Antarctic dream soon to be reality

JAMES GREENLAND
Last updated 13:00 28/12/2013
JAMES GREENLAND/Fairfax NZ

Mike Armstrong is all set to head for the icy plains and hills of Antarctica.

Mike Armstrong
JAMES GREENLAND/Fairfax NZ
THRILLED: Nelson' Mike Armstrong has beaten thousands of entrants to win selection for a trip to Antarctica where he will assist National Geographic photographer Jason Edwards. 

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Nelson man Mike Armstrong is rugging up for a "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunity in Antarctica.

Next month Armstrong begins preparations for a two-week all-expenses-paid trip to the Big Ice where he will assist National Geographic photographer Jason Edwards on his mission to capture the frozen continent's unique and diverse wildlife.

"Antarctica is such a special place, it's really the last untouched wilderness," he said.

"I was absolutely over the moon when I found out. I put it on a par with going to the moon. It's something everybody wants to do, but very few people have the opportunity to do it."

Armstrong and his co-voyager, an Australian student film-maker, stood out from thousands of applicants from more than 50 countries to be selected for the campaign; his particularly dry-and-Kiwi comic stylings, dubbed over a 30-second National Geographic video of wobbling penguins, proving to the selection panel that he had the right story-telling skills.

The excursion to Scott Base, sponsored by Air New Zealand with support of National Geographic Channel and Antarctica New Zealand, will also involve the documentation of scientific research on the Ross Ice Shelf, and the study of ancient ice cores.

It's an "amazing opportunity" to observe world-leading New Zealand and international scientists at work, and to promote Antarctica and climate awareness as Mr Edwards does through photography, Armstrong said.

"It's all social science. If we want to protect the environment, we need to change the way people think about the environment.

"That's what Jason Edwards' photography does, it freezes in time some of the world's most precious resources, places, animals and people, and lets us see up close the beauty in nature and the importance of preserving it."

Having recently graduated from Florida State University, United States, with a Masters Science degree, Armstrong was hoping to land a "day job" and had been casting CVs to all parts of the country.

He said he applied for the expedition with minutes to spare before the deadline, at the suggestion of a friend. A few weeks later, after a season thinning apples on Kina Peninsula, he found out that his Antarctic dream would soon be realised.

"I think there is a lot going on and there are going to be a lot of firsts for me, and I am very excited about all of them," he said.

"Ultimately, I want to do a good job for the assignment. I want to report back and have people enjoy the media materials we put together, and understand the research materials.

"Antarctica is a bellwether [indicator] for climate change for the rest of the world", he said.

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- The Nelson Mail

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