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Borealis Society Update


By Expeditions Leader Nigel Bidgood, FRGS 

In January 2022 the new Principal of the Mount School, David Griffiths, founded The Mount School Borealis Society which is dedicated to furthering the academic education of Sixth Form girls in matters relating to the Arctic and Sub-Arctic areas of our planet and, at its epicentre, to providing opportunities for them to experience major mountaineering and trekking expeditions to these boreal areas.

These expeditions are intended to provide a challenging environment in which the girls can step outside their normal physical and mental comfort zones but within a distinct academic learning experience that is intended to both widen their intellectual horizons, and broaden their experiences, of the world beyond the school gates. This academic learning experience will involve areas as diverse as biology, geology, history, culture and geopolitics and will take place both within school and on the expeditions themselves. The emphasis of these experiences is based firmly on developing such personal qualities as resilience, self-reliance, independence, team work and confidence.

Initially the aim had been to set up a lecture programme and to begin the organisation of the first expedition for the Summer of 2023. However, the response was overwhelming, including a number of girls from College II, who were very keen to end their Sixth Form by taking on the sort of challenging opportunity that has been denied them during the pandemic.

Expedition to Iceland

Consequently, an expedition for the Summer of 2022 was rapidly researched and has now been organised. A party of twelve, including nine College girls, will spend three weeks in the remotest part of Iceland, Norðurstrandir in the Vestfirðir, the isolated North-west of the country. They will explore the remote fjords and ascend the mountains centred around Iceland’s northernmost ice cap, Drangajökull, carrying all their own gear and provisions whilst studying the Arctic flora and bird life of this remarkable area, truly at the northern edge of Europe. Access to the area will involve a bus charter followed by chartering a boat to approach this remote coastline from the sea.

North-West Iceland

The group members have begun their training and all the individuals are presently fully involved in organising the expedition gear and provisions prior to moving on to gaining proficiency in the use of this gear including navigation, river crossing and campcraft training.

Expedition to Greenland

The second expedition (which was originally planned as the first) will take place in the Summer of 2023. Planning has started and the first pupils (from Year 11) have already signed up. This four week expedition will visit the area of East Greenland, again using local boats to access the deep fjords, in the mountainous glacial areas bordering the great Ammassalik and Sermilik fjords.

This is the same area in which the renowned British Arctic Air Route Expedition, led by Gino Watkins, was based in 1930-31 and The Mount group will study aspects of the local geology, flora and culture building on the records of the expedition kept at Oxford University, to which fortunately we have access. The other objectives will involve completing challenging journeys and ascents in this stunning glacial wilderness.

East Greenland

The planning, preparations and training together with the final recruitment will take place in September 2022 following on from the launch of the winter lecture programme and its first lecture.

This winter lecture programme will feature speakers delivering talks pertaining to topics relating to the Arctic and Sub-Arctic and these talks will be open to Mount School parents and pupils. Details will, of course, be published in due course.

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