Day 10 | 24/02/2016 | Antarctic
Sunset. The Earth burns, the sky glows. 22.10 local time.
I’m standing with Andy at the bow of the Ortelius, we’re heading west. Icebergs. Glaciers. Orcas. This trip is having an effect. Even now. Our Antarctic trip is coming to an end. The sea isn’t expected to be as gentle as it was on the way here. From tomorrow we embark again across the Drake Passage towards Argentina. Ushuaia - Buenos Aires - Madrid - Munich all at once. Then by car to Vienna. The morning after I have my first appointment with executives. Meeting topic: responsibility, sustainability, safety and leadership. Fits like chalk and cheese.
The accident of our mountain guide changed everything. Our plans were history and useless theory from the first day in the ice. We’ve had much more water underfoot than ice and snow, much warmer than expected, experienced wonderful ski tours. Wildlife overwhelmingly beautiful; Like Schönbrunn without the fences: penguins, seals, albatrosses and whales - just without polar bears. Ice, glaciers full of tension and cracks. Pure nature. Being right in the middle instead of being a spectator from afar.
"Is this what we actually hoped for?" Andy asked me this evening. Is there a quiet, mindful, well-organised boat trip around here at all – other than just tourist traffic? We aren’t sure. Either you do it like this, or you risk going it all alone, alone in the wilderness. But not both. "He who prefers safety to freedom deserves to be a slave." - Aristotle is supposed to have said that.
This continent is wild, unsafe and priceless. Mankind would have to melt it to tame it. Indeed we have long since been working on this, self-destructively. As long as water dominates in all its forms, Antarctica will remain overpowering to us. I, now that I'm currently surrounded by it, am against all forms of touristic commercialisation of this continent. Crowds have no business here. "Organised ski tours do not fit in here in reality" I just thought to myself. True expeditions - always welcome. Antarctica is in front of us, as it was originally created: Roaring Silence.
I’ll leave it at that for now, I have the feeling that there will soon be a song made about it...
"Are you from Germany too?" Asks the friendly German beside me as I wait, sitting on rocks, for the boat to collect us. "More a neighbour" I reply. They want to know what I am doing. I gladly explain to her the three aspects of my professional life: coach, consultant and songwriter. "Are you a doctor by profession?" asks Andy, joining the conversation. Regardless of what brought him to the question. "I tell people my profession rather reluctantly. People always look at me in the wrong light then" she says.
"You must be a banker" it occurred to me, but she is quicker, "I am a politician. I was in the German Bundestag. But now I’m retired. I couldn’t stand the politics anymore." Then followed a great conversation on “politics, war and peace." Sobering. Frightening. Awakening. Touching.
"If you were the most powerful leader of the world: what would you change?!" was one of my many questions I posed to her... "I would explain to people that there is no final peace in the world, but that there must be a process that has this goal. I would ensure clear boundaries. Limits protect people; without clear boundaries, there is always conflict - especially inside. I would particularly invest in education and economic development in the countries, where war is most prevalent and dangerous. Education is still the best protection against baiting and seduction. Now we are getting to the point. And lastly: I would have current, deeply muddled wars “dealt with” without external interference until all parties are exhausted. Even if that appears very very inhumane - it is the only way for a peaceful new beginning on the ground."
"Are there people in the world who definitely want war? What is behind the refugee crisis? What is it about "Refugees as weapons”? Do you know Angela Merkel personally? What is she like in person? Why did you stand down from politics? How important are Turkey's objections to the refugees? Why is Turkey's EU visa freedom so important? What affect do the IS attacks in Europe have?"- Tomorrow we’re meeting up again, I still have dozens of questions.
Glad that I came on this trip after all.
Day 11 | 25/02/2016 | Antarctica - Drake Passage
Yes - there are people in this world who are in favour of war. Those who deserve it. It's that simple. The unscrupulous. "Because of you, I doubt the human image of the good; you earn millions, because millions bleed." an excerpt from my song "Arms Dealer".
There was definitely this dream there. The fleet of warships off the Antarctic coast. Our humanity, sickened by egotism.
And now this encounter, as if from nowhere. It isn’t up to me to find out insider facts on international military policy from the travelling ex-politician. Analyses that I would so love to be dismissed as conspiracy theories. To preserve my last spark of an “ideal world.”
"The strategies of IS attacks come from highly educated, academic circles. Psychologically sophisticated. They are aimed at the major flaw of the West: its decadence, its worship of football and rock gods, its mockery of religious symbols, its consumerism, its laziness, its greed, its fear and vulnerability. Terrorists sacrifice their own lives and those of their children. And they hit us in places where we ourselves are not willing to die for something."
The way she says it doesn’t sound at all like terrorism - justification, but rather as unruly efforts to conceive. To understand why there are conflicts, wars and contempt for life in the first place. She is one of those people who go far beyond the norm for peace in the world.
She continues her explanation: “"Refugees as weapons" is a long established term in military circles. A weapon for social destabilisation of the opponent to enforce one’s own political objectives against their opponent. Turkey now gets its EU visa freedom; it has struggled in diplomatic circles for a long time to get this."
