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  Peace Expedition to Antarctica - 2004

On January 1st, 2004, four Israelis and four Palestinians (two women and six men) set off on a sea and land expedition to the distant reaches of Antarctica. Their goal is to summit and name a previously unclimbed mountain. Their expedition is called : 'Breaking the Ice'. This journey combines the spirit of adventure with a quest for understanding. It will force people separated by deep political and religious differences to cooperate in pursuit of a shared goal.

In order to succeed - and survive - these erstwhile enemies will have to work together as a team, sharing hardships and challenges that none of them could surmount as individuals. As they head toward their destination, they will confront both physical and mental obstacles. In order to get over those obstacles they will have to find the way to work as a team.

The team will set sail from Patagonia in southern Chile, navigating through the Drake Passage, a thousand-kilometer stretch of sea considered among the most dangerous and unpredictable on earth. Their boat will carry all the gear and provisions required for a 35-day journey, along with satellite communication and video production equipment.

The 35-day expedition will be heavily publicized during the run-up to its departure and followed by people throughout the world via daily Internet and Videophone dispatches. The story of 'Breaking the Ice' will be brought to television in a feature-length documentary film for international distribution.

The expedition members will spend every moment of the ensuing days and nights together, sharing berths, tents and meals - and often roped together for safety. After a week at sea, the expedition will anchor off the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula, an area rich in wildlife (whales, dolphins, sea lions, sea elephants, penguins and other bird species), with thousands of magnificent mountains. Two days later, the team will begin a ten days trek toward one of Antarctica's unclimbed peaks, crossing difficult and sometimes dangerous terrain.

After reaching the summit of a previously unclimbed mountain they will hold a brief, symbolic naming ceremony that will reflect the significance of their physical and emotional journey: by working together as a team they have overcome the challenges placed before them; by cooperating and sharing they have reached their objective.

Expedition costs will be sponsored by foundations together with proceeds from press and TV coverage as well as by companies incorporating the expedition in their image/advertising platforms.

The expedition was officially announced and its team members introduced during a press conference at the German Reichstag in Berlin on July 7, 2003.

'Breaking the Ice' enjoys the political support and patronage of, amongst others, the Secretary-General of the United Nations His Excellency Kofi Annan, the President of the European Parliament Pat Cox, the President of the German Parliament Wolfgang Thierse, the Nobel Peace Prize laureates Yasser Arafat, Michael Gorbachev, Shimon Peres, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and the Peres Center for Peace, Israel.

Ice Breakers Reach the Water’s Edge By Michael Greenspan 

Puerto Williams, Chile (55° S -- 68° W) December 31, ‏2003 

At the end of Patagonia and the beginning their adventure, the eight Israelis and Palestinians of the Breaking the Ice peace expedition reached this town at the southern tip of Chile, flying in on an aircraft so small that it had to make two round trips to accommodate the team and all its trekking equipment. One of the surprises of the flight came when Palestinian team member Suleiman al-Khatib discovered that the man piloting the Twin Otter bush plane was Osman Assad, himself a third generation Palestinian immigrant to Chile.

At first glance Puerto Williams (pop. 2500) looks like a shantytown. Built low to the ground, the small, spare houses and scattered shops sit on a hillside overlooking a Chilean naval base. This remote outpost anchors Chile’s hold on the region’s rich mineral deposits and forest lands against claims from neighboring Argentina that, in the past, have fueled conflict between the two nations.

After settling into two small guesthouses, the team members made their way down to Puerto William’s tiny yacht basin for their first encounter with Pelagic Australis and Pelagic, the two sailing vessels that will carry the expedition on a thousand kilometer journey across the Drake Passage to Antarctica.  

Skip Novak, the boats’ owner and an experienced explorer and ocean racer, conducted a brief orientation tour, beginning with the safety and life-saving procedures that will take on critical importance during the peace mission’s sea leg. “The one thing you can’t let yourselves do here,” he explained, “is to fall into the water. In such freezing temperatures a person can’t survive for more than five or six minutes.” To make sure that his Hebrew and Arabic speaking listeners fully grasped his point, Novak emphasized it with a universally understood finger across the throat. 

Another full day of preparations lays ahead of the team before it sets to sea on January 1. During the voyage, they’ll be expected to play an active role in crewing the yachts. With virtually no sailing experience, they’ll have to learn everything from how to weigh anchor and hoist sails to how to flush marine toilets. But, over dinner on Tuesday night, these visitors from the arid Middle East seemed most preoccupied by the skippers’ exhaustive explanations on seasickness and how to deal with it.

On the morning after, with Palestinian Ziad Darwish cutting vegetables for salad and Israeli Avihu Shoshani scrambling eggs, they enjoyed one of the last meals they’re assured of being able to keep down before they sail onto the waves in pursuit of their objective -- Breaking the Ice. 

Tonight, with all their equipment stowed, these peacemakers will join the rest of the world in celebrating the beginning of 2004. Far from their families and friends, they’ll usher in the New Year with wishes that it may be far better – and far more peaceful – than the one they’re leaving behind.

To make a donation, you can place a transfer as follows:
Extreme Peace Missions gGmbH
Account Nr. 7701733   |   Bank: Commerzbank AG. Berlin
Bank code: 100 400 00   |   SWIFT Code: COBADEBB

Alternatively, you can send a cheque to:
Extreme Peace Missions gGmbH
Walter-Benjamin-Platz 1
10629 Berlin

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