Retracing the route of the 1923 Oxford Expedition to Spitsbergen
The main objective of the expedition is to retrace the route of a 1923 Oxford University expedition that crossed East Spitsbergen. We will leave Duym Point on the East Coast of Spitsbergen on 31st July, exactly 93 years to the day since a sledging party from Oxford did in 1923. Over the course of four weeks, we will nordic ski 184 miles across the Ny Friesland Ice Cap, to arrive on the West Coast at Klaas Billen Bay on 29th August, a journey which takes us across the inland ice cap and through the Atomfjella and Chydenius mountain ranges.
Three of the four members of the sledging party kept a diary of their time on the ice, subsequently publishing papers in the Alpine and Geographical journals. In addition, they took tens of large scale landscape photographs. We have already completed extensive archive research at the Royal Geographical Society, Scott Polar Research Institute and Merton College, Oxford, to piece together the events of ninety three years ago. All that remains is to match those stories to the landscape. By producing a documentary film feature in the field, we will be able to compare these two contrasting polar narratives.
The Ny Friesland has received very little attention from scientists. We are working closely with researchers at Oxford University and the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS) to collect a variety of data throughout our journey. The only recordings of biological samples ever made in this area were by the 1923 expedition and we will record, photograph and collect DNA samples from the species of vascular plants we encounter en route. We will be using photogrammetry, the science of measurements through photography, to investigate glacial change in the Arctic. By using a drone we hope to be able to create accurate 3D maps of selected glaciers and their surroundings. Fixed point repeats of the original photos taken on the 1923 expedition will add a powerful comparative element to the study, which aims overall to show the effects of changing climate on the Arctic landscape.
New Mountaineering Routes
Svalbard boasts some of the most dramatic peaks in the Arctic. Indeed, the name Spitsbergen derives from the Dutch phrase, ‘pointed mountains’, chosen by the Frisian navigator Willem Barentsz in 1596. The 2016 team aims to summit a number of ultra-prominent peaks climbed on the original expedition, including Poincarétoppen, Mount Irvine and Svalbard’s highest, Newtontoppen (5,666 feet). Most importantly, the underlying motivation for the 1923 expedition was to scale hitherto unclimbed mountains. Following in the same spirit, it is our intention to carve out new routes and lines in the remote Stubendorff/Atomfjella range.
July 25: They're off! Good luck!
July 29: This it it! See you in 32 days
September 1: They're back!
Spitsbergen Retraced returns after crossing Svalbard in the footsteps of the 1923 Expedition.
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