BSES HQ receives expedition field updates weekly so check back every Monday to see what has happened in the week gone by.

Thursday, June 18

Rein Walking

YE Diaries by Jamie Worsley

After a brief 30 minutes to one hour meeting in the leader’s tent with the Lucys, Christian, Mark, Sarah, Fay and myself we decided which route would be the most adventurous one to take on the last excursion home around the coast. The nature of our Young Explorers keen attitude meant that we were to do the opposite of the other Fires and leave at an early 2am, as opposed to the normal and leisurely 0900 hours. By swapping day and night we can take advantage of the firmer footing on the tundra and the last few miles of snow. So we left at a prompt 2am with our rucksacks on our backs, some looking neater than others and some even managing to avoid putting kit inside the rucksack and instead strapping and laying kit off the outside (this is when the handless mug is a problem).

After a few hours there was a shared feeling amongst the Fire that the pulks that we happily left at Base Camp 3 were much easier and required less energy. We pushed on and it was not all in vain as we happened to spot a pod of beluga whales, which the biologists and non biologists alike enjoyed. Watching possibly 15 whales graciously swim through the water just off the coast of Hatten.

With only a few breaks we arrived at Deltaneset at 9 am and chose a suitable campsite. The girls set up their tents whilst the men bivvied out. Actually before Mark and I knew it Christian provided background music, by snoring, whilst we had dinner in our sleeping bags. Having a sleep or ‘power nap ’as it had been more frequently known towards the latter part of the expedition (especially in Tobredalen under Pat’s leadership) we set off at around 5pm heading in the direction of Carolinedalen. After numerous occasions of plunging through snow and bog, we kicked steps up the Carolinedalen col and set up a buried ice axe belay as the last 5 m as the gradient of the col proved too steep to walk up with full expedition packs on.

Jaime climbing the easy section of the slope up to the Carolinedalen col. Photo L. Bruzzone

We carried on the following day making our way across the Hanaskogelva and arrived at Hiorthhamn on the 12th. Having a nice evening sunshine on our face. Polarrev Fire joined us and we made a warm fire shielding us from the cold wind off Adventadalen. That night we savoured the moment as we all knew it was our penultimate campsite.

The next morning kicked off with the Doc banging on Christian and my tent and creating a wind tunnel which efficiently got us up. Rein headed for the beach as the boat was waiting to ferry us across with all the kit that we had been carrying for 10 weeks.

Boarding the rib ‘Hilmar’ for the trip across Adventfjorden and back to civilisation. Photo J. Worsley

Tuesday, June 16

Arriving Home

For anyone who wishes to greet the expedition as they arrive home this evening, the flight information is as follows:

Airline: SAS
Flight Number: SK815 from Oslo
Arrival Time: 21:35
Airport: Heathrow Terminal 3

Isbjorn's Walk Home

YE Diaries by Jamie Logie

We set off in the final Fire of the expedition, in a reflective mood, with the realisation that every step we now took was a step closer to home. Isbjørn (Ash, James, Adrian, Steve and our leader Richard) set out on the evening of the 9th, packs laden with 10 weeks worth of dirty kit, and moved 3km from camp to bivi out high on the cliff tops.

Clifftop bivvy Photo R. Payne

We spent the night under the sky, with the fulmars and puffins swooping above our heads, and an arctic fox yelping at us (clearly distressed at having a bunch of very smelly people living on his territory). The following morning, with our packs managing to have somehow doubled in size, we set off like a group of gypsy travellers down to the shore.

We walked along the beach, where the ground was firmer than the bog above, and made good speed, covering around 6 kilometres in an hour. We walked past Rein, who were slumbering peacefully after their 2am start, and sat watching a great skua feed on a dead puffin. That night we lit a bonfire to burn our rubbish, with Ash’s goal to burn every piece of wood on the beach. We failed to achieve this audacious goal, but did manage to fumigate Richard and his tent, and give our sleeping bags the strange scent of a wood fire. That night, the sight of an enormous walrus swimming by our camp sent us into a restful sleep.

For what we thought to be our final full day in the wilderness (we were, in fact, to arrive a day early having mixed up our dates), we set off along the coastal route beneath the cliffs of Forkastings as opposed to going via Carolinedalen. We were unsure if this route was passable or not (last years YEs had been turned back by an advancing tide), so with the threat of having to give up and retreat at any point looming over our heads, we raced onwards against the tide, Thankfully, our route proved fruitful, and we stormed round to Reveneset (within view of the airport) by midday.

The coast between here and Hiorthhamn (our boat pick up point) was littered with quaint huts, disused mining equipment and WWII gun placements. We felt especially at home amongst the machines of the ‘Campbell Gas Works. Halifax, England’.

James ‘at home’ on the Campbell gas engine. Photo R .Payne

We bivied out on the beach, under James’ defiantly flapping English flag, for what we thought to be the last time. Sadly we were to spend the day waiting in vain due to our timing issues. A visit from a group of Norwegian kayakers, who though we had claimed the area in the name of her majesty, kept us amused before we settled down for our actual last night.

The Fires united on Saturday morning as the boat pulled in to Hiorthhamn bay. So it was, with our heavy pack and light hearts, that we sped across the bay under the glorious arctic sun into civilization.

In The Beginning

YE Diaries by James Settrey

The start of this expedition could be seen as the day I went to the meeting in Newcastle on what BSES were planning, the days I spent acquiring equipment, or the weekend camping in Scotland. For me however it was the explosion of energy and mad panic at Heathrow airport. It has been seven weeks since I stood side-by-side with the other young explorers (YEs), some I half knew from previous meets others complete strangers; in the queue for tickets.

