‘Exploration has never been more important or urgent in human history.’ PEN HADOW
- For those who don’t know you what are you most well-known for?
I’m probably best known for making the first solo journey without resupply, and by the hardest route, to the North Pole – a feat that hasn’t been repeated (and likely never will be due to the deterioration in sea-ice conditions due to climate change).
The feat took three attempts over 15 years to complete (1994, 1998 and 2003). On four separate occasions during the endeavour, The Times dedicated its front-page lead article and image to the unfolding story, with the British Library ranking the story of his arrival at the Pole (19 May, 2003) in the Top 100 of all time British newspaper front pages.
- Why is exploration so important?
Adventure is important to the work of an explorer because it is this element of exploration that attracts media and public interest. Adventure creates the core narrative and content as the endeavour unfolds which an explorer can then work with to focus attention on the issue, whether social or environmental, that is being explored.
In a sense, adventure is about developing one’s personal operating capacity by setting oneself goals that involve pushing back one’s own imagined and realboundaries. So, in these terms, going solo to the North Pole was an ultimate expression of adventure as no one had pushed back the boundaries it presented.However, to my mind, exploration is more about pushing back universal, rather than personal, boundaries, and for the benefit of parties beyond oneself. It’s about finding things out, often but not necessarily, from some of the most challenging environments, which are then communicated to third-party interested communitiesbecause the resulting findings, information and insights are relevant and of interest to these parties.
Exploration, and therefore the adventurous element it depends on, has never been more important or urgent in human history, if you accept that the natural world, upon which our own existence entirely depends, is showing signs of stress and failure. Why? Because, the more we can discover and communicate how the natural world’s resources, processes and ecosystems work and inter-act, the better positioned the voting general public and consequently their governments will be to develop a sustainable relationship with the natural world – and therefore manage our disruptive, damaging and destructive impacts.
- How did your adventure with exploration start?
A series of influences over time created a powerful cocktail, the effect of which struck me one afternoon in 1988.
In my childhood I’d been looked after by Enid Wigley, who’s first charge 50 years earlier had been Peter Scott, the only child of Captain Robert Falcon Scott (aka Scott of the Antarctic). In Scott’s last letter to his wife, written as he lay dying in his tent with no hope of surviving, he asked that Kathleen “Get the boy interested in the natural world, there are some schools that see this as more interesting than competitive sport.” In later life, Peter went on to set up the wildfowl centre atSlimbridge, the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, and the world’s largest membership organisation for the protection of the natural world, the Worldwide Fund for Nature (aka WWF). He also became the TV first presenter about the natural world with his BBC programme, Look. After 26 years, he eventually handed the baton on … to the young David Attenborough!
Much of what Enid absorbed while living with the Scott family she inculcated me with, including the personalities and stories of Antarctic exploration who togetherwe referred to as the ‘Antarctic Boys’.
Unknown to many is the physical (and probably mental) conditioning Enid had been instructed by Kathleen Scott to apply to Peter when aged three to eight years old, and half a century later by my father to apply to me. In the family we refer to it as the ‘spartan period’. It involved us boys being ‘sent out’ for longer and longer periods with less and less clothing, notably during the autumn, winter and spring months. As I say, Enid reported that Peter embraced this process for five years – and me for only three years, as one day a friend of my mother’s dropped round to our manse (Scottish rectory house) to find me with frost-nip spreading across my nose, ears and cheek. For my mother, this was the last straw, and she used it as grounds for agreeing the abandonment of this toughening-up process. To be fair, though, the winter weather of Glendevon in the Ochil Hills was rather more severe than the climate Peter had endured in southern England! What I would like to make clear here is that, extreme as this process may read to many, I have never felt my father to have been anything other than gentle, innovative, supportive and loving.
While this ingredient in the developing cocktail of influence in my later life, seemed innocuous enough, lying inactive for another twenty years, my father introduced new elements into the glass, by ensuring I knew all about the exploits of my forebears.
