Watch the video of Ann Daniels’ talk at TEDxExeter 2014.
Scroll down the page for the Live blogs of the talks.
Videos about Oceans
Live blogs about Oceans
Ann grew up in Bradford, went to a comprehensive, left school at 16, got a job, got married, had no aspirations… especially to having an idea that is worth spreading.
Having triplets changed all that. She realised that she could do anything! She saw an advert for ordinary women to go on a polar expedition. She had all the qualifications – she was an ordinary woman. She went on a weekend for applicants on Dartmoor, and was annihilated. But she then spent 9 months training, friends taught her how to read a map, and she went back to Dartmoor and got on the team, her biggest accomplishment!
She was on the first leg of a relay across the Arctic ocean. She spent 17 days walking in what she describes as a ‘crystal beast’, with blues and pinks, and booms of moving ice.
Coming back she and four other women hatched a plot to be the first British women team to reach the South Pole. They spent 61 days walking into the Antarctic winds, in incredibly low temperatures, but they made it.
She also realised that scientists actually work there, but before getting involved in science, she had another expedition to walk all the way to the North Pole. Temperatures were unprecedented: -70 degC with windchill, hauling 300lb sledges. And she realised why only 53 teams had managed to undertake the journey. Traversing the ice is harder than the Antarctic land. On day 37, they had gone only 69 of 500 miles. They suffered physical injuries, frostbite and gangrenous feet – unpleasant photo! One of the team had to leave on the next supply plane. They had to swim, in specially-designed orange suits. But again they made it, and set a world record for women reaching both poles.
Ann got to know Pen Hadow, who is an explorer and scientist. He chose her to lead a team on the Arctic ice while he and another collected ice samples and took photos. What’s the point if we don’t do anything with information we collect? The photos are a way of sharing with the world. Every night they drilled and measured with a tape measure. They appeared on the News at Ten.
On the next expedition, she learnt about ocean acidification, collecting samples of water. Since the Industrial revolution, the carbon dioxide we have emitted has been absorbed by the ocean. The oceans have been a buffer, but at a cost. The water is becoming a weak carbonic acid, which is affecting coral reefs, becoming bleached and eroded. Other marine life is suffering, and humans will too, as reef protects us from winds and tsunamis. Phytoplankton can’t produce as much – the bottom of our food chain is being eroded.
We can make small changes that make a difference – buy locally, buy green energy, use the car less, make your home energy efficient, encourage each other to go through glass ceilings and realise our dreams.
Here’s another bit of topical Twitter tennis with the Met Office, your friendly Exeter-based national meteorological service.
@TEDxExeter : Hi @metoffice we have @AnnDanielsGB polar explorer speaking at #TEDxExeter today, what is the current weather in the polar regions?
@metoffice : @TEDxExeter Greenland is forecasted light snow and temps between -1 and +1 C over next 5 days http://bit.ly/1maeG9x ^EC
@metoffice : @TEDxExeter Antarctica has light and heavy snow in the forecasts, temps between -5 and 0 C http://bit.ly/1jdrvjF ^ec
It’s July 2010, and Jo is sat in the Pacific on Plastiki, a boat built out of plastic bottles. As skipper she is responsible for the lives of 5 boys, and wondering whether they’d bitten off too much.
She is showing a video of the sea state – “big wave!” – and I’m feeling queasy just watching… and in awe of the seas, and of Jo and the crew for risking them.
Her dad left her in a dinghy at aged 7, and started a life-long love affair with the seas. Her journey towards Plastiki started on South Georgia. She took a moment by herself on the beach – it was stunningly beautiful, but then she saw the bright oranges, blues and greens of plastic.
Ever since she’s been questioning how the materials we produce and use daily impact the life of the sea. Plastic is the first man-made material that can’t be found in nature. And now we have pumped 8 billion tonnes into the sea, and nearly all of it is still there today – our geological legacy.
There are 11 gyres in the oceans, caused by currents and winds. And vast quantities of plastic can be found in the middle of these gyres. Sea birds choke on it, turtles are trapped in it. Tiny pieces of plastic sop up toxins, which get into the food chain.
We should stop thinking of plastic as throw-away, as it is almost, like diamonds, forever. We should consider the whole lifecycle of a material or product before we manufacture it.
Jo and the others in the Plastiki team thought that if they could build an up-cycled boat and sail it across the Pacific, then they could demonstrate other possibilities. The team collected 12,000 bottles from recycling centres to form the buoyancy. They also found SRPT, which could be used to bond the bottles together. It retains its properties in the reycling process, so could be used again to build another boat or a plane. It hadn’t been used before, so it was a big risk to sail out under the Golden Gate Bridge heading for Sydney.
The crew learnt a lot about the material: saw it expand and contract in the sun, and twist and reform in the waves. Plastiki was the first boat to be made of closed-loop plastic, and the project led to other inventions.
Jo has learnt to appreciate plastic’s material qualities. It’s our misunderstanding of the material that has led to the problems. Someone needs to take ownership. Big companies and curious minds need to get together to work out how to build closed-loop everyday products too.
Jo on Twitter