Do I want to know from her how the refugee crisis is going to be dealt with from the European perspective? She takes a deep breath...
Andy starts broadcasting again. We remounted the dipole antenna on the other side of the ship, so that frequencies in the direction of Europe are clear. He immediately makes contact with Germany, the Falkland Islands and Italy. As I watch Andy on the radio, I understand more and more why it is so important to him. I also see the parallels to his bordering on obsessive enthusiasm to cast off on the entire relief of the earth. To measure, to pace, to radio - what he cannot see. But to experience it nonetheless. An important aspect of our trip.
I caught myself several times today, not for the first time, completely forgetting Andy’s blindness. I just went off, without waiting for him to put his hand on my shoulder. Then we stood together on this windy platform on the stern of the Ortelius, the new mast swaying, the OOOM flag and the 4 antenna cables. I climbed the ladder back down alone - and then I remembered, terrified, "I’ve left Andy up there!”
Andy thinks ahead. Always, in every situation. Not just one step ahead, but two, three, four steps. And he thinks of solutions, combines perfectly his broad general knowledge. If he weren’t wired like that, he could go through life with seeing-eye dogs and other assistance.
"It is necessary," he says, "from my situation to be nimble." His being constantly a few mental steps ahead of us astounds me, teaches me. Being so close to each other for an extended time as on this trip, we are ourselves for the first time. I begin to understand Andy.
His manner is contagious, through the constant being together, interdependence, such a thing constitutes as an overarching consciousness in team. In all directions. At the moment of recovering him, it showed itself the most: We are all wired in the same way. I see changes in my mind, in my attitude, in my actions. The need to always communicate with Andy in a solution-oriented and non-visually way. Phrases like "Over there," or "look here" or "Frank is there," etc. don’t work. Likewise, it isn’t enough simply to wander off or to point at the iceberg with your finger. We had to develop a very precise, descriptive style of language as well as communicating through touch.
For that, the base competences are: mindfulness and forethought and a culture for never-ending feedback. Immediate, direct. Friendly.
Our journey away from the ice has already begun.
Day 12 | 26/02/2016 | Drake Passage
"Tell me: What is the Good, the Hopeful in the current world political situation?" To me, the assessments of military expert were too pessimistic, too depressing - I refuse to believe in the "decline of the good" and the "victory of evil".
"The Good is the world peace that we having been maintaining, as measured by a global scale, for 70 years. Although there are hotbeds of war, we are free from the World War. Europe has managed to be fundamentally and economically sound in keeping jobs and preventing serious crises" To be free of great war – is that a success?
Yes. To be "free from suffering" is a part of happiness, "free for a good life," being the second part. "Humility and responsibility is what we lack. Out with the “One must at least” and in with the “I will take care of it”' appreciating what is there, instead of complaining about what is missing...
The Ortelius has set course for Ushuaia. All are somehow exhausted and overexcited. We’re heading home.
After dinner we went to the bar. The Austrian Chef, Christian, also drinking his evening beer, asks me if he could take a picture with Andy and his kitchen team tomorrow. I say: "Wait here, I’ll ask him for you." Of course, Andy says yes - we all loved the food on the ship. And Andy nudges me – to see if I could ask Christian if there is a guitar on board.
Minutes later, the boat is rocking. Andy crafts the music in a way only he can somehow. Anda, Roger and Frank follow suit, unrestrained, with “Dalalalalalabamba" and "Let it be" and "Hotel California" and "Argentina" and and and then a duet with me of "Bergwerk", then my new song "Ka way Z'ruck "... Right in the middle of a song he clowns over to me: "now let’s play our concert in Antarctica...!”
The expedition leader is visibly suffering, lonely, frozen to his bar stool and having to endure the fact that we are also very good entertainers. I cannot say whether the Ortelius has rocked so much because of the dancing, roaring masses or the swell in the Drake Passage. It actually doesn’t matter: She swayed!
Spaniards, Australians, Dutch, British, Americans, Indians, Germans, Russians, Argentines, Poles, Austrians, New Zealanders, Swiss, Chileans, Israelis, Filipinos, Hong Kongese. All getting along well together.
The Russian diver gets the guitar - together with his two friends, he sings a melancholy, Russian song. It blew my mind. Then it’s my turn again with a love song. One of the Russian ladies who is no longer quite sober begins crying. Perhaps because of my song, maybe just because. The Spaniard, Andrez, has his birthday as of midnight. We sing as a surprise for him. We hug each other.
An hour later. Frank, Roger, Anda and Andy are in their bunks - I was in the bar. Three beers would have been enough, but I wanted five. I take the guitar back to the barman, going silently past the expedition leader, I stumble the three decks down and get in bed with my iPhone.
In the cabin three men are snoring.
01.56. Good night.
Stay tuned for our next episode or catch up on part one and part two of this series. In the meantime you can visit Thomas Andreas Beck's blog or follow him on Facebook. Learn more about Andy' Holzer and his projects on his website.