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Why tiny satellites above Antarctica can help fight plastic pollution.
There’s one last truly unspoilt place on Earth: Antarctica. It’s under threat from climate change and symbol for our wasteful way of life. Taking on Goliath, two Dutch ‘Davids’ are travelling across Antarctica in a solar powered car to highlight this threat. Support comes from somewhere even colder. Space. Because that is where Hiber’s satellites will be monitoring their every move.
The consequences are becoming increasingly visible. Look at how the weather rollercoasters from flood to drought to storms to hurricanes more frequently than ever. News channels across the globe are filled with dramatic images of climate change. Melting Alpine glaciers. Oceans full of plastic which choke fish and birds. Tropical white beaches full of washed-up man’s debris. This has to change, now.
Antarctica is the only protected continent on our planet. Its pure snow really is pure and it must stay that way. It truly is the last real no man’s land on Earth. That makes it the perfect place to undertake a crazy mission to show the world how we can turn things around.
Pollute this delicate ecosystem and it is not only wildlife that will suffer. We will. Antarctica has 90% of the world’s ice, contaminate it and we really do change the future of humanity for the worse.
Antarctica is still completely waste-free because of an agreement called the Antarctic Treaty. But this agreement expires in 2048. That’s ages away you may think. But we all know how difficult it can be for the world to agree on climate change issues. Industrial powerhouse, we’re talking about you. So, if this treaty isn’t renewed and is opened up for commercial purposes, it’s goodbye white tundra and hello pollution, toxic waste and millions of tonnes of rubbish. And this beautiful landscape full of snow, ice and exceptional animals like penguins will be lost forever. Only to be seen again on the BBC or National Geographic.
Edwin ter Velde, Captain and Founder at Clean2Antarctica: “What Hiber and us have both in common is that we are doing very cool things with small steps. It shows where you can get if you don’t let all the experts stop you and simply go for it.”
The Solar Voyager, a solar powered vehicle, will attempt to be the first renewable energy vehicle to reach the South Pole. It’s going to be tough. It’s not without risks. But to get the world’s attention focussed on the dangers of plastic waste it has to be done.
The expedition is led by two exceptional people, Edwin and Liesbeth ter Velde. What makes this so special is that Solar Voyager is a car made of waste plastic and powered only by solar energy. To defy the snow, rubber tires are wrapped with net to remain in shape. As you’d expect, the crew keep warm wearing thick clothing. Infrared glass converts sunlight into heat inside the car. It also means the windows will not freeze ensuring maximum visibility.
From the base camp in Antarctica to the South Pole and back is 2400 kilometers. That’s like Amsterdam to Moscow and all through a never-ending ice desert. No surprise that no one has tried this before with a solar powered vehicle.
It is a huge challenge to drive across Antarctica. You must constantly battle relentless snow and blizzards. Stay warm in a vehicle made of waste plastic. Find a way to eat and drink. There’s no Starbucks on the way. More importantly, you’re all alone, in the middle of the most isolated place on Earth. If you need to get in touch, your iPhone won’t cut it.
That’s where Hiber’s nano satellites come in.
Communication with Solar Voyager is via Mission Control Center in Amsterdam. All made possible by Hiber and the world’s first truly affordable Low Power Global Area Network (LPGAN). This level of connectivity is vital to monitor their every move and ensure vital systems on board Solar Voyager that are carefully tracked. You can’t call out the local breakdown service if you have a problem.
As you can imagine, there is basically no communication infrastructure available on Antarctica. Hiber’s nano satellites provide the connectivity to track the gps location of the Solar Voyager and to make it possible to send an SOS message to Mission Control Centre, should a problem occur. Which we hope never happens. What’s more, the energy consumption of the watermaker is monitored so they always have enough to drink and cook. If they’re lucky they can overproduce and maybe even can take one hot shower during their 40 day journey. Guess what they will be looking forward to when they get home.
Edwin and Liesbeth ter Velde laid the idea for this project in 2015, when they wanted to become zero waste at home. As an engineer and with the inspiration of other projects, Edwin then founded Clean2Antarctica a year later. In the two years since, a small team of enthusiastic people have surrounded Edwin. Equally committed to the mission, Liesbeth quit her job to join the team full-time and together they will finish what they started: Driving the Solar Voyager to the South Pole.