Notably, about Patrick Hadow, chairman for ten years of the Royal Chartered P&O Shipping Company; Douglas Hadow, who made the first ever ascent of the Matterhorn (1865); Patrick ‘Frank’ Hadow, who won the Wimbledon Men’s Singles (1878), and is the only winner never to have dropped a set at Wimbledon; Walter Hadow, who played 97 first-class cricket matches, many alongside WG Grace, with a career highest score of 217 (later becoming HM Commissioner for Prisons for Scotland); Major-General Frederick Hadow; the linguist, Professor George Hadow, who taught Hebrew and oriental languages at the University of St Andrews; the pioneering chemist, Edward Hadow, who focused his studies on cyanide; Sir Henry Hadow, the leading educational reformer, who founded the world’s first university musicology faculty at Oxford University; Grace Hadow, the founding principal of St Anne’s College, Oxford, and Vice Chairman of the Women’s Institute; Sir Michael Hadow, Sir Robert Hadow and Sir Gordon Hadow, the British diplomats; my grandfather, Commander Philip Hadow, who commanded HMS Ivanhoe; my great uncle who survived, having been bitten on the ankle by a king cobra while trekking in India, his leg amputated on-the-spot by his colleagues with the bleeding stump immediately cauterised in a camp fire (no anaesthetics involved); and my uncle, Major Gerald Hadow, who fought in the ferociously tough Korean War.
The story of the king cobra probably influenced my inclination to areas of the planet where no snakes could possibly turn up, hence the Arctic Ocean! So while I absolutely know my father never to have been remotely ‘pushy’, I have also realised how over time he was determined to arm me with the ambition and the strategies to achieve whatever I might choose to do. It all seemed to revolve around our family name and what it could mean to be a Hadow.
Aged 13, I made it my ambition to win the three athletic events I had entered for the school’s sports day, setting three school records in the process. Aged 15 in 1977, I ran solo from Harrow-on-the-Hill to Marble Arch and back (about 21 miles) raising £101.08 for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Trust – a run that led to what went on to become the largest participation event in Harrow School’s calendar with the boys raising in excess of £100,000 per year. Later at University College London (UCL) I led a coxed pair rowing adventure from Henley Bridge to Putney Bridge (52 miles over 12 hours) to raise funds for the re-birth of our Geography department’s academic journal, The Bloomsbury Geographer’.
Soon after leaving university I started work as the youngest executive at the world-leading International Management Group (aka Mark McCormack’s Sports Organisation). It was while there that I occasionally spent a lunch-break in the Royal Geographical Society’s library just south of Hyde Park.
One day, I asked the librarian if he’d open up the rarely used Lowther Reading Room. So rarely in fact that it had the air of Miss Haversham’s wedding breakfast room in Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. He kindly obliged, bringing upstairs with him the bunch of keys to open the brass-filigreed doors to the bookcases. I selected a book at random. It was an account, entitled My Life Among the Eskimo, of an obscure Arctic expedition led by the obscure German naturalist, Bernhard Adolph Hantzsch. I sat down and began to read. But I quickly realised the book had never been opened because the paper of alternate pages was continuous over the top to the next page making it impossible to read. So the librarian came back up with a razor blade and ceremoniously released the pages by cutting through the page tops. I sat down again … and was riveted by Hantzsch’s extraordinary commitment to his ambitious expedition and research programme, made evident as he overcame what to most would have seemed insurmountable problems.
As I left the RGS, I realised something had changed. Something fundamental to my thought-processes … to my life. I’d just experienced a Damascene moment. For the first time in my 27-year life I knew exactly what I needed to do. As I walked back across Hyde Park, it occurred to me that my school-boy collection of books at home were all factual books about the natural world or books about adventure, from Willard Price to Wilbur Smith and from Francis Chichester to Ranulph Fiennes.
I handed in my resignation that afternoon … and have never looked back since that day when my imagined life of adventure became a reality that autumn afternoon.
- Who have been the biggest influences in your exploration journey?
Well, most the most influential explorer was probably Captain Robert Falcon Scott and specifically his Terra Nova expedition (1910-13), given my childhood connection to his son, Peter Scott, through the governess we shared, albeit 50 years apart, Enid Wigley. As side from Capt Scott’s story, Wigley also used to tell stories she’d picked up from the Scott family about Ernest Shackleton (Irish/British), Douglas Mawson (British/Australian) and Adrien de Gerlache (Belgian).
