#page, #content {max-width: 95% !important;}

Senja, Arctic Norway - Cheap Accessible Adventure

Scandinavia is so accessible to us in the UK with and with the ‘last wilderness’ in Europe it really is a must for anyone loving the outdoors. Arctic Norway is even more accessible than most of Scandinavia through the gateway town with international airport Tromso. I’ve flown through Tromso before, heading over to the high Arctic islands of Svalbard but on this occasion I was keen to see what was there to do with only one or two weeks to spare.

That’s where we discovered the island of Senja and spent six days traversing the island, hardly seeing a soul. So if you’re competent in wild camping, love hiking and can read maps in low vis. (and like that sort of thing) then this is really awesome trip. Plus, it’s a super cheap trip if you play it right.

05-IMG_6837.jpg

From Tromso, you can take a ferry, that takes only a couple of hours, that drops you to the tiny little crossroads of Silsands and from there you’re on your own. Heading straight up into the hills of the interior you have the entire island to yourself.

11-IMG_6873.jpg

Water can be scarce in the high interior where there aren’t many rivers and if you’re lucky enough to have fabulous weather, like we did, then that means that the small streams that exist will be very low. So make sure you have plenty of water containers to fill up when you do find a water source and enough fuel to boil away water taken from less than perfect sources.

07-IMG_6847.jpg
08-IMG_6850.jpg

Hiking across the interior takes you over a mountain pass. Despite it only being around 1,000m high, being this far north means that you will have to pass over snow slopes and it can get bitterly cold with the weather exposure even in mid-August.

15-IMG_6901.jpg
13-IMG_6897.jpg

Despite not seeing another person, we did see plenty of reindeer. Having spent a fair bit of time in Scandinavia I know how common reindeer are and that they don’t really fear humans at all. Many a times I’ve woken up in my tent to the sounds of a herd of reindeer walking straight through our camp. As well as not being scared by humans they are also not bothered or interested in us. But that was different on Senja, clearly not seeing humans that often they were enthralled by our presence and kept on hiding behind the next rise to see us before running off to try and sneak up a different way to get a view. We were completely bemused and we enjoyed turning around every few minutes to find a couple of reindeer following us. They will stop in their tracks, frozen like a children’s game and start again when we turned back around.

16-IMG_6904.jpg
09-IMG_6859.jpg

Depending how quick you go, you’re looking at 4-8 days to get to the southern side of the island where a ferry leaves fairly frequently. Be sure to check out the days and times and make sure you’re there on time. You cannot bet on the weather but you can bet on the ferry times.

At a push, if you’re well organised, you could do this on a week’s trip, ideal for those of us with limited holiday. We took two weeks out and spent the second week exploring Tromso and other parts of the Arctic.

If this does inspire you to get to Senja send me over a photo. Happy planning!

Screenshot 2018-11-10 at 19.49.47.png
Screenshot 2018-11-10 at 19.44.56.png



Get the latest blogs straight to your inbox. Enter your email address:

Key Note Lecture at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology

Key Note Lecture at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology

On the 13th January I gave a key note lecture to an audience of over 700 students and faculty at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia on climate change.  Some of whom are leading figures in climate science. 

This topic is so important that I'm making the transcript of my talk available for all to read.  

Get the latest blogs straight to your inbox. Enter your email address:

Climate Change Through The Eyes of a Polar Explorer

I was privileged to give a talk to over 700 academics and students at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on the greatest challenge that our species has ever faced.  A transcript of the talk will be available soon, but for now here are some highlights. 

If you're interested in the talk delivered to your institution, please send an email.

"The rapid loss of the polar icecaps affect our entire planet and is something we simply cannot ignore any further"  -Explorer and Filmmaker Vijay Shah at his WEP 2016 Keynote Lecture 'Climate Change through the eyes of a Polar Explorer'.

"The rapid loss of the polar icecaps affect our entire planet and is something we simply cannot ignore any further"

-Explorer and Filmmaker Vijay Shah at his WEP 2016 Keynote Lecture 'Climate Change through the eyes of a Polar Explorer'.

