The Arctic Research Group organises and carries out scientific research expeditions in the High Arctic.
A registered UK charity, it is a non-profit, volunteer organisation.
It all started in 1975
Sometime during the winter of 1975 a group of Mountain Rescue personnel sat under an emergency shelter on the top of Kinder Scout in the Peak District of Derbyshire discussing forthcoming holidays, whilst outside the wind shrieked and flurries of snow hurled themselves across the moors. Since some of those present did not relish the thought of a hot parched stretch on a baking beach, one wag suggested that they ‘might just prefer to go to the Arctic instead’. It was out of this suggestion that Ian Frearson was first invited to go to Svalbard as a surveyor on an expedition in 1977.
Ian found the landscape captivating, the glaciers, the flora, and the fauna dynamic, in fact the whole package was a complete success. It is easy to become sold on the Arctic. Since those early days Ian made a total of thirteen trips – including one to Alaska. The remainder being to various corners of Spitsbergen, the largest island of the Svalbard archipelago. Ian noted at the time, “I hope never to tire of witnessing the variety and splendour of this region and for this reason alone have chosen once again to return to Svalbard” and it is true to say, Ian has never tired of it.
Ian continues, “The ever-present dangers, from both the natural environment and the inherent and latent dangers from wildlife, will always make a visit to these regions both special and serious. However, these are more than compensated for by the rewards available in spades from the harsh beauty of this area. These regions can be quite breathtakingly beautiful. Sadly, if we want things to stay as they are, things are really going to have to change. Let us hope that future generations will have the opportunity to see and think the same way”.
Following another expedition to Svalbard in 1983, Ian returned to the UK and reflected on the format of the expedition that had sought to combine both science and wilderness experience for paying guests. Within just a few years and clearly seizing the opportunity to focus more on the science, Ian had decided he would go back to the Arctic with a new expedition group he would found.
Just a few years later in 1988 the Arctic Research Group was formed by a group of Ian as Founder and four Founder Members, Richard Grant, Mike Haynes, George Shaw and Stephen Staley.
The first expedition took place in 1989 to Svalbard and was quickly followed by another expedition there in 1990 which was awarded a Rolex Award for Small Expeditions.
When setting out the group’s operating ethos, the concept, which remains the same to this day, is to carry out multi-disciplinary scientific research expeditions to provide the opportunities for researchers and volunteers to combine and deliver meaningful outputs, adding to the understanding of the Arctic.
The research projects that have been carried out have ranged across the sciences and from simple to highly complex pieces of multi-year research. The Arctic Research Group is in contact with the research community through the well-known organisations including Scott Polar Research Institute, British Antarctic Survey, Norsk Polar Institute and Universities both in the UK and internationally.
These connections to full time Arctic professionals and leading Arctic academics ensure that the research projects carried out by the Arctic Research Group are both relevant and connected to the latest research being carried out across the research community.
One aspect of the Arctic Research Group in selecting members and research projects is to provide high value for money expeditions to enable young and early career researchers to achieve field work experience in their chosen area of study.
The group is operated entirely by volunteers who all contribute to the financing of the expeditions both personally and through their work to raise funds and secure grants and research funding, as well as providing all their own expedition gear and an incredible amount of their personal time.
As can be imagined, the expedition itself is only a relatively short period of time for which many months and even years of preparation and aftermath are involved. It is clear therefore that the Arctic is an incredibly special place and provides ample rewards to the expedition members for all that goes into being there. It is also clear therefore that the expedition members are extremely committed to contributing towards, and continuing the work of many before them, towards understanding the Arctic, whilst creating a legacy to continue such work in the future.
The Arctic Research Group and the work it has done and is doing, the experiences that it has provided and will provide, and the influences that it has had and will have, would not have been or continue to be in existence, without Founder, Ian Frearson, FRGS to whom the credit for the vision belongs and the Founder Members who were inspired.