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February 26th, 2014

Icewalk 25 Years On with Peter Hobart

Advertisers often use the expression, “it’s the opportunity of a lifetime,” to describe everything from investment products to all-expense-included vacations. As a result this phrase has lost much of its impact. When I was selected to participate in the ICEWALK in1989, my father accurately described it as, “the opportunity of several lifetimes.” Those who find themselves in the early stages of life’s journey may not fully recognize just how special it is to participate in something of this nature. ICEWALK, and the expeditions that followed, combined noble purposes with high adventure, and introduced the participant to like-minded individuals from many different cultures in faraway lands. These voyages are, in many ways, modern day versions of the quests undertaken by the knights of the middle ages. And those who are lucky enough to be involved are forever changed by the experience.

After ICEWALK my career took me to the law where I have served as a prosecutor at every level of the United States government. Like many of my colleagues, I have had the opportunity to investigate crime scenes, to conduct surveillance on targets, to run stables of informants, to arrest criminal kingpins, to present cases to juries and to argue in the Supreme Court, but throughout this time, the question that everyone asks is: “Tell me about the expedition…” It was my participation in this endeavor that caught my first employer’s attention—I am told that the day before I started he said to my soon-to-be-roommates, “Clean this place up, the new guy’s been to the goddamn North Pole!”—and it has been the first question asked on every interview since that time.

But this usefulness of the expedition in seeking employment only addresses what ICEWALK has done for me. It does not speak to that far more important issue: What ICEWALK has done to me. I would say that the time I spent on the ice with friends from many nations changed me, but as a young person, my world view was still being formed at that time, so it might be more accurate to say that it helped to shape me. It affected my life in many ways: Going into public service; helping with environmental causes; trying to preserve the planet for my daughter. It has instilled in me a deep appreciation of the stark beauty of the Arctic and the Antarctic and the lessons these last, great wildernesses can impart to us. And it has taught me that one man can make a difference, and that the effect of a  team of dedicated individuals truly is greater than the sum of its parts.

From the first time I met Robert Swan on the long flight back from  the Pole in 1989 to this very moment I have been proud to call him my captain, my mentor and my friend, and I will be eternally grateful for the effect he had on a young, impressionable adventurer nearly a quarter century ago…

Peter Hobart, ICEWALK ALUMNI MEMBER