How things do change

2019 Reflection by Steve Staley

One of the things that struck me hardest on the 2019 Expedition was just how much Svalbard, and especially its capital, Longyearbyen, has changed. The last time I had seen it was in 1996, so 23 years before.

As our aircraft approached Longyearbyen everything looked much as it had done all those years ago: the mountains, glaciers and fjords with the town a dot in the distance. But as we got closer to the airport I could see the town had grown hugely since 1996 – and it all looked so neat!

Many of the buildings are brightly coloured, the roads looked well made. In 1996 it was all brown & dust, still pretty much a coal-mining settlement, everything covered with a layer of coal dust and on the edge of the world.

Walking into the modern terminal building to pick up our baggage, the contrast with the airport huts of the old days was stark; no cashpoint machines in those days. After a long sleep on the boat that would take us to our ultimate destination next day, we walked into “town” to collect our equipment. The old power plant was still there but where had all those restaurants come from? And the UNIS university building. And the seed vault high on the mountainside. And the supermarkets and souvenir shops? It was all a bit of a shock.

Tourism is a large part of the answer. I remember seeing the occasional cruise ship in the fjords back as far as 1983, now they’re far more common – and bigger.

When we sailed back into Longyearbyen at the end of the expedition we were greeted by the sight of a 4,000 person cruise liner that was in the process of sounding its horns to call them all back to the ship – the town looked like Piccadilly Circus.

Longyearbyen is still on the edge of the world but the world likes to visit it. The irony is a twenty minute walk from Longyearbyen will take you back to the old days.

Short tales

Arctic snippets by Ian Frearson

During my travels in and around the Arctic I have been so lucky in managing to find and bring back some interesting and in some cases useful objects that help maintain my interest and enjoyment in past trips.  Allow me to share one or two of these with you now.  The photograph of these shows a motley collection that needs some explanation.

Come back soon to read more…

New Group Leader

Dr Steve Staley is the new Group Leader of the Arctic Research Group. As a founder member, Steve has been with the Arctic Research Group since the beginning and has been an essential part of the story so far. Steve’s scientific, practical and managerial contributions have been at the core of the success of the ARG and he has helped ensure that the ethos of the research expeditions has been upheld.

Steve has a successful background in research geology and his work on the geology of Svalbard has contributed to the knowledge base in remote and difficult terrain.

Steve has also been of significant support to Arctic Research Group Founder, Ian Frearson in his former role as Group Leader. Steve has often been there with Ian, both in the long months of preparation and in the field, where Steve has been able to contribute to the decision making process and find the right way forward for the expedition. Steve is the natural successor to Ian and will lean on the experiences they have had together to take the Arctic Research Group activities on into the future.

Ian Frearson steps down

Arctic Research Group founding leader Ian Frearson FRGS is stepping down from his role as ARG Group Leader and will continue his involvement as Founder. A separate announcement is to be made concerning the new Group Leader.

Ian first went to the Arctic in 1975 and undertook several expeditions with other groups before in 1988 deciding to establish his own. It is without a doubt that Ian has contributed significantly to the exploration and understanding of the Arctic. This has been done through the research work Ian has conducted himself in the field of glaciology, as well as through the not inconsiderable research Ian has enabled and supported. All this has been successfully completed by the members of the Arctic Research Group during more than a dozen expeditions.

With seemingly boundless energies and enthusiasm, deft leadership and great judgement, Ian has been an enormous source of inspiration to each one of the members who have been fortunate enough to be selected to join one of the Arctic Research Group’s expeditions.

There are many tales to be told of Ian’s achievements and of his particular humour and ability to manage challenging situations and deliver the hoped for outcomes, safely. What is clear is that the spirit of exploration still burns bright within him and he is certain to continue strongly influencing the Arctic Research Group and its’ activities in his new role as Founder in dedicated support of the new Group Leader.

Gruelling Days

Why does the clock go so quickly when we are enjoying ourselves?

If only we could accomplish the tiring gruelling days of the mundane as easily quickly and enjoyably as those spent in the field, then packing vital equipment food and supplies would be a pleasure. Sadly these jobs do have to be done and the success of a trip frequently depends on the dedication and hard work put in by all the team members on the tedium of the organising.

Everyone helping out

Last Sunday saw the whole Team plus the Group Leader (who will be acting as Home Agent) sorting, stripping away all non essential packaging and filling our now familiar plastic barrels with the food tools and equipment on which the whole Team will rely whilst in the field, starting in two weeks time.

This time it was a lesson in the economical and the planned allowance of seven sixty litre barrels was soon reached then just as easily overtaken.

We are now in the situation of having to book more and more additional barrels onto our freight. How grateful we are to SAS who have accommodated our wishes without turning a hair.

More support received

The generosity of individual supporters for the ARG is amazing. Using online fundraising through our social media networks we have raised much needed funds towards the cost of the expedition. Thank you to all those who have been kind enough to donate. One generous supporter commented “I’m not able to go and do the sort of things you will be doing for the good of the planet and my donation is my way of being involved with you and doing my bit vicariously”.

We have also been generously loaned key pieces of kit that will help us to achieve our goals and do it safely. Two separate sources have supplied us; one with a hand held EPIRB and the other a bank of VHF marine radios. We’re also grateful that we will have a satellite telephone with us to be able to communicate with the media and our home agent, Ian Frearson.

With these essential tools we will be able to communicate effectively with each other and should the situation arise, where we need outside assistance to come to our help, then we have the emergency communication that links through the satellites back to the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency to send support.

And Here is the News

Two recent interviews on BBC Local Radio have meant the forthcoming ARG expedition is now better publicised and the projects more widely known and understood.

Arctic Tern entangled

On Tuesday, Steve Staley and Chris Searston both gave a live interview for BBC Radio Nottingham and discussed the challenges of research work in the Arctic, including attack from Polar Bear, the need to raise funds as a charity and the plans for the 2019 expedition, then Wednesday saw Ian Frearson delivering an account to BBC Radio Derby on the background and make up of the ARG together with details of the 2019 expedition projects. Ian described the projects and highlighted the dramatic effects of pollution on wildlife in the Arctic.

ARG supporting Sir Ernest Shackleton in BBC ICONS live final on 5th February.

ARG Members will be in the audience of the BBC ICONS series live final in London to support Sir Ernest Shackleton when viewers will select the winner of the series that has sought to identify the most iconic individual of the twentieth century.  Sir Ernest Shackleton was voted the winner of the Explorers category programme, beating astronaut Neil Armstrong, cartographer Gertrude Bell and primatologist Jane Goodall.  When Shackleton was selected, The Arctic Club was contacted by the TV programme makers to invite members of the club to be in the audience during the live broadcast final which is coming from Indigo at the O2.  If you’re reading this before the programme on 5th February, please make sure to watch BBC2 between 9:00pm and 10:00pm on Tuesday 5th February and vote for Sir Ernest Shackleton.

BBC ICONS Final – Vote for Shackleton

Freight at last

Phew I can relax again for a day or two, the freight is on its’ way. 

So long in preparing & getting a price, the freight has at last been taken to Immingham and accepted by our shipping line, Bring International. They have been so good today in helping sort it all out & get paperwork done, so well done Scott & staff, we will not be seeing it again until Svalbard hopefully.