Trailblazer exhibition: do you have the explorer gene?
You might find out in a visit of the Trailblazers exhibition and from explorer's adventures at the Australian Museum in Sydney before July 18.
I finally got the chance to take a look and it is obvious why it won the Australian Best Exhibition Award for 2016. In an hour or more you can discover Australia’s 50 greatest explorers and how they pushed themselves to the limits. While it is not a big exhibition, you really get to see and understand what drove those explorers to do more and make us change the way we see the world.
From the early Australian days and first Aboriginal explorers to the more contemporary times with astronauts, Trailblazers gives you keys to learning a lot about what it takes to tackle oceans, mountains, deserts and the air. I’d have to say my favourite parts were probably the ocean and the air as they are so unpredictable and mysterious.
As you go through the exhibition, you actually start thinking of what kind of explorer you would be and what adventure you would take on. I also got the chance to meet one of them, Gaby Kennard, the first Australian woman to fly solo across the globe.
The great Gaby
Here are a few numbers: Gaby flew 27 years ago in a Piper Saratoga VH-GKF, Maule M7260C Orion, did 39 touchdowns, visited 21 countries, flew at about 28,000 nautical miles, crossed the globe in 99 days and the equator 5 times. She arrived on the 10th of November 1989, the night after the berlin wall fell down.
More than numbers, her courage and strength got her out of scary and threatening situations. The video she showed at the beginning of her talk at the Australian Museum showed exactly that. I was very impressed of her calm when she encountered her first challenge with her plane engine stopping 5 times in the middle of the Pacific and the second big scare when she was thrown up and down for 4 hours during a thunderstorm close to the African coast.
But her perseverance kept her going, “It is easy to think, ‘oh bad luck, I'm going down the ocean’, but I thought I have to figure this out, I need to see my children again, I have to keep trying, focus and find a solution,” Kennard said about her engine failing 5 times but she kept trying, and she was fine.
On what drove her to start this exceptional adventure, it was certainly the inspiration from Amelia Earhart’s journey being the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. But there is more to that as Kennard explained: “If I can make this dream a reality, if people think ‘if she can do this, then I can do what I want’ is the reason why I did this.”
Although being a single mother, and with only 450 hours of flying - Gaby took down all the obstacles and got her commercial license, studied hard and bought her own plane. She mortgaged her house, started with 5000 dollars from Dick Smith and few sponsorships to make her dream come true.
Now 27 years later, she is still standing strong and her kindness and modesty shine. Her journey afterwards has not always been easy but she learnt how to face her fears that the worse thing can happen and that’s ok. Getting the Archibald prize is now her next dream.
So what makes an explorer?
As Kim McKay, Executive Director and CEO, of the Australian Museum said: « They haven’t found it yet, but I’m sure the adventure gene exists. »
There’s definitely an explorer in all of us - but it yet has to awake. Going on an adventure isn’t always easy. It can take lots of resources, logistics, and planning or it can be totally improvised. It can trigger feelings of excitement, happiness like it can be scary and hard physically and emotionally. But then being an adventurer, isn’t just about trying something new? Getting out a bit of the comfort zone?
What do you think makes an explorer and are you, yourself an explorer? Tell me all about your adventures.