Mohamed Shinaz Saeed, 25, a professional photographer and co-founder of the Maldivian Youth Climate Network (MYCN), came to the spotlight following an eye-catching stunt to display the risk of Maldives submerging by the rising sea levels, crawling into a tank filld with 200 gallons of frigid water during the Copenhagen climate talks in 2009. Today he again making headlines as the first known Maldivian to travel to the Antarctic, as part of the International Antarctic Expedition 2012 organised by ‘2041’ – a movement founded by lead environmental activist Robert Swan, OBE, the first person in history to walk to both the North and South poles.
HL: Tell me about the expedition.
MSS: This expedition’s purpose is to create ambassadors for education, environment and sustainability across the globe. The participants of the expedition will get to explore sites in the Antarctic previously only seen by early heroic explorers. We will get first-hand knowledge of the fragile ecosystem of Antarctic, it’s unique wildlife and at the same time observe the magnificent landscape of Antarctic. Experts on the environment, climate change and sustainable development will provide us with the latest information and knowledge in their respective fields in the dynamic classroom of the Antarctic, and the difference will be that we’ll get to see everything in person.
HL: How did you get involved?
MSS: I was attending the British Council International Climate Camp 2011 in Goa where we had a presentation by an Indian scientist who recently returned from Antarctic. He was telling us about how the continent is gradually affected by climate change. Even though we read these findings on reports, I thought I could there and observe things for myself and present the appalling scenario through my photography – a lot of my friends supported the idea as well.
So, after returning home from the camp I started searching for a way to get there and I found the 2041 website, from where I learned about their International Antarctic Expedition programme. I wrote to them immediately and subsequenty received a request for an application to participate in 2012 expedition. With my dedication towards creating positive change, I was told that it would be pleasure to have me onboard the expedition. As far as I know, around 60-70 participants will be joining from all over the world.
HL: So you will be making history as the first known Maldivian to make it to Antarctic right? Your thoughts?
MSS: I’m not exactly sure whether I’m the first Maldivian to visit Antarctic. But I’m certain that I will be the first Maldivian to explore the harsh unforgiving landscape of Antarctic and share it with the world. I’ll be very proud when I get to take the first picture with the Maldivian flag on the Antarctic.
HL: What‘s interesting on the itinerary?
MSS: Right now I am in the southern most city of the world; Ushuaia of Argentina. In three days will set sail to Antarctic. Depending on ice and weather conditions, we’ll be exploring the western coast of the Antarctic Peninsula.
A lot of friends have asked me to take photos of penguins, so Cuverville Island is a yes – the domed shape 250m tall island is home to vast population of well-sized Gentoo penguins. If weather permits, the team will also be visiting a lot of other exciting places and will probably camp overnight on the Antarctic ice to explore the amazing continent under the night sky. The team will also get to attend Robert Swan’s personal leadership and sustainability programme “Leadership on the Edge” which encompasses themes including environment, education and survival.
HL: Now all ready face the extreme cold?
MSS: I don’t expect the journey to be easy. Going from one of the warmest countries in the world to the coldest is a great challenge. But I am positive that I’ll get through everything put in my way with the guidance of the expedition leaders. All and all this would not have been possible without the generous support extended by my sponsors ; STO, LeCute, Panasonic, Soneva Fushi, Maldivian, Allied Insurance, Bandos Island Resort & Spa, CDE Consulting, Villa College and all those great individuals who encouraged me in every way to get this far. I also thank my amazing family and friends for their unwavering support.
HL: What’s the message you want to give to your readers?
MSS: I always felt that working towards preserving the environment is only for the environmental experts. But from what I have learned and from what I have seen I have come to understand the rest of the world has a much larger role to play. So I’m going to be using my skills as a photographer and designer to spread the message my way. And I want everyone reading this to know that even you can do something regardless of your background…no matter how small it is, do it.
It’s never about believing in climate change but it’s all about being prepared for what may come at us. So we at the Maldivian Youth Climate Network (MYCN) are working towards creating a resilient Maldives to climate change. We wouldn’t want any harm to come to our beloved nation. So let Maldives set an example to the world.