School Desk

Teen explorer takes icy voyage


A week ago, Ethical Culture Fieldston School student David Fishman was visiting colleges along the east coast with other prospective students. 

But one week before that, he was hiking the coast of Antarctica with penguins and fellow explorers. 

The high school junior was one of 20 students from around the globe chosen for the 2041 Antarctic Youth Ambassador Program. Founded by environmentalist Robert Swan, the first person to walk to both the North and South Poles, the program focuses on climate change and sustainability, and is named for the year the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty could be amended. The trip aims to shed light on the importance of preserving Antarctica.

After Mr. Swan came to Fieldston to speak about his journeys, David’s biology teacher suggested he apply for the trip. 

“This was sort of an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” said David, an environmental enthusiast who in the past represented Fieldston Middle School in several inter-city conferences on conservation.

All he had to do was raise $24,000 to cover airfare, Antarctic travel gear and costs of tuition and amenities. A portion of the money came from sponsors and friends; the rest came from David’s own savings, which he earned by lifeguarding, working at a fish market in Long Island and interning with AOL for the past three summers. 

“It felt good to give something of my own to have such an incredible journey,” he said. 

The two-week expedition began with four days’ preparing for the trip in Argentina. Then the crew embarked on a ship called the Sea Spirit. 

Between Argentina and Antarctica, the Sea Spirit had to pass through a famously stormy, rough passageway between the two continents — the Drake Passage. As the ship passed through icy waters, it often took multiple attempts to break through icy patches, crashing into chunks of ice and then turning around for another try. 

“A lot of us underestimated that and we were pretty sick for the first few days,” David recalled.

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