"We must reduce greenhouse gas emissions today. ... This 2 Celsius target for reducing global warming is dependent on our actions." - Vijay Shah, explorer and filmmaker  ‪#‎WEP2016‬

"We must reduce greenhouse gas emissions today. ... This 2 Celsius target for reducing global warming is dependent on our actions." - Vijay Shah, explorer and filmmaker ‪#‎WEP2016‬

Get the latest blogs straight to your inbox. Enter your email address:

Climate Change Through the Eyes of a Polar Explorer

Last few days of preparation before we head over to Saudi Arabia and the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology to present at the Winter Enrichment Programme 2016.  For those attending, there is a special surprise planned. 


Get the latest blogs straight to your inbox. Enter your email address:

It’s all about the (H)Air

Now that summer’s coming round with a scorching hot Spring all of my ‘warm’ jackets are being put away, to the back of the wardrobe not to be looked at again for six months.  A question came to mind:  What makes a warm jacket?  Why is it warm?

I know the answer to this question, having thought about a lot over the years, but I was curious as to whether other people did.  Even asking my engineer friends, who pride themselves in knowing how things work, what actually made a jacket warm it did stump them for a few seconds presenting me with a look of bemusement as their minds churned away.

Clothing, be it big, warm jackets in the winter to just a light covering in the summer, is absolutely crucial for our survival.  Think about if clothing was never invented, ignoring the fact that we wouldn’t ever have made it out of Africa and assuming we were all comfortable seeing each other in the nude.  Popping out even on a summer’s day in the buff sends shivers down my spine just thinking about it  and imagine going to a British beach without a wind jacket...brrrr!!

Isn’t it bizarre that despite how crucial clothing is for our survival, for our success in inhabiting large portions of the world, that we rarely give it a second thought about why these materials keep us warm? About why certain materials work better than others?  We just know it.

So why do I know about this topic?  Because I have gotten cold, very cold!  In 2008, during our first attempt to cross the Penny Ice Cap on Canada’s Baffin Island in early spring conditions my feet became so cold they turned blue and were completely numb.  It was apparent that to continue on the expedition was to seriously risk my feet or worse and so with no real choice at hand we had to back off the expedition.  It was a massive blow back then, an expedition a year in the planning, ruined.

Source:  Antony Jinman

Source:  Antony Jinman

The most curious thing though, was that my team mate, Antony, and I were wearing almost identical clothing.  Everything down to our boots was the same and brand new.   Antony’s feet were fine.  “Warm and toasty” he said.  I had no idea why my feet got cold.

Three years later I figured it out.  It was the simple fact of my boots being too small.  It’s amazing how the best laid plans went awry due to just the simplest of errors.   We went back attempting the crossing again in 2011.  This time, despite the same brand and model of boots, I wore a size bigger.  My feet were fine, more than fine, they were as happy as Larry.

‘Ah, yes of course’ we say to ourselves.  ‘Can’t have boots that are too small.’  But why?  What is the science behind this?  The answer is all around us.  Air.

Air is the best* abundant source of insulating material.  It’s also free, something nature has found out long ago.  Our hair, an animal’s fur and bird’s feathers primary purpose is to trap air.  By trapping a good layer of air between your warm body and the cold harsh world, the smaller the heat transfer, the warmer you will be. 

The polar bear has even gone one step further; each of their hair is actually hollow allowing air to be trapped within each strand as well as between the individual hairs improving the insulating properties.  On top of hollow hairs, the sea otter, with no blubber to keep it warm, relies on the densest fur in the animal kingdom allowing air to be trapped within its fur whilst spending prolonged periods in the water.  It’s all about trapping air.

Source:  Antony Jinman

Source:  Antony Jinman

That’s why when there is a wind blowing at you; through your hair, or you’ve dunked your head in a bucket of water**, destroying that trapped layer of insulating air; you lose a lot of heat.

That is exactly how our warm jackets work, be it stuffed with goose feathers or high-tech synthetic fibres.  The design of the feathers is optimum to trap as much air in the lightest and smallest structure.  Cover these wonderful feathers/fibres in a windproof or even waterproof shell and you’ve got yourself a jacket to rival nature’s best inventions.

So what happened when my boots were too small?  My toes pressed up against the front of the boot, squashed the fluffy fibres of my socks and destroyed the trapped air that would otherwise have provided a heat barrier.  Instead what I was left with was a direct and solid conduction path to the -35C exterior sucking away my heat.  They had no hope.

