As The Last Desert played out this past week in the remote wilderness of Antarctica, an entire team of organizers and experts were working behind the scenes to ensure that everybody was safe.
Leading them all was Kelvin Murray. The Scottish dive master, naturalist and consultant for filmmakers, was the expedition leader of the race and he has an astonishing CV. With the race now complete, we asked him how he came to work in this far-flung region.
“I had a strong interest as a child in polar regions and wildlife,” reveals the Scotsman who spent his childhood in Aberdeen and is now based in Edinburgh. “My granny gave me a book on Antarctica. I was diving professionally and saw that I had a skill set to get to Antarctica. I then started getting more technical qualifications. Then joined the British Antarctic Survey for one and a half years.”
Indeed, in 2007 Murray set out to Antarctica and stayed here through the winter as a field diving officer with the British Antarctic Survey. “It was the most demanding thing,” he says. “Physically, mentally and emotionally. I was away from family, and working in tough conditions. I was diving with surface temperatures of -20 Celsius, and water temperatures of -2. Being away from family, where communication was difficult, and with the same 22 people for six months.”
He also had to cope with two and a half months of near-complete darkness. Yet this prolonged amount of time in the region gave Murray incredible insight and experience. Since then, Murray’s career has seen him working on everything from diving throughout the world, to working in collaboration with Dr. Sylvia Earle’s Mission Blue Foundation, providing video footage and stills images to the Ocean layer of Google Earth. The only downside to the fascinating work he says, are prolonged amounts of time away from his family back home.
Here in Antarctica, Murray has been selecting the course, getting everyone ashore, as well as ensuring that the event complied with environmental protocols. Previously working for the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society and an advocate for sharks—he has a clear love for the rare wildlife of this region. It is this respect for the ferocious nature of the wilderness here and it’s many residents, that made him such a talented expedition leader on this race.
“It is completely wild and untamed wilderness, and you are at its mercy,” he says. “It is a privilege to be here. The wildlife is incredible, and very accepting of us.”
By Clare Morin