Another influential figure was my Geography teacher at primary school, Andrew Keith, who was also Head of Athletics. I remember him showing us some hand-drawn, ink-washed maps he had prepared of a South Sea island as part of his doctorate at Cambridge. My main fascination was how he had been able to translate the island’s on-the-ground reality, that he had personally measured and observed, to something that gave so much information and with such clarity. His islandlooked like a brilliant emerald set in an aquamarine sea – and the image has always remained in my mind’s eye.
Keith also became my running coach and introduced me to the ways and benefits of adhering to a rigorous training regime. His coaching led me to realise that most things in life are possible if one adheres to an appropriately-designed process whether it’s to become a better leader, a better sportsman … or even to reach the North Pole. And realising it was just a process was a hugely important gift from Keith, because it made almost everything possible as long as I remained committed to the goal and the process it involved.
Of the 100-120 books of all shapes and sizes in my childhood bedroom bookcase, the books I still recall as being influential were: The Ladybird Book of Things to Make (Mia Richey); The Book of the British Countryside (AA 1973); The Book of British Birds (AA); Alone at Sea (Hannes Lindemann); Quest for Adventure (editor, Chris Bonington); The Lonely Sea & the Sky (Francis Chichester); A Fighting Chance (John Ridgway & Chay Blyth); Scott’s Last Expedition, Vols I & II (arranged by Leonard Huxley); The Home of the Blizzard (Douglas Mawson); Fatu Hiva (Thor Heyerdahl); The Kon-Tiki Expedition: By Raft Across the South Seas (ThorHeyerdahl); Farthest North, Vols I & II (Fridtjof Nansen); To the Ends of the Earth, Transglobe Expedition 1979-82 (Ranulph Fiennes); The Worst Journey in the World (Apsley Cherry-Garrard) … and The Noose of Laurels (Wally Herbert).
Linked in some way to these pioneering and adventurous spirits was an interest in the phenomenon of flashes of inspiration, or Eureka moments; for example, in asequence in The Dam Busters (1955), when Guy Gibson (played by Richard Todd) realises in a flash of subconscious problem-solving, that the two spotlights overlapping to locate the performer on the otherwise darkened West End stage that he’d been taken to one night, could be applied to guide his bombers to the precise and very low altitude the aircraft needed to achieve before the ‘bouncing bombs’ could be released.
Another such Eureka moment was the serendipitous moment recounted in Simon Singh’s book about the history of mathematics, Fermat’s Last Theorem, when the book’s central real-life character, Andrew Wiles, meets with a mathematician friend at a cafe. Wiles had devoted much of his professional life to proving the theoremagainst astonishingly high odds of success. In the cafe, in a general chat about the crux of the mathematical problem he was wrestling with, his friend offers a different, though generalised, perspective. In that moment, Wiles realises his friend has gifted him an insight that will lead to the key to his eventual breakthrough.
Ultimately, though, there is no doubt in mind that it is my father who has been the greatest influence in my becoming an explorer, though I do not recall him everusing the words North Pole, Arctic Ocean or polar regions!
- Which other British explorers do you most admire & why?
Francis Chichester, the yachtsman and pilot, is one of two British adventurers I admire, the other being Wally Herbert, the polar explorer.
Francis Chichester because he excelled and innovated in two different operating environments – the ocean and the atmosphere. He was not an easy man to be around by all accounts, but that seems to come with the territory for many, if not most, of the world’s leading adventurers and explorers. Alongside his courage was his brilliance as a navigator. He developed a new strategy for ‘dead-reckoning’ his position when flying his small deHavilland Gipsy Moth aircraft in a pioneering flightacross the Tasman Sea from New Zealand to Australia. During World War II he applied his expertise to provide the Royal Air Force with its standard navigation manual for pilots of single-seater fighter aircraft. And then, after becoming a world-class racing yachtsman, at the age of 66 he completed the first solo circumnavigation of the globe West to East (in 226 days).
And Wally Herbert primarily because he made the first traverse of the Arctic Ocean by the longest possible route from Point Barrow (Alaska) via the North Geographic Pole to landfall 15 months later on an island off northern Spitsbergen in 1969. During the course of his polar career, which spanned more than 50 years, he spent a cumulative 15 years in the wilderness regions of the Arctic and Antarctic, travelling with dog teams and open boats well over 23,000 miles – more than half of that distance through unexplored areas.
