Ski and snow

The first time Rebecca Lee saw Antarctica

The first Hongkonger to visit both the North and South Poles describes her first impression of Antarctica

I landed at China’s Great Wall Antarctic research station in November 1985 after flying from Beijing via Chile. I had travelled all over China and all over the world before then, and have returned to Antarctica eight times since, but that first visit is the one that sticks in my memory.

The research station was red – bright, glorious Chinese red – in a vast blanket of white. Snow and ice were everywhere.

I was so excited. I was so proud. I was going to be working alongside Chinese scientists who were doing such important research, investigating ice pollution, atmospheric changes, the lichen that – incredibly – grows there.

Rebecca Lee

I’d managed to get an invitation to photograph the scientists, about 30 of them, and the work they were doing. I’d had to mentally prepare myself; the cold doesn’t bother me, but it was -10°C and I was working with a manual Nikon camera and film – no electronics to go wrong, but no way to check the picture you’ve just taken.

I stayed for about a month. There were other missions nearby – Chilean, Russian – but we concentrated on the task in hand.

I was fascinated by the Antarctic, which is why I returned so often. As a result I set up the Polar Museum Foundation, and many of the artefacts from my expeditions are on display at the Museum of Climate Change in Sha Tin, which stresses the importance of environmental conservation and sustainability.

Dr Rebecca Lee was the first Hongkonger to visit both the North and South Poles and Mount Everest. She teaches at the Chinese University of Hong Kong

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Discovery online brings together all the inspirational travel writing from our two inflight magazines, Discovery and Silkroad. Be sure to look out for the print editions when you next fly with Cathay Pacific or Cathay Dragon.
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