The Story

We are All Antarctica is a story about my father George W. Gibbs, Jr’s adventures as the first person of African descent to set foot on the continent of Antarctica. He sailed on the famous ship the USS Bear in 1939 to 1941 on Admiral Byrd’s III expedition to the South Pole. It was the first joint venture with the US military and private exploration. Gibbs went on to serve humanity in countless ways, paving the way for not only people of color in the community of Rochester, MN but for all people to become more human, serve their community and appreciate differences.

Through compassion, tenacity, faith and countless hours in the trenches, Gibbs’ life is a model for community service, equality and fun. As the lowest rank on the ship, he was honored for his contribution at a time when people with dark skin were considered less than human.

This story integrates my experiences with natural healing, the arts, the science of the ice, the metaphysics of the South Pole and the history of the expedition and its mystery.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Powerful Poem called RISE about Climate Change

Climate activists and poets, Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner and Aka Niviana write and perform in Greenland about rising seas and melting ice.  When so much information speaks to our minds and logic, this powerful poem called RISE, touches hearts. Art is key for understanding how our world is changing.
Published in The Guardian and on YouTube. 

Monday, November 7, 2016

What Happens Inside of Us Affects the Whole Planet

It's a challenge to summarize how I feel the day before the 2016 election.  The stress of the moment, the anxiousness of the world and the extreme differences in desires, weigh heavy on my soul.

I could talk about the exciting (bear) Cubs win. Or the ship (USS Bear), a famous 68 year old wooden sailing vessel that carried men safely to Antarctica and back. Or the Arctic polar bears endangered because the sea ice is melting. What does Bear medicine have to tell us?

Be in silence, nurture your receptive side, seek and find your own answers, take action on your creative projects and tear down the illusions of this physical world.

Here's my reflection.

It's election day 1916. George Washington Gibbs, Sr. votes for his Presidential candidate, Charles Evan Hughes. Hughes is a middle of the road Republican. As governor of New York, Hughes was a champion of progressive causes.  GWGibbs Sr. is disappointed that a Democrat, Woodrow Wilson, wins the election.  So, on 11/7/1916, he changes his new son's name from Charles E. Hughes to George Washington Gibbs, Jr.

GWGibbs Jr., goes on to have an extraordinary life in the military, politics, corporate management, community leadership, entrepreneurship and family.  At his birthday party (election day 11/7/2000),
George happily passes away thinking his candidate, Al Gore, wins the election. A political animal until death.

As I publicly acknowledge my father's 100th birthday, I wonder:

What history will we make on election day 2016?
How will our fate change?
What dreams wake, regardless of who wins?
And what is the golden thread that continues 100 years from now, in spite of our human drama?

What happens tomorrow affects the entire human race. What happens on Antarctica is the result of our actions. We are All Antarctica.
Leilani Henry at Holy Trinity Church (Russian: Церковь Святой Троицы), a small Russian Orthodox church on King George Island © Leilani Henry
George W. Gibbs Jr. aboard the USS Bear 1940 © Leilani Henry

George W. Gibbs, Jr. 100th Birthday. He was the first person of his race to set foot on Antarctica.

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Sunday, November 6, 2016

Who Makes a Difference?- We do

Antarctica is a peaceful kingdom, writes Dian Olsen Belanger in her book, Deep Freeze

Science is the primary focus for the Icy Continent. We learn about space, earth's changing climate, life sciences, ecosytems--every thinkable aspect of science can be researched at the bottom of the world. We also enlighten ourselves about humans under extreme conditions when we study Antarctica.
The Antarctic Treaty is an important accomplishment in the 20th century.  The world came together to protect one place on earth from war, politics, mining and exploitation.  We continue the "how did this happen?!" thought, with our new Paris Agreement. I love it when the world collectively determines something positive for our future.  Critics say it's not enough.  Like the Antarctic Treaty, the fact that we have this agreement is a feat worth celebrating.  Over 100 countries in agreement and counting.

As I reflect on the success of Admiral Byrd's III expedition to the South Pole, I'm reminded that the human side of any endeavor can make or break the most well thought out plan.  125 men and 80 dogs found ways to cope with the harshness of their voyage because they each did their part and relied on the other.

George W. Gibbs Jr., said it was the best time in his life. Gibbs was 23 when he sailed on the USS Bear. When I first heard this, as his daughter, I felt disappointed that it didn't include me (haha).
The trip was well before he was married with family.  After all the amazing things he experienced, Antartica was it!   Count down Day 2 until his 100th birthday.

Miles to other world cities from King George Island 2012
©Leilani Henry
Remember every day, we make the difference in our future.

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