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Seriously cool: Kansas Eagle Scout leaves for Antarctica today

Alex-HoustonAlex, you’re not in Kansas anymore.

Alex Houston, an Eagle Scout from Lawrence, Kan., is leaving today on an international expedition to Antarctica. He was selected from among several Eagle Scout applicants to represent the BSA on this once-in-a-lifetime trip.

The 30-hour trip to Ushuaia, Argentina, begins today. From there he’ll take an icebreaker to Antarctica for a two-week expedition.

Alex and his fellow team members are there to do more than just take photos and gawk at glaciers. The expedition, called 2041, will explore the Antarctic Peninsula to research its ecology, wildlife and the importance of renewable energy in shaping the future of Antarctica.

The trip’s leader is the British explorer Robert Swan, the first person to walk to both poles. Swan and Alex will present their findings this fall at the BSA’s 2014 Sustainability Summit, held in West Virginia.

Getting to Ushuaia — let alone Antarctica — from eastern Kansas won’t be easy. Ushuaia is considered the southernmost city in the world, and it’s 6,680 miles (as the crow flies) from Lawrence. Alex will fly from Kansas City, Mo., to Atlanta. That’s a two-hour flight. After a layover he’ll hop a plane for the 10-hour trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Another layover, then it’s a three-and-a-half-hour flight to Ushuaia. I’m exhausted just typing all that.

The team will explore Ushuaia for a couple of days before taking an icebreaker through the Drake Passage to Antarctica.

In an interview on KLWN-AM radio in Lawrence, Alex told the host that it’s impossible to truly prepare for this kind of adventure. (You can listen to Alex’s radio interview here.)

“It’s kind of hard to know exactly what to expect,” he said. “You can see the itinerary, you can look at a lot of pictures and videos, but I’m guessing once you actually get there in person it’s going to be something entirely different than what I expect.”

One thing’s for certain: It’ll be an amazing opportunity for this lifelong Scout. And not just because of the opportunity to visit the world’s least-known continent.

A global team

Alex, a high school senior, wants to study political science and international affairs in college, and the 2041 expedition gives him the chance to be a part of a global team.

Members come from the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Mexico, South Africa, Germany, Luxembourg, Peru, Italy, the Netherlands and more.

That’s a multicultural experience unlike any other.

A competitive field

To get his spot, Alex submitted a video essay in which he described his understanding of the importance of sustainability, how he would be a positive addition to an international team of environmental experts and how he would use this experience to benefit his local community.

As you’d expect, applicants were carefully vetted by the BSA — and by trip founder Swan.

“The Boy Scouts wanted to send a representative from the BSA, an Eagle Scout, on this trip,” Alex told the Lawrence Journal-World. “So I applied and got accepted. It’s pretty cool.”

A Scouting family

Alex started as a Cub Scout in first grade, crossed over into Boy Scouts and received his Eagle Scout award. At 18, he’s no longer a Scout, but his Scouting involvement won’t cease.

This summer he’ll work at the Florida Sea Base. Talk about going from one extreme to the other.

Alex isn’t the only Scout in his family. His dad, Peter, was Alex’s Scout leader throughout his time in the program, and his younger sister is in Venturing. She even visited the Kandersteg International Scout Centre in Switzerland last year.

How we can follow Alex

In addition to tracking the expedition on the 2041 site, I’m hoping to get regular dispatches from Alex himself. Internet access in Antarctica is understandably slow, so I may not be able to talk to Alex until he returns.

Either way, we’re in for a great story of an Antarctic adventure with a purpose. Good luck, Alex!


News release

Read the full news release from the Heart of America Council about the trip below:

Local Eagle Scout Selected for Environmental Education and Preservation of the Antarctic Wilderness Expedition to Antarctica

Scout Will Present Findings from Expedition at the BSA’s Annual Sustainability Summit

LAWRENCE, Kansas (March 4, 2014) – One local Boy Scout from Lawrence, Kansas, is ready to embark on the adventure of a lifetime. On Friday, March 7, 18-year-old Eagle Scout Alex Houston will fly to Ushuaia, Argentina and then travel by icebreaker to Antarctica for a 2-week international expedition.

Alex is the only Scout from the United States selected to be a member of this international Antarctic expedition. Interested Eagle Scouts submitted a video essay in which they described their understanding of the importance of sustainability, how they would be a positive addition to an international team of environmental experts and how they would use this experience to benefit their local community.

Alex was approved to serve in this role by the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) and Sir Robert Swan — a polar explorer and the expedition leader. Swan is the founder of 2041, an organization dedicated to environmental education and preservation of the Antarctic wilderness. The expedition will spend time exploring the Antarctic Peninsula and learning about the ecology, wildlife and the importance of renewable energy in shaping the future of Antarctica.

The expedition is in advance of the Boy Scouts of America’s 2014 Sustainability Summit, which will be hosted this fall in West Virginia. The conference will bring global industry leaders together to explore sustainability, environmental leadership and best conservation practices. Swan and Alex will co-present the findings from their Antarctic expedition at the Sustainability Summit.

For more than a century, the Boy Scouts of America has been a leader in conservation. In the next 100 years, Scouting is taking the initiative to a new level—from stewardship to sustainability, and from “leave no trace” to leaving the world a better place.  The following tenants guide sustainability within the BSA:

  • Demonstrating practices consistent with BSA organizational values of thrift and resourcefulness by reducing the energy and water our activities require
  • Practicing good stewardship of human communities by providing healthy and attractive workplaces for our employees and volunteers
  • Practicing good stewardship of the natural communities in which the BSA operates by enhancing natural system function and biodiversity
  • Expanding the principles of Leave No Trace camping by carefully considering how the BSA uses materials and reduces waste within its operations
  • Respecting the generosity of donors through the design of facilities that reduce or eliminate long-term operating costs to the organization
  • Demonstrating leadership in sustainability through measurements and verification of their efforts, communication of their practices, and continual improvement

The Heart of America Council, Boy Scouts of America serves 19 counties in and around the Kansas City metropolitan area and serves over 33,000 young people through more than 1,100 Cub Scout packs, Boy Scout troops, Venturing crews, and Explorer posts.  If you would like more information about Scouting in Kansas City call (816) 942-9333 or visit www.hoac-bsa.org.  To learn more about the BSA’s approach to sustainability visit http://www.greentodeepgreen.org/.


Antarctica photo from Flick:  Some rights reserved by Rita Willaert

4 Comments on Seriously cool: Kansas Eagle Scout leaves for Antarctica today

  1. I’m looking forward to meeting Alex upon his return. His Father & I serve on the same council committee.

  2. John W. Owen // March 7, 2014 at 12:43 pm // Reply

    Following in footsteps of Paul Siple and other Eagle Scouts on scientific adventure to Antarticia. Does Scout have a blog to tract his journey and experiences?

  3. jpmurtaugh // March 7, 2014 at 1:21 pm // Reply

    I was stationed aboard the Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star back in the 80’s. We had an eagle scout (Douglas Barnhart) deploy with us to Antarctica during our Operation Deep Freeze ’84. During his 8 month assignment he participated in virtually all ship board and scientific operations. Having him aboard was one of the highlights of my Coast Guard career. Get ready for a trip of a lifetime Alex.

  4. Mary Morningstar // March 8, 2014 at 4:56 pm // Reply

    Alex’s mom here! Alex confirmed his arrival in Ushuaia around 3:00 PM and the Expedition team already has them out on a hike in the mountains round the city. Check out the 3rd photo, left hand side, you can just see Alex! It is so exciting and I’m so proud of him! http://expedition.2041.com/2014/

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