Episode 3, Part 1 | The White Continent?
In part 1 of this special two part episode, Alok Jha talks to polar explorer Dwayne Fields: the first black Briton to walk 400 miles to the magnetic North Pole in 2010. Born in Jamaica, Dwayne came to the UK at age of 6. In his youth, he was a victim of knife and gun crime and as a result of his experiences, decided to change his life and become an explorer.
He’s lived a life of adventure, inspiring young people nationwide to explore the ‘great outdoors’ – wherever that may be. He is currently planning two trips to Antarctica with his expedition partner Phoebe Smith and their #WeTwo Foundation; taking a group of under-privileged young people to Antarctica in 2021 on a specially chartered expedition ship.
Dwayne has been awarded the ‘The Freedom of the City of London’ by the Lord Mayor, for his work with young people. He’s an Ambassador for the Scout Association, the National Trust, the Woodland Trust, Ordnance Survey and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.
Why does Antarctica matter to you?
"It's one of the places that is changing most as a result of our actions here on the planet. It's still this place that's far away and mythical, so big and extreme that you can't really quantify it. If we can get people's heads around that and they can see the impact happening there as a result of our actions, I think we'd go a long way to solving our climate issues."Dwayne Fields, 2021
Next Episode: The White Continent, Part 2
Image credits: Dwayne Fields, Phoebe Smith
Transcript The White Continent? Part 1 with Dwayne Fields
Alok Jha (00:01): Let me take you on a journey to the coldest place on earth and it's last and greatest wilderness on A Voyage To Antarctica. Hello and welcome to A Voyage to Antarctica, brought to you by the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust. I'm your host, Alok Jha. Up until the 21st century, the history of Antarctica as it's been written has largely been the history of the exploits of white men as explorers, colonizers, and scientists. But that's not the whole picture. In this special two-part episode, I want to ask how white is the white continent. My first guest is the extraordinary adventurer and pioneering explorer, Dwayne Fields. Born in Jamaica, Dwayne came to the UK at the age of six, in his youth, he was the victim of knife and gun crime. And as a result of his experiences, decided to change his life and become an Explorer. So in 2010, Dwayne set off on a 400 mile walk to the magnetic north pole and became the first black Briton to achieve this extraordinary feat.
Alok Jha (01:11): Since then, he's lived a life of adventure, inspiring young people nationwide to explore the great outdoors, wherever that might be. He's currently planning two trips to Antarctica with his expedition partner, Phoebe Smith, and their #WeTwo foundation that includes taking a group of underprivileged young people to Antarctica in 2021 on a specially charted expedition ship. Dwayne's been awarded the Freedom of the City of London by the Lord Mayor for his work with young people. He's an ambassador for the Scout Association, the National Trust, the Woodland Trust and Ordinance Survey. And he's also a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. Thanks very much for joining us.
Dwayne Fields (01:55): No worries, man.
Alok Jha (01:57): The history of Antarctica as it's told is all about Scott and Shackleton and all these other heroes. Norris. Who went there and some came back and some didn't braving, really cold weather and ridiculously stormy seas and all of these incredible stories we hear, we don't really hear much about people of colour who've been to Antarctica. There've been a few, but really, really very small. I just wonder what awareness you had that people like you were going to Antarctica or had been. And, and what was the significance of trying to sort of open that up?
Dwayne Fields (02:34): So in my extensive research into the north pole, I came across a man called Matthew Henson. Now Matthew Henson was a black man who in 1909, along with Robert Peary, went on an expedition to the north pole. Now Robert Peary was a white man who was a captain of bat expedition, captain of the ship. And he took Matthew Henson out with him on this expedition. He fell ill along the way. And Matthew Henson went ahead and broke the trail and, you know, left food caches along the way. And he arrived at the pole first. It took another 70 years. This happened in 1909. It took another 70 years before Matthew Henson was accredited with being the first person to arrive at the magnetic north pole. Now I love the fact that he did it. I didn't know anything about him until I stumbled across his name when I was looking into research. And what I found was instantly, I started to draw similarities between him and myself. He was an amazing carpenter. He spoke the language of the Inuits. He was a great navigator. He was resourceful. He was estranged from his parents and a lot of these things, I started thinking, well, actually, I'm quite good with my hands. I'm not too bad at building stuff. Well, I mean, I can navigate, you know, I'm not really in contact with my parents, and you genuinely start building these parallels with whoever you start to look up to. Now. I haven't found many people who've gone to Antarctica and I think, look, we can't blame people in the past for doing what they did or for for being a white guy from the military, going to Antarctica. In truth the world is changing now. And I think because of the picture of the past, there's a lot of people who still think that adventures like that, isn't for them. And I'm trying to highlight the people who have done it, who may look like them or come from where they've come from. And I just happened to be one of those people
Alok Jha (04:33): You were born in Jamaica. What was life like there and how did you end up in London?
