Franky Fan is chairman & CEO of Anwell Technologies, which is listed on the Singapore Exchange
"I travel a lot on business every year, but I make it a point to take a short annual break with my family. The trip we made during Chinese New Year in February last year was the most memorable one for us – me, my wife, 11-year-old son and mother-in-law, who is in her 60s.
For the first time, we went to Antarctica, which is the coldest and driest continent on Earth.
It took us 20 hours to fly from Hong Kong, where we live, to Punta Arenas in Chile, one of the southernmost cities in the world. From there, my family flew 3 hours early in the morning to reach King George Island on Antartica. The island is only accessible by flight during the summer of Antarctica.
As we approached the Antarctica, I gazed in amazement at icebergs and glaciers, some of which were shimmering blue from their compacted ice.
The unpolluted natural environment with its spectacular landscape reminded me of the awesome and savage power of nature. It looked like another planet as there are no trees, flowers or any greenery.
The land is covered with ice or deep brown soil. I thought of how nature could offer business opportunities for my company, Anwell Technologies which, incidentally, is now developing a factory in China to produce solar cells.
At King George Island, where wildlife is isolated, we admired its pristine beauty and serenity. This is the last piece of unpolluted land on earth as all garbage has to be carried away by ship or flight. This was the closest I had ever come to paradise, and I could still use my BlackBerry to access e-mail!
On King George Island, we visited Villa Las Estrellas, which is the first permanent human settlement there and which belongs to Chile. We visited its facilities and meteorological centre, and then various research bases where we were able to speak to researchers and learn more about their research projects there.
The bases of Chile and other countries such as China, Russia and Poland were within walking distance of one another. There is no hotel on Antarctica, and we stayed overnight in a 20-foot container with heating facilities. Our meals were simple, comprising fish and chicken.
Antarctica is notable for being the only continent with no native land mammals, reptiles, or amphibians. However, we could see many species of marine birds, penguins and weddell seals. The penguins were very curious and came out to check us out.
The guide, who has been living there for 26 years, told us that about 20 years ago, the entire island was covered by ice even in summer. But now, a small part of the island is uncovered as the ice melts away in summer.
It was not pleasant to learn how global warming has been affecting the natural environment, but it was a precious opportunity for us, especially my son, to learn all this first-hand.
Our trip from Hong Kong to Antartica and back to Hong Kong cost HK$60,000 per head. The charter flight from Chile alone cost US$25,000 for a maximum of eight passengers, which worked out to US$3,125 per person.
Yes, it was no cheap outing but the experiences we had and lessons we learnt were priceless."
This article, which resulted from an interview by Leong Chan Teik, appeared recently in Pulses magazine and is reproduced here with permission.
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