The winner of the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators’ 30th Anniversary Logo Colouring Competition has been announced as New Yorker, and self-declared Shackleton obsessive, Mandy Speers Volpe.
Mandy was moved to enter the contest after taking a “life changing” trip to the Antarctic Peninsula following a battle with breast cancer.
IAATO launched the competition to mark 30 years of its mission to advocate and promote safe and environmentally responsible travel to the Antarctic.
The competition, which ran from November 5 to January 5, asked participants to select the colours for IAATO’s anniversary embroidered patch and post their colourways on Instagram.
Mandy said: “I have had a huge smile on my face since learning that I had won. Antarctica has such a special place in my heart. It was a huge part of my healing and it brought my husband and I even closer together for having shared in the experience of being there.”
The photographer and designer, who was diagnosed with cancer in April 2017 chose Antarctica after husband Noel pledged to take her anywhere in the world after she’d overcome the disease.
“All through chemo I was reading Endurance, about Ernest Shackleton’s incredible death-defying journey from Antarctica to South Georgia and however bad I felt, I just kept saying to myself; ‘it’s not like you’re stuck on Elephant Island’. He got me through as did the promise of one day visiting Antarctica myself.”
Noel kept his promise and the couple spent Christmas 2018 on an expedition to the Peninsula with an IAATO member Operator. The visit, during which Mandy walked in the footsteps of her hero on Elephant Island, changed her life forever.
“Until I travelled there, I had no idea about all the effort to preserve and protect Antarctica,“ she said.
“On day one we watched the mandatory briefing on all the guidelines we have to follow as responsible visitors and it just blew me away, and made me reflect on how we live our lives at home.”
In 1991, seven companies that had already been operating expeditions to Antarctica for several years founded the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators – a global, non-profit industry alliance dedicated to safe and responsible private-sector travel to the White Continent. Today IAATO’s membership is comprised of more than 100 respected companies from across the world, each working to ensure the protection and preservation of the unique place that is Antarctica.
An important element in conscientious visitor management is continuous forward-planning based upon the long-term understanding of the industry. The IAATO annual meeting, and other focused gatherings throughout the year, help the Association to evolve its guidelines and practices to protect Antarctica while enabling responsible visitors, like Mandy and Noel, to have an enriching, educational experience while having only a minor or transitory impact on this precious region.
When Mandy and Noel arrived home, they began transitioning to plastic-free living; from ditching the single use water bottles at the gym to saying no to plastic in everyday life. Mandy has also shared her experience with “more people than I can count” explaining the network of organisations that support the protection of Antarctica and the measures visitors must follow when travelling there.
“Seeing how much effort goes in to protecting such a special place like Antarctica made us think about the small changes we could make to support that mission,” Mandy said.
“My friends will tell you I never miss an opportunity to talk about Antarctica and the profound effect it had on us. We are so much more mindful of waste now, from having a water cooler at home and using reusable bottles to not taking single-use items away with us when we travel.”
IAATO Executive Director Gina Greer, said: “Mandy’s passion for Antarctica was developed prior to her even visiting the White Continent and it is clear that her experience during her expedition not only influenced her choice of colours in the competition, but the way she has chosen to live her life from now on.
“We are excited to realise her vision with our limited-edition patch to mark our milestone year.”
In early 2020 just days before COVID-19 became a household name, Mandy and Noel returned from their second trip South, this time to South Georgia where they followed in Sir Ernest’s footsteps from Fortuna Bay to Grytviken before standing at The Boss’ graveside to give a toast.
Mandy added: “To many, I think Antarctica is just another cold and remote place, but through sharing stories of its history, the wildlife and the pristine nature of the region, we can educate people to treasure it, to make changes to help preserve it and support those who work so diligently to see it protected.”