Dwayne Fields (04:38): Gosh, life in Jamaica was the best I can imagine for a young boy or young kid generally. I grew up in a place where I didn't have running water. I didn't have gas, I didn't have electricity in the house. Our house was literally four walls. It wasn't broken up into, a kitchen, bedroom, bathroom. We didn't have all of those amenities. Bathroom was an outdoor space. Our kitchen was just an outdoor space where there was a fire pit. And that was it. I didn't have much, we didn't have much. I just knew that the moment you wake up, you'd eat something. And that's it, as a kid, you'd spend the rest of the day outside, I'd be in the fields in the forest. I'd be climbing trees. I'll be, you know, wading through streams. If I got hungry during the day, I'd pick a fruit and I'd eat it. Some people would argue that's paradise. I, I would argue that as well.
Alok Jha (05:31): And you then, when you were a small boy came to London, how was that different?
Dwayne Fields (05:36): When I came to London, I remember getting off the plane. I think it was Heathrow. And I remember we drove home with one of my mom's relatives, and I remember looking out the window and thinking there's going to be blue skies any minute. And I remember thinking I'll some fields in some forest any minute now. And we drove for about an hour, hour and a half. I remember thinking, whoa, look how tall these buildings are. Bear in mind, I've never seen a house with more than ground and first floor. I've never seen a double Decker bus. I've never seen so many cars in my life. We get to the house in Archway and sure enough, get out the car, start to move all the bags and stuff around, get inside, and I realized I hadn't seen any woods, any forest, any trees, any fields. I know they must be out in the back. So I run through the house, open the curtains, and sure enough, the massive shock of a concrete space. It's a three meters by six meters of garden space, which is just concrete. And I think to myself, surely this can't be, it was a shock for me because as a kid, you assume the entire world is like the world that, you know, you assume that the sun shines every day. That's the world I come from. After a couple of weeks, maybe a month or two, we moved to Palmers Green, and now we had an outdoor space. We had a backyard, we had a garden I can use. After school, I think I spent every single waking moment in that backyard. And on the rare occasions, I did get to go to the park, whether it was because our older friend or my sister's friend or a cousin came round I, it was like almost being back home just for a moment.
Alok Jha (07:18): What people can't see on, on listening to this is that I'm nodding furiously. Your stories of trying to find any sort of a blue sky festival in London. I mean, that was, yeah, that was an early rookie era, my friend, you know, but the number one, but, but, but the second one Archway, it's not very far from where I live now. And I know that there's virtually no green spaces apart from Hampstead Heath, but maybe that's, that's further away. And the idea of, of there not being nature around for a boy, who's living in a completely, must've been such a shock. If nothing else sort of think to think to yourself, you can't just jump on that around and do these things fast forward to your exploring the stories you tell our stories of you loving nature, wanting to see it and being adventurous in that nature. And it kind of almost makes sense then that you ended up at the north pole as an adventurer. But, but can you fill in the blanks? So how did you get from that, that boy who kind of was, was a bit sort of shocked about London to somewhere so far away, so cold. the diametric opposite of what I imagined Antarctica is like.
