On Friday 12 January, The Mount School Borealis Society East Greenland Expedition group visited Sedbergh School. This visit had a two-fold objective; to undergo some special expedition safety training and to visit the Sedbergh School archives.
The Expedition to East Greenland in the summer of 2024 is subtitled “In the footsteps of The British Arctic Air Route Expedition 1930-31”. Retracing the icy path of history, the 2024 Mount School Borealis Society East Greenland Expedition pays homage to the British Arctic Air Route, carrying the torch of exploration forward.
This expedition was a remarkable one, spending a year in Greenland and accomplishing many journeys on the ice cap and in the coastal mountains whilst doing research on the geology, flora, culture and the potential best air route across Greenland’s vast ice cap. The latter was first used during WW2 and drove the location of the air bases that the USA temporarily set up in East Greenland as part of establishing the safest route across to Iceland and the rest of Europe.
The Mount School Borealis East Greenland Expedition will be located in the same area of East Greenland that The British Arctic Air Route Expedition (BAARE) had their main base in. The Mount Expedition will be active in some of the same mountain areas and will similarly conduct research into the flora and culture of the indigenous people of East Greenland.
Led by the visionary Gino Watkins in the 1930s, the BAARE expedition paved the way for a new era of exploration. Now, in 2024, The Mount School’s East Greenland expedition carries the torch, with a majority of women leading the charge – a powerful symbol of how ambition and expertise transcend gender expectations.
Assisting Gino Watkins was a young man and former pupil of Sedbergh School, Freddie Spencer Chapman. He went on to write the famous book chronicling the expedition, “Northern Lights”. After attending Cambridge University, he later took part in a number of expeditions to Arctic areas and the Himalaya and had a distinguished war record (under terrible conditions and experiences in the Far East) prior to becoming a headmaster.
The Mount School is privileged to have been invited to visit Sedbergh School’s archives, to research Spencer Chapman’s life and the BAARE in particular. The expedition group has already been to the Royal Geographical Society to research their planned expedition using the Foyle Reading Room archives and the Map Room facilities. During this visit, the group was very lucky to be allowed into the inner sanctum of the RGS to see ‘Gino Watkins’ kayak’ an artifact from the BAARE.
Following their research and safety training, the expedition group then travelled on from Sedbergh to Ambleside, in the Lake District National Park. Here they visited The Climbers Shop. This provided an excellent opportunity for the group members to purchase some of the outstanding personal kit that they will be using in East Greenland such as softshell and insulated jackets, trousers, B2 mountain boots and glacier glasses. The Climbers Shop is a major supporter, and indeed sponsor, of the Borealis Society at The Mount and provides all the expedition hardware needed. The shop’s superb staff not only provide excellent advice and guidance but all purchases are covered by a very generous, and supportive, discount.
Overall, the team’s busy day on Friday was a great way to continue their preparations for the East Greenland Expedition. By participating in safety training and learning about the history of the region, they have laid a solid foundation for a successful and rewarding adventure.