Mary-Ellen Feeney: Homeward Bound–Antarctica Bound

April 4, 2018

SSSI is proud to be sponsorsing SSSI Member, Mary-Ellen Feeney, on her journey with Homeward Bound. As part of her sponsorship Mary-Ellen Feeney will be providing SSSI with an update of her trip on a regular basis which we look forward to sharing with our SSSI Members.

To know more about Mary-Ellen Feeney please read the recent Q & A Session Spatial Source Article or see video:

Mary-Ellen has also written an article on Homward Bound - Antartica Bound below.

Homeward Bound –Antarctica Bound


Homeward Bound is a leadership, strategic and science/engineering initiative for women, set against the backdrop of Antarctica. It is about to commence its third year of a ten-year program, and unbelievably I have been lucky enough to be selected to participate and represent women of surveying and spatial disciplines in this adventure. As well as telling you a bit about this program I’d like to give you a small glimpse into what the learning and experience are about.

One of everyone's favourite moments aboard The Ushuaia is waking up to discover where the ship has landed in Antarctica overnight. The second cohort of women on Homeward Bound (2018) are in Antarctica as we speak. They awoke this morning in the Weddell Sea to sea ice and icebergs galore. The first landing of the day was at Paulet Island, a colony for up to 200,000 penguins. Though most have malted and headed out to sea for winter, a few thousand remain behind to greet my colleagues, along with a dusting of fresh snow.

As well as landings the days in Antarctica are composed of lectures, workshops, a communications and visibility program and an ongoing ‘Symposium at Sea’. Today one of the Homeward Bound team, Antarctic marine expert, Mary-Anne Lea, gave a lecture on Antarctica weather and wildlife patterns, before the team kicked off the first session of the world's largest all-women gender forum in Antarctica. Fifteen women had undertaken research on gender issues in STEMM (Science Technology Engineering Maths Medicine) and presented their findings before the whole team began to workshop 1) what we can do personally to address issues affecting women in STEMM 2) what they can do collaboratively and 3) what Homeward Bound can do collectively. There are two more sessions to run over the coming weeks and a lot of take-outs to share.

Why might this be important for us, I hear you ask? A substantial gender gap in engineering, science and computer occupations contributes to women’s overall underrepresentation in STEMM. In 2016, women accounted for less than 17% of Australia’s information and related technologies workforce and less than 13% of our engineers. Only 15% of researchers in science and technology were women*.  Our numbers plummet to 2.5% women in surveying. When we look closer at our organisations commonly less than 15% of our leadership are females.

I have a 20 year career in Science and Technology as a Geospatial Scientist and Geographical Information System Consultant. I have studied both science and geomatic engineering and I am exceedingly passionate about the fantastic opportunities these studies support for careers. By taking part in the Homeward Bound Leadership Programme, I hope to learn skills to strengthen my leadership and visibility to support current and future generations of women in STEMM, and increase the impact of my contribution to inspiring the next generation of our Surveying and Spatial Sciences. I’d love to encourage more of you to get involved, so let me tell you more about it.

In 2016, Homeward Bound gathered the first 76 of a targeted 1,000 women from around the world, all with critical science/engineering backgrounds, to undertake a year-long state-of-the-art program to develop their leadership and strategic capabilities, using science to build conviction around the importance of their voices. The inaugural program culminated in the largest-ever female expedition to Antarctica, in December 2016, with a focus on the leadership of women and the state of the world. The second cohort of 70 women are in Antarctic now - to follow the current expedition you can sign up for the Homeward Bound newsletter for regular feeds and insights:

As part of Homeward Bound 2019 80 women from 23 countries around the world have been chosen to participate. We undertake monthly leadership training, development exercises and projects for 15 months and on 28 December 2018 head to Antarctica for three weeks for intensive leadership and communication exercises.

The education programme has five components delivered over a year, remotely prior to the voyage, on-shore in Ushuaia and on-board the ship: leadership, strategy, visibility, science and science communication, and reflective journaling. The programme comprises lectures, exercises, personal coaching and extensive open discussion – in forums, in teams focussing on areas of interest identified post selection of participants, and in triads (learning teams of three). The majority of this gets delivered face-to-face over three weeks in the midst of icebergs, penguins, whales and women!

The surveying and spatial community have a unique and extensive history of participating in Antarctica, which I am thoroughly enjoying learning about in preparation for my own adventure. Sydney 'Syd' Kirkby; a pioneer surveyor who served in the Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions (ANARE) through the 1950s and 60s has mapped an extraordinary amount of Antarctic Territory**. While his contribution to our continental knowledge goes unquestioned, it is his personal reflections that really move me, and sum up about everything I am expecting from the experience:
We’d climb a mountain peak and look out and say: 'Wow! In all time, certainly no human being and probably no creature has ever seen it.' It's a funny feeling, it’s not a possessive feeling, it's a privileged sort of feeling – 'How did I get this lucky?'
Indeed, “How did I get this lucky?!”

If you would like to share this learning experience and expedition with me, please follow me on facebook or LinkedIn, or through my fundraising page

The Homeward Bound 2019 program is two-thirds sponsored. Candidates are asked to fundraise the last third (1/3) of the cost ourselves. The importance of the fundraising is to make sure we connect with our communities, increase the visibility of women in STEMM careers and connect with young people selecting subjects at school that will influence their future tertiary choices. It is also an opportunity to share the beautiful and remote environment and experience of visiting Antarctica with the community. So, expect to see me writing and speaking throughout the year. If there are school or university groups I can speak to, conferences I can speak at or sponsorship opportunities you are aware of I would love to hear from you:

Credits: Photo © Oli Sansom / Homeward Bound .

References and Links:
Homeward Bound:
The official announcement of the trip:
Link to all the 2019 Homeward Bound team:
Fundraising page:

* See Australia’s STEM Workforce: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (March 2016).
**  See

Back to News List