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21 March 2016

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Intrepid explorers launch ‘Spitsbergen Retraced,’ an expedition to the Arctic Circle

Five members of Oxford University, including St Hugh’s student Jamie Gardiner, are preparing to undertake an exciting and daring journey into the Arctic to re-trace a pioneering 1923 expedition.

The group will attempt to repeat the 184-mile crossing of East Spitsbergen, an Island in the Svalbard Archipelago, and also hope to explore new mountaineering routes in the Atomfjella Mountains. This journey was first undertaken by members of Oxford University in 1923 and this mountain range was first explored by Andrew Irvine, a member of the 1923 expedition. The 2016 expedition aims to retrace this historic crossing and will be conducted over five weeks, unsupported and using only ski and sled.

Though this journey certainly presents a wonderful opportunity for adventure and challenge, these explorers are also maintaining an important research focus to the venture. The 1923 trip conduced a groundbreaking scientific survey of the plants and glaciers in the region, taking over 30 landscape photos. The 2016 group hopes to build on this record, planning to undertake biological surveys, repeating the 1923 photographs and completing a drone-based 3-D mapping of the ice cap. They believe that this will provide a crucial evidence base from which to determine the extent of glacial retreat and the effects of global warming on this remarkable environment.

It is also the explorers’ intention to film a documentary of their journey, to be viewed in comparison with those images captured ninety-three years ago. This documentary is to be submitted to film festivals in Oxford and further afield.

For more information about this expedition and its members, you can explore the Spitsbergen Retraced website, or the recent Oxford Today post.

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