‘Life-changing’ Antarctic island expedition testament to student’s determination

‘Life-changing’ Antarctic island expedition testament to student’s determination

Life hasn’t been easy for Christchurch student Destiny Martin, so the pride on learning they​ had been selected from hundreds of applicants to take part in a three-week expedition to explore an Antarctic island is undeniable.

The 18-year-old Te Aratai College Māori prefect will travel with 21 other young Kiwis to the remote South Georgia Island as part of the Antarctic Heritage Trusts’ ninth Inspiring Explorers Expedition at the end of the month.

It will be the largest expedition yet, and will include the first Kiwi-attempted climb of Mt Worsley in recognition of Kiwi explorer Frank Worsley, the mountain’s namesake.

Martin is part of the Education Outreach Team, working with school students around the country to design experiments and investigations for the explorers to undertake there, similar to what they do on the International Space Station.

The trip would be “life-changing”, said Martin (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahu), after what had been a hard journey, growing up with 11 siblings in Gisborne and Kaitaia, before striking out on their ​own at 14.

“Unfortunately, I had a lot of challenges and hardship growing up, and I got to a point where I had to move out on my own.”

They​ left home at 14, then at 16 moved from Northland to Canterbury for a better chance to get through high school while juggling part-time work to pay the rent.

“A lot of students have the privilege of living with their parents and not having to pay rent.

“I didn’t have that, so it taught me a lot of independence.”


Martin learnt independence after leaving home at 14 and putting themself through high school while working to pay rent. Now Martin is off to explore the Antarctic Island South Georgia after being selected out of hundreds of applicants.

While training to compete in the Coast to Coast Rangers youth programme, Martin’s coach suggested they​ sign up for the expedition.

“I didn’t think I would get it.”

There were more than 550 applicants.

“After overcoming all of these obstacles, it’s such an incredible thing to step back and reflect on the accomplishments so far.”

There was a $2000 upfront cost on acceptance, but Martin was sponsored for that and clothing.

They​ will soon take part in a team building weekend in Tāmaki Makaurau alongside two other high school students and the rest of the team, adults aged 18-32, with careers ranging from climate activists to nurses.

This is the biggest experience they had ever taken, Martin said.

“I know that I’m very privileged to be on this trip.”

The 11-hour flight to South America would be their first international flight.

Martin – deputy head student, Māori prefect and board of trustees representative at Te Aratai College, Christchurch – has already passed their final year of school.

They​ hoped to continue travelling, do a double major in English and history at university, with a minor in te reo Māori, then become a teacher, or eventually a university lecturer.

“When I was younger I had amazing teachers that helped me to get support I wasn’t getting at home.”

Pamela Wade​

King penguins featuring southern giant petrel. (First published May 2018)

Their​ advice to other rangatahi was “be confident in who you are and where you come from”. Building connections was important, they said, evidenced by the fact their upcoming trip would not have been possible without their coach.

”Because of my financial background, and background overall, I didn’t think an experience like this was available to me.”

During the three-week expedition to the island, they would make their way to Sir Ernest Shackleton’s memorial site, with four explorers accompanying world-renowned expert mountain guides Lydia Bradey and Dean Staples up Mt Worsley.

In addition to the climbing team, each Inspiring Explorer will take part in an outreach project working in groups across topics such as climate change, education, history and science.

Located in the remote South Atlantic Ocean, South Georgia Island has a reputation for the greatest density of wildlife on Earth – home to king penguins, fur seals, and 50% of the world’s southern elephant seals.

MetService and Royal Society Te Apārangi are partners of the programme and will provide help with outreach projects during the expedition.


It turns out our prime minister has a little-known obsession with Irish-born explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton. (First published February 2018)

MetService chief executive Stephen Hunt said MetService would support the team with a weather and climate science programme to build a stronger connection with the island’s extreme and changing environment, and challenges overcome by historic explorers.

The expedition will honour the centenary year of Shackleton’s final expedition (Quest 1921-22), which journeyed to South Georgia and marked the end of the heroic-era of Antarctic exploration.

Shackleton died on the Quest expedition and was buried on South Georgia Island.

The trust cares for Shackleton’s only Antarctic expedition base.

Antarctic Heritage Trust executive director Francesca Eathorne said the spirit of exploration was “as critical in the 21st century as it was over a century ago – particularly for our young people who face a rapidly changing world”.

Other Inspiring Explorers Expeditions include a crossing of South Georgia in 2015, an ascent of Mt Scott in Antarctica in 2017, a successful crossing of the Greenland ice cap in 2018, kayaking expeditions on the Antarctic Peninsula in 2019 and 2020, a ski traverse in New Zealand in 2022 and an expedition to the South Pole (2022-23).

They will sail on Antarctica21’s ship, the Magellan Explorer, between September 30 and October 14.