Next:  How do wetsuits keep you warm?

 

* - the best actually would be a vacuum such as that you find in your Thermos flask but those are pretty difficult and expensive to create and not very practical to be wearing.

** - water in your hair also creates greater heat transfer by evaporation, but that's something for another day...

Get the latest blogs straight to your inbox. Enter your email address:

Baffin Island 2011 - The Polar Bear Story

A re-edit of my 2011 short film documenting what should've been a straightforward journey to the start point of our Arctic expedition.  What actually happened blew us away.

A short film showing the start of our Penny Ice Cap crossing in Spring 2011. To get out to our start point we travel by snow mobile over sea ice for about eight hours. During which we came across some local wildlife...

Get the latest blogs straight to your inbox. Enter your email address:

BAFFIN ISLAND 2011 - SETTING UP CAMP

How to setup home on a remote glacier, a re-edit.

After a full days skiing, our bodies are getting tired. The sun is beginning to set and the temperature will soon plummet. Setting up camp requires everyone to work efficiently and quickly.


Get the latest blogs straight to your inbox. Enter your email address:

BAFFIN ISLAND CLIMATE CHANGE PROJECT 2010

It's been an incredible winter here in the UK.  It's the wettest winter on record bringing flooding to many parts of southern England.  It has also been surprisingly mild (average of 5.2C), making it one of the warmest winters on record.  This is in stark contrast with Northern America which has been locked in a polar vortex bringing temperatures down to -40C for extended periods of time.  These unprecedented conditions have been linked to climate change.

This reminds me of a video project I conducted a few years ago on our summer expedition to Baffin Island 2010.  For us, climate change has always been a 'hot' topic and I took the opportunity on this expedition to ask the members, in the midst of one of the most beautiful places in the world and undoubtedly one of the places most at risk from changes in the climate, about this topic.  I asked them 'Why should we care if the climate changes?' And in part two I asked them to discuss 'What needs to happen in order for us as a society to live more sustainably?'

See what the members answered in this video below, now edited for 2014:

In August 2010, a team of students, graduates and outdoor instructors spent one month on Baffin Island, trekking over 300km over tundra, morraine and glaciers. During the expedition I asked them: Why should we care if the climate changes?

Get the latest blogs straight to your inbox. Enter your email address:

The 5 Most Beautiful Secluded Places

Delighted to have some our Baffin Island footage appearing in Buzzfeed's latests video!  I guess I've certainly been to at least one of the most beautiful places in the world!

Get the latest blogs straight to your inbox. Enter your email address:

EC Bristol Drinks with Vijay Shah: 7th November

I'll be giving a talk at Explorer's Connect: Bristol on the 7th November.  See link below for more details:

EC Drinks with Vijay Shah

Get the latest blogs straight to your inbox. Enter your email address:

Swiss Arctic School Talk

Last week I was honoured to being asked to present to a class of ten year olds in Switzerland about the Arctic. A bit outside my usual geographical sphere of presentations but after hearing what happened in their last lesson I could not say ‘no’. The class had been learning about the Polar Regions for the last five weeks and on their last lesson they had been asked to figure out what a certain website was about – my website. The main problem is that my website is in English and they are Swiss (German). Nevertheless they were quite proud of themselves to figure out that it’s a website of an Arctic explorer. But when their teacher told them that on Monday this Arctic explorer in question might be coming to school they were unreservedly ecstatic. One girl claimed that she will bring in her autograph book. Of course after hearing such a story I couldn’t say ‘no’.

Upon presenting to them I was amazed as to their level of comprehension. As requested from their teacher I did not descend the level of my English below what I would have used for a group of native English speaking ten-year old pupils and on average they understood about 50% without a translation into German. We had one morning scheduled about the Arctic but even as the school bell rang a cry of ‘more’ erupting at the back of the classroom spread throughout: ‘MORE! MORE! MORE! MORE!’

This week they learned about climate change and with enthusiasm like this, I still have some hope for the future.

Swiss Arctic Talk 1 Swiss Arctic Talk 2 Swiss Arctic Talk 3 Swiss Arctic Talk 4

Get the latest blogs straight to your inbox. Enter your email address: