Hayward Base and to remove all traces of his expedition, i.e., rubbish and remaining stores.

The North Pole (1987–1989)Edit

Three years after reaching the South Pole, Swan assembled a team of eight people from seven nations for an attempt at the North Pole. The team consisted of Dr. Misha Malakhov from Russia, Rupert Summerson of the UK, Graeme Joy of Australia, Arved Fuchs of Germany, Hiroshi Onishi from Japan, Angus Cockney of the Inuit, and Daryl E. Roberts of the US. The expedition was called "Icewalk". Icewalk's base camp held 22 representatives from 15 different nations, with the US represented by Mike Doyle and photojournalist Michael Forster Rothbart. They produced a series of educational films there and facilitated the removal of rubbish from the surrounding Arctic wilderness. Swan and his team reached the North Pole on 14 May 1989. The team nearly drowned during their expedition due to the unseasonable melting of Arctic ice. Their journey made Swan the first man to walk to both the North and South poles.

Cleaning up 1500 tons of waste from AntarcticaEdit

In 1992, Swan was invited by the United Nations to be a keynote speaker to the first Earth Summit for Sustainable Development, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In response to the world leaders' challenge to "think global act local", Swan made a commitment to deliver a global and local environmental mission involving industry, business, and young people to the next World Summit in 2002.

In 1996–97, he organised One Step Beyond, The South Pole Challenge, which brought 35 young adventurers from 25 nations together in Antarctica. They came together to define the global mission that Swan had been tasked with at the Earth Summit. The mission was to remove and recycle 1,500 tons of waste that had been left at Bellingshausen station in Antarctica after decades of scientific research. The team worked for eight years to raise the money, plan, and execute the mission. The rubbish at the Russian base of Bellingshausen, King George Island, was finally cleared and the native penguins reclaimed their beach for the first time in 47 years.

The 2041 Yacht – from Earth Summit to World Summit to RioEdit

Swan's 67' foot racing yacht 2041 is named after the year in which the 'Madrid Protocol' comes up for debate. The protocol, signed by nearly every nation, provides additional protection for the Antarctic Treaty and designates the continent as "a Natural Reserve Land for Science and Peace". It also places a ban on mining and mineral exploration in Antarctica for 50 years (1991–2041).

In 2002, Swan and his 2041 sailboat embarked on the longest overland voyage in history. The voyage's destination was the 2002 World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa. Swan partnered with loveLife – a charity battling AIDS in South Africa.

The voyage reached out to over 750,000 young people across South Africa. During the World Summit, the 'Ice Station' exhibit was visited by 128 world leaders and 35,000 visitors, including 12,000 young people. It was awarded first prize for outstanding contribution to the World Summit.

The Cape to Rio Yacht Race, January–April 2003Edit

As the first step to the 2012 World Summit, Swan brought a team of young African leaders on 2041 for the Cape to Rio Yacht Race.

The Circumnavigation of Africa, May 2003 – May 2004Edit

Returning from the Rio, the yacht embarked on "The Circumnavigation of Africa". The voyage promoted AIDS awareness, water saving, and recycling whilst visiting over 30 ports.

Along the route, communities came out in force to participate in clean-up projects with the aim of improving their immediate environment. Three young men from loveLife were chosen by Swan to become the first African crew in history to circumnavigate their own continent.[citation needed]

The Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, December 2004 – January 2005Edit

Continuing on her journey towards the 2012 World Summit, Swan entered sailboat 2041 in the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race with the world's first sails made entirely from recycled plastic (PET) bottles. 2041 was crewed by industry leaders and teachers selected for their outstanding inspiration for young people. The sailboat finished 24th in the race.

Swan was once again charged by the world leaders to continue his mission and report back at the next World Summit for Sustainable Development, ten years later, in 2012.

The E-base and the Voyage for Cleaner Energy, 2008–2012Edit

"The E-base Goes Live", March 2008Edit

Powered entirely on renewable energy, Swan and a small team lived and sent broadcasts from the E-base via the internet for two weeks. It was the first time in history that a team had attempted to survive in Antarctica relying solely on renewable energy. Their mission was successful, and the team departed the continent after the allotted two weeks in good health.

The Voyage for Cleaner Energy, April 2008–2012Edit

On 8 April 2008, the Voyage for Cleaner Energy and 2041 sailboat launched from San Francisco, California. 2041 was refitted to operate entirely on wind, solar, and biodiesel generated energy. 2041 and Swan engaged in a multi-city tour of the West Coast of the US to highlight renewable energy and engage the youth of the world to take positive steps toward renewable, sustainable energy practices. 8 April 2008 was officially deemed "Robert Swan Day" in San Francisco at the bequest of Mayor Gavin Newsom.

'2041' and Inspire Antarctic Expeditions (2003–present)Edit

International (formerly 'Inspire') Antarctic Expeditions, 2003–2017Edit

After 23 years of sustainable leadership and teamwork experience, Swan led the first corporate expedition to Antarctica in 2003. The expedition members witnessed firsthand the effects of climate change in Antarctica. They were tasked by Swan to become leaders in sustainability upon their return home.

The purpose of these Antarctic expeditions is to engage and inspire the next generation of leaders to take responsibility to build resilient communities and in doing so, preserve Antarctica. In the year 2041, the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty could potentially be modified or amended.

Climate Force Challenge (2017 & beyond)Edit

The goal of the Climate Force(CF) challenge is to clean up 326 million tonnes of CO
before the year 2025, Robert Swan and his son Barney will be embarking on these four listed expeditions as a platform to achieve this mission.

CF: South Pole Energy Challenge: Nov 12th, 2017 – Jan 15th, 2018

CF: Last Degree: January 1st – 15th 2018,

CF: IAE Antarctica '18: Feb 27th – March 12th, 2018

CF: Trans America CycleMay 1st – October 1st, 2019

Throughout these expeditions they will be working with industry leaders, educators, sponsors, students, foundations, and outreach programs to give people the tools to create a positive impact on a personal, and/or infrastructure level.

South Pole Energy ChallengeEdit

In November 2017, Robert Swan will undertake another expedition to the South Pole with his son Barney, on a mission known as the South Pole Energy Challenge (SPEC). This father and son team will ski on a 600-mile journey surviving solely on renewable energy, a first in polar-exploration. The mission is to use Antarctica as a platform to protect our world and create a more sustainable, clean energy future.

Awards, honors and publicationsEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "First person to walk to both poles". Guinness World Records. Retrieved 5 June 2017.
  2. ^ "Who we are". 2041. Retrieved 27 February 2012.
  3. ^ Swan, Robert; Reavill, Gil (2009). Antarctica 2041: My Quest to Save the Earth's Last Wilderness (illustrated ed.). Broadway Books. ISBN 978-0-7679-3175-5.
  4. ^ 2041. "SPEC". Retrieved 13 February 2018.
  5. ^ "No. 51209". The London Gazette (Supplement). 26 January 1988. p. 885.
  6. ^ Олимпийский огонь понесут Друзь, Фрейндлих и Плющенко, Komsomolskaya Pravda, 4 April 2008
  7. ^ "Robert Swan (Explorer) – NOVUS Award Ceremony, NOVUS Summit 2016". Retrieved 5 June 2017.
  8. ^ "Helena Group Members". Helena Group Foundation. 2017.

External linksEdit