Dwayne Fields (08:23): Absolutely. So I went to school and I struggled to make friends because I couldn't have a dialogue with other kids about the things that they knew you know, cartoons, comic books My Little Pony, Superted. I didn't know any, anything about these characters. I, I had no friends except the one boy that the teacher put me next to on my very first day, he was my only friend in school. And I remember thinking, right, you need to make friends. You can't live like this man. And I thought the only thing I know, and I love is the outdoors; nature, insects, wildlife. So I went into school one day into my infant school, and I went through the, we had these plant pots along one, one wall and I dug for, and I found some wood lice and I found some other creepy crawlies. And I ran over to a group of kids in the playground from my class, and I thought, right, guys, look at this. And I opened up my hands and there's a handful of dirt and creepy crawlies, and everyone screamed and ran away from me saying 'oh, you're nasty'. And left me in the playground by myself, and at that stage, I realized that, do you know what Dwayne, you can't be yourself. If you, if you try and be yourself, you're going to keep standing out and it's not going to be good for you. Just keep your head down and do what everyone else does. And I carried on from age seven. I carried on with that pattern of behavior all the way through my teens. Fast forward, you know, I'm now 19, 20, 21 years old. And I, I'm still in that pattern of behavior where I'm just saying yes and nodding along to things and laughing at jokes that aren't funny, just so I'm not isolated, just so I'm not alone, just so I'm not the outsider. And I actually remember the night that I made a decision to do something different and not to do this anymore. And it came after I built this moped. Threw this thing together from absolute scratch. And I rode it, I it crashed it. I turned left. The thing went right, because I didn't make it properly. I went home aching, sore, scratched, bleeding and I rebuilt it. And this time I sent my younger brother out to ride, I was like, look, you go, go, it's fine, I promise you, it's fine. Send him out. And sure enough, it works perfectly. And he's a few minutes from the house and some boys push him off the bike and take it. And everything that I had in me, all my anger and frustrations about my life up until this point, it just came to the surface and I walked onto this estate and I demanded my bike back. Which was the stupidest thing you can do. You don't walk onto someone else's estate and demand anything, let alone something they've just stolen from you. And for the most part, everyone was like, take it it's crap anyway, we didn't really want it. But this one boy had this one panel and it was the most insignificant part of the bike and I thought nope I want that back as well. It's mine, I put blood, sweat and tears into this. Literally. I said I wanted it back. So I walked over and I snatched it out of his hand. And as I've done that and turned to walk away, he turned, he pushed me. I stumbled forward and I don't know if it was instinctively subconsciously what you'd like to call it. I turned around and I pushed him back without thinking. And as I've turned and pushed him, he stumbled. And I think out of embarrassment, you know, people are sensing that, 'Ooh, are you gonna have that?' He walked away. It couldn't have been more than about a minute or two. He came back and he, he was walking directly at me and before I could do anything else, I, you know, stood up to, to kind of face him and I realized he had a, he had a gun in his hand, and before I could say anything else, he raised the gun, and I heard click. Now, when you're facing a gun, any, any sound you hear could sound like a bang. It sounds like a bullet's coming at me now and then he cocked it and I saw a bullet come out the side and he pointed at me again and clicked again. And before he could do it a third time, some of the boys there that I knew by face or by, by sight kind of ushered him off and said, 'oh, you don't need to wear it. Don't worry about it. It's rubbish anyway'. I just remember walking back to my brother, checking myself, being sure that I'd been shot, but I just couldn't feel it. Fortunately it misfired both times, never heard of it happening. I'm so thankful that it did happen. By the time I got home, I had two or three messages, missed calls and people saying things like 'we heard what happened, what are you going to do? Are you going to get this guy? We think you should get him. I know where you can get this. I know where you can find him.' And I felt this whole world of pressure just fall onto my shoulders. And the truth is I was a bit cowardly. I couldn't, I couldn't face everyone telling me to do something. So I stayed indoors, switched off the phone for a couple of days, and during that time I thought, well, actually I don't want to get him, I'm just, I'm glad that I'm here. I'm glad the whole thing's over. I just want to do me. And within that thought for the past 13, 14 years, I've been doing what I thought everyone else expected, and I lost a little bit of me every single time I'd lied and I decided I can't do it anymore. I'm going to go and rediscover me and be that confident, you know, six, seven-year-old kid and be bold and do all the things I want to do and that I love.
Camilla Nichol (13:58): Hello. I'm Camilla Nichol, CEO of the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust. And I hope you're enjoying the podcast so far. We work to preserve and protect Antarctica's unique heritage from the historic pioneers to the amazing discoveries in climate science. And our mission is to inspire current and future generations to discover value and protect this precious wilderness. The pandemic has had a significant impact on our work, but we need your generosity now more than ever. Find out how you can help save Antarctica, protect our climate and even adopt a penguin at ukaht.org. Or search for the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust. Thank you and enjoy the rest of the podcast.
