If you’re planning an expedition to a polar or Arctic environment, take some advice from the experts. Geographical rounds up advice from the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG)’s Explore 2014 arctic and polar workshop
‘The numerous people who imagine that a long stay in the Polar regions makes a man less susceptible of cold than other mortals are completely mistaken,’ advised Roald Amundsen writing about his adventures at both poles.
Amundsen’s know-how might be classic, but here are tips for those looking to follow in the Norwegian’s sled tracks today:
Practice. Consult experts, and once you’ve done that practice your trade. It’s one thing to put a tent up on your lawn; it’s another to put it up in 80 knots with the snow blowing. If you have a gun – a beautiful gun – fire it. When you have a polar bear at 25 metres is not the time to learn. It sounds awful, but it is a fact. Practice, practice, practice. I guarantee it will save your life sooner or later.
David Fletcher has worked in Polar Regions for over 40 years, including 34 summer and four winters in the Antarctic and 30 summers in the Arctic. His roles have included dog driver, base commander and expedition leader.
One expedition made it a rule that at day’s end everyone would say one thing they admired about a selected team member. At first it was, as you can imagine, awkward. But by the end of the expedition people looked forward to it, and became quite emotional when it came time to tell someone how much they were appreciated.
Beth Healey is a medical researcher for the European Space Agency. She is based in Antarctica for research into the agency’s human spaceflight programme.
Good food is important. I used a company called Fuizion, which is quite expensive but has incredible freeze-dried food. Order that and give them enough time to make it.
Robert Holtom has been to Antarctica on a mountaineering and skiing expedition. He has also been on an expedition across the Greenland ice cap. For the last six years he has worked in the oil and gas industry.
Get information. Ask people. If you’re thinking about Antarctica, South Georgia or the Sandwich Islands these are very, very remote locations. There are still very few people who have been out there, find them and to talk to them. Remember that planning will take a long time. The British Antarctic Survey spends at least two years planning a mission before it goes out. Don’t worry about delaying for six months or as long as it takes; it’s better to delay than to go unprepared. Be flexible. That’s been the key to all my expeditions; even big organisations like BAS suffer mechanical breakdowns and personnel shortages. You need to have a range of objectives to make the best of an expedition.
John Shears is Head of Operations Support at the British Antarctic Survey. He has been on over a dozen major expeditions to Antarctica and the Arctic.