Short Tales #1

Arctic snippets by Ian Frearson

A small leather pouch with a secret useful object has been with me on all my travels.  From time to time I have been forced to use it to layout the areas involved with certain research projects.  I first used it in 1977, then in 1999 we set out a base line of 2,000 metres on a project involving ground pollution stemming from coal mining operations. 

OK all very well but what is it?  Well It is known as an optical square and thus the user has the magical chance of being able to look in three directions at once.  Used extensively by the Ordnance Survey site operatives even as late as the 1970’s these little tools are great for simple setting out and may give great accuracy once the knack of their use has been mastered.   What it does not do is to prepare the user for the whole range of experiences that awaits the Arctic traveller and just one of these I shall relate next time…

Surveying with optical square Ny-Alesund

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.

Safe & Successful Return

All seven members of the 2019 expedition have returned safe, successful and well from Bockfjord. Welcomed back into Manchester Airport by ARG Group Leader and Home Agent, Ian Frearson, the team are really pleased with how things went and their various experiences.

Bockford 2019

With research data, imagery and samples collected, another phase of work begins so that the efforts and contributions of members, sponsors, supporters and everyone involved are realised in delivery of the outputs from the expedition.
Firstly a short time to be back with family & friends and for some recovery from the exertions of the trip and the travelling. All too soon several of the team will be back at work and dealing with the surge of unread emails and messages having been out of WiFi range for the period of the trip.

Thankfully the precautions the team took to protect from bear attack were only put to theoretical test when trip wires were either deliberately or accidentally triggered by themselves. There were no sightings of polar bear in Bockfjord and yet there was another expedition not so far away that had tents and gear destroyed although gratefully, nobody was hurt in the incident.

After the initial break work will begin in earnest to sort and classify samples, undertake analyses, edit and put together film and photographs so that the all important element of reports may begin.

Look out for more information coming to this site and instructions on how to access these reports soon.

Expedition count down

With just one day to go, the excitement of heading North is palpable, not only for expedition members, but also Group Leader, families and friends.

SAS powering us there

With a few loose ends still to tie up, bags and barrels are distributed and the scientific projects ahead have been finalised. Plans set, travel and communications arrangements are made and those last days where the adrenalin takes over has arrived.

We cannot stress too highly how incredibly grateful we are to all of the many supporters of ARG whether through cash donations, discounts, donated or loaned equipment, or help in any other way. Without you, our supporters, we would not be going and the science we are about to undertake would not be possible. Thank you.

80 Degrees North means the field team will be completely out of normal communication so just a single daily text by satellite phone back to our home agent and a few planned media broadcasts on BBC Radio will be all there is to keep everyone informed on how the expedition is progressing.

Reports on our work, findings and experiences will commence as soon as we return so look out for some exciting news.

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.

Base Camp Food – order placed

A Derbyshire business, Base Camp Food, located in Melbourne, is to supply the mainstay of the sustenance for the 2019 expedition. Dehydrated rations are essential to help keep total carrying weights to a minimum and will also be supplemented with other lightweight foods – and of course the traditional expedition simnel cake.

Base Camp Food provided a selection of options for the members to trial before the order was placed.

“The taste and texture of these rehydrated main meals are amazing and we’re really pleased with the selection that Base Camp Food has provided for us” commented Chris Searston, “The speed of preparation is essential to help with getting food into us after our days’ work. We won’t have time for messing around and these ration packs will help with that.”

Kerry Logistics deliver support for ARG

We’re incredibly grateful to Kerry Logistics for their very generous donation towards the costs of the 2019 expedition. Their enthusiasm for providing financial support to help us deliver the research we’ve got planned, means such a huge amount to us. That they have been so generous is amazing.

Kerry Logistics are Asia’s leading logistics providers. Kerry Logistics Network Limited (the “Company”) and its group of companies (“Kerry Logistics Network” or the “Group”) is a diversified group based in Asia. Our core businesses encompass integrated logistics, international freight forwarding, express, supply chain solutions, seaport management and operations as well as insurance brokerage.
Kerry Logistics Network has more than 40,000 employees in 53 countries and territories worldwide.

Satphone broadcasts

The 2019 ARG expedition will be taking satphone communications with them to enable live broadcasts from the Arctic. Local radio stations BBC Radio Nottingham and BBC Radio Derby are both intending to bring listeners into contact with the expedition to hear about the progress with the research direct from Svalbard.

Climate Change Project Leader Professor George Shaw commented “Being able to speak directly with the listeners about the research work we’re doing is very important to us. It will perhaps help to bring the issue into clearer focus that climate change is affecting us all now and will continue to affect all future generations. We all have to increase our efforts to tackle climate change”.

ARG Group Leader Ian Frearson added “The Satphone will also be used for reporting and confirming that the expedition members are safe.
Battery power and costs are limiting factors so we have planned to have regular scheduled contact with the intention simply to have a communication handshake by text message”.

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.

Safe water support

Rotary Club of Wirksworth have been very generous in providing the expedition with an Aquabox family filter unit, to clean all of the water that the expedition members will drink while in the Arctic.

The Aquabox project has saved countless lives around the world by providing safe drinking water using simple, hand operated pump/filter units. The innovative AquaFilter technology produces safe and clean drinking water instantly and reliably without the need for chemicals. The pump/filter units contain sub-micron filters which are impenetrable to bacteria and most viruses.

Please help this very worthwhile cause and visit their website here

Countdown continues…

With just over ten weeks to go, the expedition preparation phase is in full flow. Members have been meeting regularly for months and committing their own time in taking the necessary steps for the expedition to go ahead with the best chance of success.

There are multiple aspects that have to be considered for just getting to and being in a remote location, miles from civilisation. Add in the demands to carry out precise scientific studies, whilst keeping a constant watch for the stealthiest of predators, in a place where freezing catabatic winds can descend down a glacier and plunge the temperature in seconds. The selected team has the skills, enthusiasm and expertise to deliver.

Funding or providing resources for the expedition is where you and others can be a part of it. Financial and other contributions that allow the expedition and its’ science to be carried out are just as important as being prepared to take the risks of going. Without both, nothing can be achieved. Please make a donation or contact us with offers of support.