Herbert also had rare talent as a navigator, dog-handler, cartographer, writer and painter. Among his several books, which he illustrated, he also had solo exhibitions of his drawings and paintings in London and New York. After retiring from the field, he was commissioned by the National Geographic Society to review and re-assess Robert Peary’s expedition records for his noted 1909 expedition. In The Noose of Laurels, Herbert concluded that Peary had falsified some records and had never reached the North Pole, although he believed Peary had been very close. Herbert’s conclusions have been widely accepted.
I also respect modern-day traveller Alastair Humphries for his myriad endeavours around the world (including his literal cycling around-the-world expedition), but especially for his work promoting the concept of micro-adventures. This is because micro-adventures give everyone the key to having an adventure, even if it’s only for a day and within a mile of home. The point is that all adventures by definition involve people engaging with, and pushing back, their personal boundaries and increasing their personal capacity, and feeling the psychological, emotional and often health benefits of such experiences. Frankly, it is also of fundamental national value in building a society’s capacity to deal with risk in all its forms, and to build-up resilience to deal with challenging situations.
- What was your 2017 Arctic Mission all about?
Arctic Mission’s pilot programme in 2017 was intended to demonstrate how accessible to commercially-operated vessels the Central Arctic Ocean has become in the summertimes, due to the rapid melting of its sea-ice cover. Arctic Mission’s vessels became the first to ever enter the Central Arctic Ocean’s waters without icebreakers, eventually reaching as far as 80º 10’ North. Arctic Mission also undertook scientific research to investigate the nature and state of the region’s unique marine ecosystem.
The expedition took two 50-foot vessels sailing from Nome (Alaska), through the international Bering Strait and into the Chuchki Sea, one of the Arctic Ocean’s marginal seas. Continuing north-east into the adjacent Beaufort Sea the two vessels sailed north beyond the USA’s territorial waters and into the ‘high seas’ (aka international waters) of the Central Arctic Ocean.
Two invaluable and revelatory insights came out of Arctic Mission’s first voyage of exploration in 2017, for me.
Firstly, that the Arctic Ocean’s sea-ice cover, currently perceived as an essentially lifeless ocean-surface feature, urgently needs to be recognised as a unique floating ice-reef ecosystem upon which a complex web of plants and animals depend for their survival.
And secondly, that the observed loss of sea-ice is therefore not only a geophysical phenomenon with major earth system consequences but is also the observed loss of the floating ice-reef habitat, with major consequences for its dependent wildlife.
In Autumn 2017, as a result of intense international media coverage about Arctic Mission’s story and research, images of plastic pollution recorded by Arctic Mission was used by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (Rhode Island) in a ‘Save Our Seas Act’ debate in the US Senate which helped to recover all the funding for the US National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) ‘Marine Debris Research Programme’.
In March 2018, Arctic Mission’s lead field scientist, Tim Gordon (University of Exeter, UK), was invited to speak at a break-out session of the World Ocean Summit (Mexico) entitled, ‘Stories from the Frontline of Climate Change’. His presentation was so well received that he was immediately invited to address the summit’s final plenary session, his speech receiving the rare accolade at such an event of a standing ovation.
The multi-strand marine research programme, led by Gordon, used state-of-the-art techniques including DNA sequencing, genomics, bio-informatics and passive-acoustic monitoring to study the entire food chain from microbes to whales. Such scientific evidence is crucial to inform policy-makers charged with securing a sustainable future for one of Earth’s most vulnerable ecosystems.
En route an array of wildlife were observed from jellyfish and Arctic Cod to seabirds and walrus … and a mother polar bear with two first year cubs, accompanied by a fourth bear, possibly her offspring from the previous year. Interestingly, the thin strand of sea ice on which these four bears were drifting had ice-free waters for over 300 miles to the north and 200 miles to the south, raising the question whether this was a relatively normal or an unintended scenario … Meanwhile, no data exists on the number of polar bears on the Arctic Ocean.
In largely ice-free conditions, the voyage continued a further 300 miles north of the four bears in the Central Arctic Ocean to reach 80º 10’ North before returning back to Nome.
- What is 90North all about?
90North is about protecting the North Pole’s wildlife and floating ice-reef ecosystem from disruptive, damaging and destructive vessel-based commercially-motivated activities. And, yes, it involves creating the world’s largest marine protected area, equivalent in area to that of India. But at the highest level, it offers a unifying and universal symbol of the global community’s commitment to creating a sustainable future for our planet.
90North’s vision is the signing of an international agreement facilitated by the United Nations to create the highest possible level of marine protection for the wildlife and floating ice-reef ecosystem of the 2.8 million sq km Central Arctic Ocean surrounding the North Pole.
90North’s objective is to provide the international leadership for this vision, and to help catalyse and accelerate the relevant international policy-making process.
Its strategy is:
- to promote the need for heightened protection at relevant meetings & conferences
- to facilitate the scientific research necessary to inform and develop the policy-making process
- to stimulate the founding of an international collaborative network of interested organisations – non-governmental and governmental
- to generate international public support for such protection
Significantly, 90North’s objective is in alignment with Target 11 of the UN-supported Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) because the Central Arctic Ocean has been formally assessed by the CBD as an ‘Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Area’.
More immediately, 90North’s aspiration is to have its vision adopted as a flagship initiative within the IUCN and the UN’s broader work to deliver the UN General Assembly’s stated mission to secure formal protection for 30% of the world’s seas by 2030.
*IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) is the global authority on the status of the natural world and the measures necessary to safeguard it. IUCN is the only organisation with official advisory status to the UN General Assembly on issues concerning the environment, specifically biodiversity, nature conservation and sustainable natural resource use.
- Why is 90North so important?
The objective is important because the advisory body to the United Nations on all things to do with the protection of the natural world, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), is extremely concerned about the state of the world’s oceans which most people to date have assumed to be ‘too big to fail’ (rather like all those banks around the world that failed in 2008). And the Arctic Ocean is the most vulnerable ocean ecosystem in the world. … And the work of 90 North is important because no other organisation is exclusively focused on protecting the endangered wildlife and ice-reef- ecosystem of the international waters of the Central Arctic Ocean surrounding the North Pole.
As seen from space, Earth is primarily a blue planet, hence the title of the BBC’s recent break-through natural history documentary series about our oceans, with Antarctica’s ice sheet and the Arctic Ocean’s sea-ice cover providing the white colour around the Poles.
But global climate change is rapidly reducing the Arctic’s sea-ice cover resulting in the northernmost white area becoming increasingly blue open ocean. Humankind’s activities are literally changing the face of our planet as seen from outer space!
Unbeknown to most people, because so few have ever visited it, and even fewer have studied it, the sea-ice cover is actually a habitat supporting a diverse, abundant and unique array of plant and animal species. Species whose existence depends for all or part of their lifecycle on the presence of sea ice.
Will all the Arctic sea ice eventually melt – with it not to return even in the winters? On current projections, Yes. Possibly as soon as 2100. And what wildlife are we thinking of, exactly? The world’s second largest animal, the Bowhead Whale, and the world’s only seabed-feeding whale, the Gray Whale; seal species including Harbour, Ribbon, Bearded, Spotted, Hooded and Ringed; all three sub-species of Walrus; the world’s largest dolphin, Orca; the spiral-toothed Narwhal (the source of the mythical unicorn); the most sophisticated communicator of whales, Beluga Whale; and the world’s ultimate surface apex predator, Polar Bear. And these are just the mammals! But does creating a marine protected area ensure all the current species inhabiting the Arctic Ocean will survive? No!
So what is the point in creating a protected area. Well, the reality is it will become the refuge of last resort for many marine animal and plant species currently living further to the south, as they move north to find waters in which they can survive as their current waters become too hot due to global warming process. Whatever global warming does elsewhere, the Central Arctic Ocean will always provide the coolest waters in the world for species to make a last attempt at survival.Such refugia for species have already been observed in specific localities around the world in response to climate change.
So the international waters of the Central Arctic Ocean are likely to become a refugium for Arctic and sub-Arctic species – an ‘Arctic Ark’ offering a similar service toNoah’s Ark. This is why the international community should prevent all disruptive, damaging and destructive human activities from ever even starting in the Central Arctic Ocean. It’s the last chance saloon for a myriad species and likely as not, the human race, which depends on the planet’s biodiversity and the health of the oceans for its oxygen, processing of waste, and fresh water.
Securing protection for this biologically critical region urgently needs someone to represent the unspoken and unheard voices of these species and present their case in the highest international policy-making circles. This is what Pen Hadow and 90North’s ocean conservation team are doing.
- What can businesses and their employees do to help 90North with the Arctic situation?
Businesses, for example those selling to the public or involved in bidding processes requiring evidence of progress towards sustainability, have found that reducing their environmental footprint is often the first necessary step.
However this tends to involve a range of relatively technical procedures and workaday changes in habits, which for those with public-facing brands and consumer-facing products, has proved largely difficult to communicate sufficiently effectively and interestingly that they can gain competitive advantage.
This is because essentially all that businesses and brands are doing is admitting to having a significant footprint, and then trying to reassure stakeholders they are working to reduce, minimise or eliminate this. Or, put another way, they are Doing Less Bad. While a necessary exercise, this is not facilitating positive messages.
So how can businesses and brands get on the front foot and Do More Good? Well, one simple way is to allocate resources in support of conservation organisations. And let your stakeholders know Why and How you are supporting such an organisation, and with What results. Yes, resources includes cash, but importantly it can also include a range of relevant in-house expertise, communications access to your stakeholder groups (including supply chains, customers and clients), and use ofyour facilities, equipment and events (including meeting rooms and conference speaker-slots) … and allowing employees to give an agreed amount of time each month to help a conservation charity, whether from their office desk or in the field. This can be a valuable extra resource to small but potentially potent conservation organisations.
And, yes, cash is king, but unrestricted donations, which conservation organisations can then use to fund their essential core operating costs (rather than only the specified projects and programmes cherry-picked or developed by a funding partner) is of even higher value than restricted funds.
You see, when the WWF was founded in 1961, environmental issues, problems and crises were relatively limited in number and scale … and even manageable (seemingly at the time). Many organisations since 1961 have been set up in response these problems, but there is no way these charities and non-governmental organisations can cope with the mushrooming number and scale of the challenges before them. I suspect at best we have naively assumed/hoped it’s their job to sort out any problems the rest of us cause. Just as everyone knows every school needs a janitor to keep the infrastructure working so that everyone else can get on with their work (and everyone is content to pay the minimum amount and keep them out of sight of daily school operations), so the world’s essential nature conservation bodies are minimally resourced and are rarely seen in action doing ‘whatever it is they do’.
But now, with every year that passes, the nature, number and scale of environmental problems are multiplying at an alarming rate and it is preposterous to simply stand by and watch them try to tackle the conflagration we have created.
Why marketing teams cannot see the opportunity is a mystery to me. Huge budgets of relatively undifferentiated brands are poured into already brand-cluttered sports events, with prodigious sums required to achieve significant brand penetration.
Added to which, these funds have minimal social and environmental value, essentially funding the income for a few sports-people, sporting bodies and their executives and television networks. And frankly, some sports are embarrassing themselves trying to claim credit for their environmental credentials, the proposed Formula E being a case in point.
I can assure you there are vast swathes of opportunity in the environmental sector for savvy marketeers who are looking for brand differentiation, branddevelopment and brand personality … not to mention and reputational enhancement and resilience. And it can be built through an authentic relationship with anauthentic conservation organisation running an authentic campaign, programme or activity … that your stakeholders will respect and salute.
And I’m not just hypothesising or indulging in wishful thinking. I ran the environmental research and public engagement programme, Catlin Arctic Survey. It was sponsored by the global specialty insurance and reinsurance company, Catlin Group. It invested, sponsored and partnered Arctic Survey with £5 million (ofunrestricted funds). “Catlin Arctic Survey exceeded our wildest expectations.” Stephen Catlin, CEO, Catlin Group reported.
Catlin Arctic Survey secured an independently-assessed event Advertising Value Equivalent of: £34 million in 2009; £25 million in 2010; and £30 million in 2011.
In 2009 alone it included: 90+ national TV news networks broadcast stories about Catlin Arctic Survey; 500+ newspaper and magazine titles printed stories; 1,000+ online sites reported on the Surveys; CNN, BBC World, BBC News, Al Jazeera and Channel 4 embedded journalist teams; numerous TV news features, each broadcast multiple times by their respective international platforms; and x4 10-30 minute international TV documentaries
In reality, Catlin Arctic Survey secured considerably in excess of the evaluated £89million media value and enabled substantial additional unmeasured value and benefits for its employees and other stakeholders. The event was also a European Sponsorship of the Year – Community finalist in 2009.
So, What can your business do to help 90North? I think you now know!
- Do you have a favourite Arctic animal?
There are four Arctic animals that fascinate me: Arctic fox; Pomarine skua; Muskox; and Greenland shark.
The Arctic fox has a fascinating evolutionary trait to survive in its cold climate. The arteries and veins in its limbs are situated quite close to each other. Due to this, a continuous chain of heat transfer is established between the warmer blood in the arteries and the colder blood in the veins. The arterial blood loses heat to the blood returning to the heart, and thus it doesn’t have much excess heat to lose in the paws.
But what is even more extraordinary is that Arctic fox defy one of their own disabilities to survive the winter months. Arctic fox are not swimmers, and certainly not long-distance ocean swimmers. And yet I have seen them and their tracks over a 1,000 kilometres from the nearest land because their best chance of survival is to use their acute sense of smell to trail the polar bears operating far offshore on the Arctic Ocean’s sea-ice cover … until they find a seal carcass abandoned by a polar bear. But as climate change shrinks and thins their sea ice habitat, such an extreme adaptive behaviour will increase their risk to encountering un-swimmably wide stretches of open water back to terra firma.
And now, to the Pomarine skua? Well, it has evolved some specific skills that don’t make for good reading before dinner-time! In zoological terms these ‘survival skills’ are referred to as klepto-parasitic! This large gull has learnt how to identify which other smaller gull species, such as Red-legged Kittiwakes, are holding swallowed fish in their gullets as they fly. The skua attacks the gullet’s of these birds, forcing them to regurgitate their food – and the skua, knowing this is the likely outcome is ahead of the game and is already swooping below its victim to catch the vomit before it hits the ocean surface. Yum! I saw many such antics performed as we sailed into the Central Arctic Ocean with Arctic Mission in 2017.
The Muskox (of the sheep family) is always on my favourite animals list for two reasons. First, it has the rare distinction of being a surviving species from the last ice age when Woolly Mammoth, Wooly Rhinoceros, Cave bear, Cave lion, Cave Hyena, Sabre-toothed Cats and Aurochs (the ancestors of modern cattle) roamed the tundra. Why the Muskox survived and the others didn’t, I’ve yet to find out.
The second reason is their two-layered coat, with ‘Qiviut’ being the soft underwool beneath their longer outer wool. The Muskox sheds this layer of wool each spring. Qiviut is stronger and warmer than sheep’s wool, and softer than cashmere wool with its fibres only 18 micrometers in diameter (with females and young animals having even finer wool). And, unlike sheep’s wool, it doesn’t shrink in water at any temperature.
One of the saddest sights I’ve ever seen is a small herd of muskox on one of the Queen Elizabeth Islands in northern most Canada. They were all dead, their corpses in various states of decay. Their killer was a natural phenomenon. As they lay down on the tundra, chewing the cud, it had rained. And then a fast temperature drop had frozen their longer outer hairs to the ground, thereby pinning them down. Unable to free themselves from this multiple-day icy grip, they had died of thirst and starvation where they lay.
Which leaves us with the utterly extraordinary animal that is the Greenland shark. Are you ready for this, I wonder? Where to even start?
So, they grow approximately 1 centimetre each year till full-grown at 5-7 metres. The females are not able to breed until they are about 150 years old. Yes, 150 – that’s not a typo. They are known to operate 2 kilometres below the sea surface in the Arctic regions where it is to all intents pitch dark – that’s 500 metres deeper than the operational depth of nuclear submarines. Many are partially blind because a parasitic copepod (a worm-like creature) latches on to the shark’s eye and destroys the corneal tissue. They are thought to hunt and kill seal while they sleep, either as they hang suspended at the sea surface, their nostrils able to breathe the air above, or on shallow seabeds where seal sometimes doze.
But its match-winning characteristic is that they are known to be the world’s longest living vertebrate. Scientists currently assume a normal full lifespan to be approximately 272 years, with one known to be 390 years old. However eye tissue analysis and radio carbon-dating techniques have estimated they may live to as old as 512 years. If that were the case, there may be a Greenland shark swimming in Arctic seas today that was born while Henry VIII was the king of England!
And if forced to give my favourite … I’d probably say the Greenland shark for the physiological and behavioural adaptations it has made to be able to survive and thrive in the world’s most extreme ocean habitat.