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He was born on 28 July 1956 in Durham, England and attended Aysgarth School and then Sedbergh School (1969–1974) before completing a BA degree in Ancient History (1976–1979) at St Chad's College, Durham University. He is currently an advocate for the protection of Antarctica and renewable energy. Swan is also the founder of 2041, a company which is dedicated to the preservation of the Antarctic and the author with Gil Reavill of Antarctica 2041: My Quest to Save the Earth's Last Wilderness.
"In the Footsteps of Scott" (1984–1987) 
Southern Quest set sail on November 3, 1984 to travel the 14,842 nautical miles (27,487 km) to Antarctica. The expedition stopped over in Lyttelton, New Zealand to meet Bill Burton, who at 96 years old was the last surviving member of Scott's expedition in 1912. Swan's initial Antarctic expedition was thus officially dubbed "In the Footsteps of Scott". Upon arrival on the frozen continent, Swan and his team spent the Antarctic winter at the 'Jack Hayward' base with colleagues John Tolson and Dr. Michael Stroud. When the winter had passed, Swan, Mear, and Wood set out to walk 900 miles (1,400 km) to the South Pole. They arrived at the South Pole on 11 January 1986, after 70 days without the aid of any radio communications or back-up support and having hauled 350 lb (160 kg) sledges. Swan's team had achieved the longest unassisted march ever made in history. Once at the pole, they received the bad news that their ship, Southern Quest, had been crushed by pack ice and had sunk, just minutes before they arrived. There was much criticism of the adventure from the scientists working in Antarctica as time and money had to be spent in flying some of the party back out to New Zealand. However, Swan returned in 1987 with a ship to collect the rest of the team at 'Jack Hayward' base and to remove all traces of his expedition, i.e., rubbish and remaining stores.
The North Pole (1987–1989) 
Three years after reaching the South Pole, Swan assembled a team of eight people from seven nations for an attempt at the North Pole. The team consisted of Dr. Misha Malakhov from Russia, Rupert Summerson of the UK, Graeme Joy of Australia, Arved Fuchs of Germany, Hiroshi Onishi from Japan, Angus Cockney of the Inuit, and Daryl E. Roberts of the USA. The expedition was called "Icewalk". Icewalk's base camp held 22 representatives from 15 different nations. They produced a series of educational films there and facilitated the removal of rubbish from the surrounding Arctic wilderness. Swan and his team reached the North Pole on 14 May 1989. The team nearly drowned during their expedition to the North Pole, due to the unseasonable melting of Arctic ice. Their journey made Swan the first man to walk to both the North and South poles.
From Earth Summit to World Summit (1992–2002) 
In 1992, Swan was invited by the United Nations to be a keynote speaker to the first Earth Summit for Sustainable Development, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In response to the world leaders' challenge to "think global act local", Swan made a commitment to deliver a global and local environmental mission involving industry, business, and young people to the next World Summit in 2002.
In 1996–97 he organized One Step Beyond, The South Pole Challenge, which brought 35 young adventurers from 25 nations together in Antarctica. They came together to define the global mission that Swan had been tasked with at the Earth Summit. The mission was to remove and recycle 1,500 tons of waste that had been left at Bellinghausen station in Antarctica after decades of scientific research. The team worked for eight years to raise the money, plan, and execute the mission. The rubbish at the Russian base of Bellinghausen, King George Island, was finally cleared and the native penguins reclaimed their beach for the first time in 47 years. After the cleanup, Swan noticed a small, disused scientists' station on the horizon at King George Island. It sparked an idea that generated the concept of the "E-base" – the world's first education station in Antarctica.
Having fulfilled the challenge for a global mission by cleaning up Bellinghausen station, Swan turned his efforts to a local mission. In 2002, Swan and his '2041' sailboat embarked on the longest overland 'voyage' in history. The voyage's destination was the 2002 World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa. Swan partnered with 'loveLife' – a charity battling AIDS in South Africa.
The 'voyage' reached out to over 750,000 young people across South Africa. During the World Summit, the 'Ice Station' exhibit was visited by 128 world leaders and 35,000 visitors, including 12,000 young people. It was awarded first prize for outstanding contribution to the World Summit.
'2041' and Inspire Antarctic Expeditions (2003–2008) 
Swan's 67' foot racing yacht '2041' is named after the year in which the 'Madrid Protocol' comes up for debate. The protocol, signed by nearly every nation, provides additional protection for the Antarctic Treaty and designates the continent as "a Natural Reserve Land for Science and Peace". It also places a ban on mining and mineral exploration in Antarctica for 50 years (1991–2041).