Alok Jha (14:42): Now, hearing you tell that story, two things, one, my mouth has sort of fallen open, and I've been on tenterhooks to find out what happened. I mean, what a story and even hearing you tell it, there's a, there's a bit of emotion still there in your voice. When you tell it, this is something that's clearly there, right on your mind, but to, to then snatch from that harrowing experience this absolute ascendancy to get to places on Earth that most of us will never get to, to be inspirational in that sense. I just like to know how do you go from the depths of that terror and emotion to walking to the north pole by yourself, which is an amazing thing to be able to do. I mean, it takes a lot of strength anyway, nevermind to do it from a point fear and all of that.
Dwayne Fields (15:35): I wanted to do something to change the mindset of people like that guy with a gun. I didn't know what I wanted to do but I knew I wanted to do something. A Friend of mine, a guy that I'd got to know, said 'I'm doing the Three Peaks. Would you like to do it?' I said, yeah, sure. I'll do the Three Peaks. So that's climbing the highest mountain in England, Scotland, and Wales, and doing it all in under 24 hours. So I did that. I felt great about myself. I'd raised a small amount of money for a charity in the Midlands somewhere.
Alok Jha (15:58): Were you a climber at the time?
Dwayne Fields (16:01): No. No. I just decided to do it one day. He said, he's doing it. He said, how are fit are you? He was I think he was in the army at one point. I said, you know, I feel like I'm alright. I didn't have anyone to who'd set a standard for me. So I didn't know what fit really was. And it was absolutely agonizing, but I felt within myself, I felt spiritually good. I was in an environment that, I was out in the environment. I felt great. And following that, I thought, right, I want to do more of this stuff outdoors. I was looking for something to do and one morning I saw the news report. It was a news report with Ben Fogel and James Cracknell talking about the adventures of rowing across the Atlantic. Now I didn't pay much attention because up until this point, these kinds of adventures you know, Atlantic, mountains, I've always believed wrongly that it's not something that I do or people from my background does. And I'm not just talking about color. I'm talking about the people I grew up with on the estates - and my estate was one of the most multicultured estates you can imagine - or people from Jamaica, we don't do these kinds of things. We like to stay where it's safe. And the thing that caught my attention was in the next breath they said 'we're walking to the south pole next and we're looking for a third member to join our team'. Instantly all these light bulbs and wheels started to turn, and I thought 'whoa, are they throwing it out there to anyone?' And I did a little bit of research. Are they really asking anyone? What do I need? Am I qualified? Could I do it if they gave me the chance? And eventually I, I managed to muster up the courage to even apply. But I did this a couple of weeks later and they said, look, unfortunately, the first stage of selections are started. We can't take any new applicants now, would you consider going to the North Pole? I thought; I was born in Jamaica, poles are poles, ice, cold. I knew nothing about it. And that's how the whole idea came about.
Alok Jha (17:56): I love the fact that cause you can't go to one pole, do you fancy the other pole? It's not, it's not like do you fancy going to a different part of town or something is it? I mean, it sounds like, it sounds like being outside, adventure, these things were in you anyway, but, but how did you start to prepare then once you decided, yes, Okay, the north pole is where I'm going to go. What did you to do to prepare?
Dwayne Fields (18:23): So preparation for somewhere like the north pole is, you need help, you need advice, you need support. I didn't have a clue what to do to train. I didn't have a clue what to do to prepare. I didn't know what equipment I'd need. I didn't know how to ski. I didn't know if I had the physical strength or the mental strength to make it happen. But I went on Google. I did a whole load of research, extensive research, five minutes of it on Google. And I, you know, you type in north pole and a map comes up and it shows you where it is. And it gives you a breakdown of the animals and, you know, flora and fauna that you might expect to find there. And then I saw pictures of people skiing. And so I thought, right, skiing, I need to get some skiing in. And then I saw people pulling stuff and I clicked on this and it said, pull tires, that will help you. And I thought, right, I'm going to pull tires. And the most embarrassing thing in my life happened while I was pulling tires. So I wasn't quite comfortable with sharing this idea yet because it was still an odd thing for someone from my background to do. It was still an odd thing for people to tell local people, I'd be sectioned basically. So I kept it secret. And I started walking at night in the marshes pulling tires. And I remember it was about 10 o'clock, 11 o'clock at night. It's dark, it's quite chilly, and there's not many people around or no one around that I knew or would even pay attention to me. And I come out the park just onto the canal, about to go underneath a bridge and I hear the scariest thing in the world. I hear eight or nine boys laughing, teenage boys. And I think, oh God, they're probably roughly my age, maybe a little bit younger. They gonna laugh at me. And I say 'no, Dwayne, turn around', and before I could turn around, I hear one of them say 'who's that? And what's he doing?' So I've been caught now. I found out they spotted me. In the next breath. I decided you know what, hold your chin up, hold your chest out