Strangers at Heathrow Photo M. Kittle

When I think back on that day my memory plays as if on fast forward. The tickets were handed out, the heavy bags checked, then we were off flying to Copenhagen, then Oslo, (each time getting the same airplane safety procedure on how to manually inflate our lifejackets, etc.) then finally Longyearbyen. It was cold, and dark, with air so crisp that it stole the breath from your lungs; coughing and spluttering we walked across the small airfield to the terminal. There was no need to check passports, or go through security, we simply collected our bags and were soon on a bus on route to the hostel which would be our refuge for the next 4 nights. The hostel seems luxurious to me now, four bathrooms (with a shower), kettles, central heating, and nice soft, warm beds; although I’m sure may have seen it differently at the time.

It was whilst at the hostel the Fires were chosen, an identity which seemed so important then, has little influence now as every YE is a friend. I do remember, though, that it was with Isbjørn Fire that I set off to Base Camp One (BC1). The journey still holds some memories; our first ‘snowed in day’ when Ash dug a hole, which only purpose seemed to be to trap his tent partner Ben in; and the first taste of downhill pulking. Though many of the jokes, and funny moments have been lost to newer ones, the feeling of excitement and wonder that accompanied me throughout that first little adventure still remains.

Base Camp One itself brought with it an interesting problem, which had been worried about by many since they left the comfortable bathroom facilities of the hostel. Although some (myself included) had braved the cold behind, and lack of privacy which came with the snow dug toilet, others were holding out in hope of something more civilised at base camp…cometh the ‘toilet tent’. It offered more privacy, and some protection from the elements, however it didn’t have the view, or the ventilation, of the outdoor toilet!

Time, however, at BC1 was brief and soon we were off (in our Fires) once again, Polarrev ski toured to the Blackbreen Glacier, whereas myself and Isbjørn left for the Foxbreen Glacier. It was here that the real first Base Camp was founded, we settled in the edge of the terminal moraine, pitched tents and tentipi, and began the science work.

Isbjørn surveying on the Foxbreen Photo R.Payne

Again my memory of this time does not account for every joke, laugh and tease, indeed it is from this time one of my worst memories of this trip comes from. Tied by rope in a group of five, one probing the depth of snow, another GPSing, and one more noting the information. The problem which occurred you may have already spotted…three jobs, five people. I was left to envy Emily, who was meant to be the other redundant YE on the rope, but managed to clinch the prestige job of shouting “stop!” ever nine meters. It took a long time to make it back down to the bottom of the Foxbreen, and by then I was almost broken. Although time has a way of making even the darkest moments seem not so bad, and now looking back I get a strong sense of pride that I was able to help ‘map a glacier’.

Monday, June 15

Belated Birthday Wishes

Emily would like to send her belated birthday wishes to her sister Abby - she apologises that no carrier pigeons could be found to get the message to you in time for the 12th April! Best wishes

Polarrev Glacial Geomorphology

YE Diaries by Herpreet Bhamra (29 May - 08 June 2009)

After an action packed adventure week with Richard Polarrev Fire were ready to rest their weary blistered feet and hang up their plastic mountain boots for good (or at least 10 days). The previous science group lost no time in reassuring us that we were in for 10 days of R&R and we slept peacefully that night dreaming of days filled with sunbathing on the glacier and afternoon naps at 4. After 9 weeks in the arctic I should have learned that nothing goes exactly to plan. Nature had other ideas. Pit digging days with Pat consisted of an exhausting 2 ½ hour trek up the Blackbreen glacier and taking shifts digging pits in the snowpack until we reached the glacial ice. The pits were all over 2m deep and we had to construct steps in the hole to escape into the glorious sunshine. GPS-ing (daleking) days with Lucy B comprised of being roped to 4 others and zig-zagging up the glacier. Being attached to Sarah and James for 8 continuous hours is an experience that I do not care to relive again soon! My back lives in constant fear of seeing another day of measuring the snow depth of 417s point up the glacier with the avalanche probe.

The river which we are camped next to was slowly saturating with water and surged one night so we spent one day in the river, in those oh so flattering fluorescent orange waders mapping the river down the valley and measuring the flow.

Mark modelling the waders Photo L. Bruzzone

Due to the rapid rate of melting, our camp slowly began resembling a very boggy minefield and trips to the well and toilet became like circus acts with us nimbly jumping from one island of compressed snow to another. But we were well rewarded for our hard work. One sunny afternoon was dedicated to a session of arctic yoga in which we learnt that 10 weeks of expeditioning, pulking huge distances, clinging to ice walls with nothing but crampons and prayers, does absolutely nothing whatsoever to improve your balance or flexibility. On the 3rd June we celebrated Emily’s birthday in style. The entire Fire was invited to her ‘Arctic Birthday party ‘ and we spent the morning outside sunbathing in our -25º sleeping bags. For the afternoon we went survival bagging down an almost vertical slope and in the evening we all enjoyed a spoonful or two of birthday cake (gingernut base, crème choc chip desert layer and jelly topped with sprinkles) contrived by the culinary geniuses Mark and Joe in their tent. A memorable birthday we hoped.

Emily with her ‘birthday cake’

On our last day we summitted Ottofjellet which provided us with stunning view of the sea and surrounding mountains. We watched the boys ski gracefully down from the top without skins, they in turn then impatiently watched the girls slowly sidestep gingerly down, all Pat’s skiing lessons forgotten. A fitting final week for the expedition.

Herpreet, Emily and Sarah on Ottofjellet Photo S. Phillips