The Cape to Rio Yacht Race, January – April 2003 
Along the route, communities came out in force to participate in clean-up projects with the aim of improving their immediate environment. Three young men from 'loveLife' were chosen by Swan to become the first African crew in history to circumnavigate their own continent.
The Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, December 2004 – January 2005 
Continuing on her journey towards the 2012 World Summit, Swan entered sailboat '2041' in the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race with the world's first sails made entirely from recycled plastic (PET) bottles. '2041' was crewed by industry leaders and teachers selected for their outstanding inspiration for young people. The sailboat finished 24th in the race.
Inspire Antarctic Expeditions, 2003 – present 
After 23 years of sustainable leadership and teamwork experience, Swan led the first corporate expedition to Antarctica in 2003. The expedition members witnessed firsthand the effects of climate change in Antarctica. They were tasked by Swan to become leaders in sustainability upon their return home. Between the 2003 – 2007 expeditions, Swan's dream of building the E-base became a reality. Each successive year's expedition members helped plan, build, and promote the E-base—the world's first education station in Antarctica to be used as a resource for teachers and young people from around the world.
The E-base and the Voyage for Cleaner Energy, 2008 – present 
"The E-base Goes Live", March 2008 
Powered entirely on renewable energy, Swan and a small team lived and sent broadcasts from the E-base via the internet for two weeks. It was the first time in history that a team had attempted to survive in Antarctica relying solely on renewable energy. Their mission was successful, and the team departed the continent after the allotted two weeks in good health.
The Voyage for Cleaner Energy, April 2008 – present 
On April 8, 2008, the Voyage for Cleaner Energy and '2041' sailboat launched from San Francisco, California. '2041' was refitted to operate entirely on wind, solar, and biodiesel generated energy. '2041' and Swan engaged in a multi-city tour of the West Coast of the USA to highlight renewable energy and engage the youth of the world to take positive steps toward renewable, sustainable energy practices. April 8, 2008 was officially deemed "Robert Swan Day" in San Francisco at the bequest of Mayor Gavin Newsom.
Awards, Honors & Publications 
- 1987 In the Footsteps of Scott published by Jonathon Cape, authored by Swan and Roger Mear
- 1988 Swan was awarded the Polar Medal by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
- 1988 Destination: Antarctica published by Scholastic, Inc.
- 1989 Official Flag Bearer for the Explorers Club of New York to the North Pole (USA)
- 1989 Appointed United Nations Environment Program Goodwill Ambassador (UNEP)
- 1990 Winner of the United Nations Global 500 award
- 1990 Icewalk published by Icewalk Features
- 1992 Appointed United Nations Education/Science and Cultural Organization Goodwill Ambassador with Special Responsibility for Youth (UNESCO)
- 1992 Visiting Professor of the School of Environment, Leeds Metropolitan University (UK)
- 1993 Founded the Robert Swan Foundation – a registered charity for the promotion of youth and scientific endeavors in the environment
- 1993 Doctorate of Letters, The Robert Gordon University (UK)
- 1994 Appointed Special Envoy to the Director General of UNESCO
- 1995 Awarded OBE by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
- 1998 Smithsonian Award for the Information technology in Education & Academia (USA)
- 2000 Honorary Member of the Amstel Club, the Netherlands
- 2000 2041: The Voyage South published by Hayloft Publishing
- 2002 Vice President of the Countryside Management Association (UK)
- 2005 Awarded 'Freedom of the City of London'
- 2005 Elected, by membership vote, Honorary President of the 'Ski Club of Great Britain'
- 2006 Honorary Fellow at St. Chad's College, Durham University (UK)
- April 5, 2008 torchbearer of the 2008 Summer Olympics torch relay in St Petersburg, Russia
See also 
- "Explore Records > First person to walk to both poles". Guinness World Records. Retrieved 2012-02-27.
- "Who we are". 2041.com. 2041. Retrieved 2012-02-27.
- Swan, Robert; Reavill, Gil (2009). Antarctica 2041: my quest to save the earth's last wilderness (illustrated ed.). Broadway Books. ISBN 978-0-7679-3175-5. More than one of
- The London Gazette: . 26 January 1988. Retrieved 2008-12-05.
- Олимпийский огонь понесут Друзь, Фрейндлих и Плющенко, Komsomolskaya Pravda, 4 April 2008