and just march past them, it will be fine. And I remember walking past them or walking towards them and I could hear them laughing and making their jokes and saying 'look how he's walking', calling me this sexuality and calling me that and saying this. And I started to shrink and shrink and shrink as I walked towards them. And I remember feeling so small when I passed them and I could hear them laughing at a distance and they weren't laughing at what I looked like, they weren't laughing at what I was trying to achieve, they were laughing at me. And at that stage I decided don't tell anybody per se, do all your training in Clissold Park. At least that park's going to be closed. It's not as big, but you can, you can get it done and you can do it secretly. And for that reason, I held off telling so many people so long until I told the local newspaper and they printed it. The day they printed it I had a phone call from a friend saying, 'Bruv, are you climbing the north pole?' I was so ready for an argument that I went straight into attack mode, and I was like 'first of all, you idiot, you don't climb the north pole, there isn't something to climb it's just a...' and I ranted on for about five minutes just because I was so wound up based on all the responses I'd had previously. But fundamentally the training was a lot of cold weather stuff in, in, I ended up in Norway in the mountains, freezing cold lakes, just jumping into, you know, prepare myself in case I fell through the ice. I spent time skiing. I had some shotgun training. I ran from stoke Newington to London Bridge or to Elephant and Castle and back twice a week. I boxed at the time. So generally just to keep fit, I played football at the time because I tried to keep up with the, the lifestyle I'd had before, as well as stepping into this new one. I don't know if I was embarrassed by it or ashamed of the idea or reluctant to share, because I didn't want to get all the negative opinions and I didn't want my mind to be changed.
Alok Jha (22:20): So, I mean, your preparation to walk to one of the most extreme places on earth was, was a few minutes of search on Google. I want to know Dwayne, how are you still alive? I don't understand. This is something that perplexes me from all the things we're talking about, because it's not an easy thing to do. So you've done the training, right? You're about to walk 400 miles to the north pole. What was it like? What did you think at the beginning and how hard was it?
Dwayne Fields (22:51): Well, first of all, let me just say that I think I was in a mental place, I was so angry and frustrated at where I'd come to in life, but I, I had to do something. The human body is remarkably adaptable. You can adapt to absolutely anything given the time and if you've got the will. And I think in this instance will was replaced by frustration. And that's what got me through the north pole. There were days when it got so cold. I think one report we had said it would feel like minus 48 because of the wind chill factor. And the fact that it was around minus 20 plus anyway. So for me, a lot of it was willpower and it's, it may not even be the willpower that I was born with, it might just be frustrations with where I was in life, what I'd see, and the fact that I've lost a friend or two, the fact that expectations of me were so low, the fact that so people laughed at me. It was a lot of 'I'm going to prove to people, no matter how hard it is that I can do this, I'm going to prove to them that I can do this so they can look at me and say, well, if you can do it, I can do it too'. And there's no way I could achieve that, if I didn't succeed, if I didn't make this happen. I had two brilliant teammates, we laughed at each other. We made jokes to uplift each other, when I fell down you know, they'd pull me up when they fell down, I'd lift them up. And we just worked as a unit. And I think they are as much responsible for me succeeding in that challenge as I am myself.
Alok Jha (24:25): What about when you got to the north pole? I mean, were you excited or just exhausted and did you fall down?
Dwayne Fields (24:31): Gosh, so I was exhausted, but one of the things I did to make sure that I would get there was I kept conjuring up these images of, you know, crowds, throwing confetti and fireworks and flags and banners at the pole, which is it's not going to happen is it? I kept, I kept filling my head of these images when it got really tough. And when I got there, I remember thinking, right, there's nobody here. There's no confetti there's no, no, there's definitely no fireworks. But there is that patch of snow, which my GPS and my maps and my everything else is telling me is the snow that is our destination. And I remember looking at it for a minute and thinking, right, it looks the exact same as that bit of snow, a hundred, 200, 300, 400 miles back that way, but it meant so much more. It meant, I'd set a goal, I'd set the hardest goal I've ever set myself or anyone that I'd known ever set themselves and I'd achieved it. And I took a lot of pride in that, but I didn't understand how much pride I could or should take in it until, until I got back on the plane actually, and, you know, I was talking to someone on the flight back and I said 'yeah, we were just up in the Arctic, I just walked it' and he said 'you've just walked to the north pole?' And I said, 'yeah, yeah, just literally'. And they looked at me and they said, 'you've just walked to the north pole, nah', and I said, 'yep, I've literally just three days ago, four days ago arrived at the north pole'. And they said, 'what?' And they just couldn't believe it. And the more they couldn't believe it was the more I was realizing that this is a very peculiar thing to say. And the more you think about it is the more you realize that that's actually a tough thing to do.
Alok Jha (26:32): Tell us, tell us your plans. When are you planning to go and what are you going to do?
Dwayne Fields (26:36): First of all, me and my teammate are planning to do a crossing of Antarctica. We did, we did a similar crossing, you know, journey the length of Britain to give you an idea of how far we'll be walking. It's about 1400 kilometers that we'll be walking. But before we go off and do it ourselves, we're taking 20 young people on an Antarctic expedition which is gonna be the first of its kind, it's this coming Antarctic season. And it's going to be a carbon negative expedition. So 20 young people from backgrounds similar to mine, where, you know, you're from a deprived area, you never expected to go and see anything like what these young people are going to see, people who have very limited aspirational goals, where people have very weak ideas of what they might achieve in life. Very limited in terms of opportunities. We're going to give 20 young people from across this country, the chance to do something amazing, see something amazing and feel great about themselves.
Alok Jha (27:34): What an amazing experience, just think back to your childhood, what would that have done for you? If someone had taken you on a trip like this and just opened your eyes to things that perhaps you had never seen before. I mean, it sounds like you already had that thirst for the great outdoors, but just think about what that would have done for you.
Dwayne Fields (27:52): Look, I would have loved anything like this because it would have made me feel like it was okay to be me so much longer. It would have made me feel like actually, I don't have to be railroaded into this particular career. The whole world in effect is open for me to learn to grow, to protect and to benefit from and to do it in a way that isn't damaging it, but can also benefit other people as well. Now look as a young person, and I know this because this was my experience. And I know it because I speak to young people all the time. I've spoken to thousands of young people over the last few years. I'm, you know, a Scout ambassador, I was a manager at the Challenge Network. I've spoken to them. And one of the things that happens is when you say to someone, 'ooh, Antarctica is shrinking, and the ice shelves breaking' that's just like, yeah, well, I'm here, I'm okay. When you hear one of your peers say 'I went to Antarctica, I saw it for myself. We can do these little things to change our behaviors.' It's now real. It's part of your circle, actually, Joey or Jeana, or Susie or whoever down the road went there. It's real. Trust me, it's now a real place. It's a real thing. It's not a myth anymore. And it's not, you know, this, this paper tiger anymore. It's just, it's a real thing now. And I think that's, what's missing in a lot of the communities up and down this country. And I think if you live in a deprived area, it's even further afield.
Alok Jha (29:17): On the issue of other types of diversity. So, you know, the issue of people of colour going to the continent, how much do you think it is a case that it's just those opportunities weren't afforded to those people? Or, and how much is it the case that people of colour now don't think it's something that they can do or want to do because it's not what their communities do?
Dwayne Fields (29:37): Yeah. So first of all, my teammate is a white woman from north Wales. We come from two completely different worlds, but we face similar challenges in her name. Her name is Phoebe Smith, superhero. I'm not going to, I would never tell her this - I think she's actually stronger than I am.
Alok Jha (29:57): Good job no one's listening.
Dwayne Fields (29:59): Good job no one's ever gonna hear this. No, honestly, look, she's a white woman from Wales, and the truth is the barriers that women face in the outdoors, that some women face, are very similar to some of the barriers that I've faced. We've been sat down in front of people and they've said 'well, you guys should be happy with what you've achieved, considering where you're from'. Now, to me, that's clearly saying, that's your glass ceiling stop there, don't go any further. That's exactly what it was. There are huge, huge barriers set up that were set up and are still in place. Many of them are still in place at the moment. One of which is the barriers that our own community set up within our own minds and were reinforced by things that we'd seen externally. So for example, when my great grandma, came to Britain, the plan was you work, you go home, you don't leave your community. You stay where you live, you go to work and that's it. Outside of that is dangerous. They were made to believe that by people outside of their community, they had Teddy boys who would beat people up if they were in the wrong part of London. They would be looked at, spat at, shouted at if they got onto a bus which took them into a more affluent area. They were made to be fearful of leaving this small community. And that, that memory, that experience was handed down to my mother or to my, you know, aunties and uncles and other people and so on, and then eventually handed down to my generation. So there were genuine fears about leaving your community. I think some of those fears are still alive now. And I think when you look at advertisements, when you look at media, when you look at who the people are, who are doing these things, there's still reasons to fear out there when you look up and you see, it's always, you know, 80% strong male stood there at the top of that mountain, looking down mid distance, that image, there is very rarely a black person or a person of colour. Very rarely a woman. I did a straw poll a couple of months back and out of the top 100 adventures or explorers or whatever, you know, call them. I think something like 26 were women and one was, I think, mixed race, out of a hundred. Now Britain is pretty much 50, 50 men, women. So that picture there alone - and again, that was just an anecdotal straw poll that I took - that image alone tells you that maybe there's still work to be done with with the advertisement, with adverts, with the images that we show with, who are out there championing these causes, where the money is as well. I've struggled so hard to get funded, to do expeditions. And I know other people who have done the exact same expedition as me they've instantly got companies to support them. Now, maybe that's me. Maybe I'm writing something wrong or maybe I just don't fit the image that they're, that they expecting, or maybe it's that I don't know, I'm not bankable enough because I haven't done enough, but I know personally people who have done just as much as me, or just as little as I have, they've gone off they've spoken to someone and they've got a meeting and then they've got some money to, to go on an expedition. So I think there's still some barriers there.
Alok Jha (33:22): So despite all of that, you're still going to go to Antarctica and this 1400 mile trip with Phoebe. So tell us about that. What's the, what's the plan for that? Where are you going to go and what is it that you also want to highlight during that in terms of either your hardiness, or is it a bit of science that you want to do?
Dwayne Fields (33:42): It's not about my hardiness. I'm a regular person. I'm no different to Joe Blogs on the street. And Phoebe would say the exact same thing. The truth is it's about showing people that regardless of where you've come from, she was told as a kid that women from her part of north Wales generally don't do anything, that the dole is what you're going to end up on. I was told the best I could hope for, by my math teacher, is a short prison sentence. So these are the things that we had against us in the beginning or against us when we started up. So we're showing people that actually two people from completely different parts of the world don't have to look alike. Don't have to be a male. Don't have to be, you know, strong. You don't have to be a superior. You don't have to be muscly. You can do, you can take on a huge challenge and with some perseverance, with some support, with some help, you can make it happen. And it's just been a real life example of that saying you know, you can do anything you put your mind to.
Alok Jha (34:36): Let me finish up by just asking you a question we've asked all of our guests, why does Antarctica matter to you?
Dwayne Fields (34:43): Because we are lucky enough to live in an age where we can see our impending doom coming. We're lucky enough to live in an age where we can calculate the cause and the effect. We're lucky enough to be able to calculate that if we raise temperatures by one degree, this will happen over the next 50 years. There's no reason why we shouldn't believe these calculations. And many of the calculations say if the Arctic melts, and if Antarctica melts by X amount, we will have sea level rises by X amount. I think is important to me because it is the place that is changing, one of the places that is changing most as a result of our direct action here on the planet. I think it's still this place that's still far away and still mythical and still only reserved for the few, I think, still a place that is, you don't believe it's there because it's so far away and it's so big and it's so unexpectedly, so extreme that you can't really quantify it. You can't think about it properly. It's just Antarctica. And I think if we can get people's heads around that and they can see the impact there, I think we'd go a long way to solving our climate issues.
Alok Jha (36:00): Dwayne, it's been an absolute pleasure talking to you. Thank you so much.
Dwayne Fields (36:02): Super pleasure. Thank you so much.
Alok Jha (36:10): Thank you for listening. A Voyage to Antarctica is brought to you by the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust. To find out more about our guests, including photos and videos, head to our website at www.ukaht.org, or follow our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages. If you enjoyed this episode, please do listen to part two of The White Continent in which I'll be delving further into Antarctica's colonial history and discovering more untold stories of the continent with historian, Dr. Ben Maddison. This podcast is part of the trust's Antarctica Insight program supported by the Arts Council England, the Garfield Western Foundation, and the Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office. A Voyage to Antarctica was presented by me Alok Jha and produced by Jessica Norman. Ben Hewis is digital producer and the music and sound design is by Alec Hewes. See you next week.