Where is Felicity right now...?

University of Reading

I was very honoured to be presented with the 2017 Alumnus of the Year Award by the University of Reading today. I attended Reading between 1999 and 2000 to complete a Masters degree in Applied Meteorology.

Recognition is always lovely but receiving this award was particularly wonderful because when I graduated from the University I wasn't able to attend the graduation ceremony - I was already on my way to Antarctica for the first time. So, today, it felt like I finally graduated - just 17 years late!

Huge thanks to the Chancellor and everyone at the University who made the day special - but especially Professor Giles Harrison who gave a wonderful award speech. You certainly did your research!


Giving Public Lectures in the UK

I have three very different but equally exciting public lectures coming up in the South East of the UK this October.

The first is a return to the Guildford Travel Club. It will be an extended lecture (2 x 45 minutes, with a very sociable interval for wine and chat) about the Pole of Cold expedition, followed by a book signing on Tuesday 3rd October. I spoke at the GTC a few years ago about my last Antarctic expedition and thoroughly enjoyed the evening so I am looking forward to this return. Details can be found here: http://www.guildfordtravelclub.org.uk/events/2017/talks/01-FelicityAston.html

Next up is Salon London, the always thought-provoking mash-up of art, science and psychology with its unique speaker format. This time it is an afternoon event in central London on Wednesday 4th October. Details and tickets here: http://www.salon-london.com/content/About_Us/

Finally, I will be interviewed by Jim McNeill at the Royal Aeronautical Club in Mayfair, London, on the 4th October as part of his 'Icons Interviewed' series. Details and Tickets at https://spark.adobe.com/page/oTJ7CAhOAASZP/?w=3_3106

If the South East is not your usual stomping ground, never fear! I'll be venturing West to Bristol later in the year (see Forthcoming Events) and North to Scotland for a mini speaking tour with the Royal Scottish Geographical Society early in 2018. I'll post full details as soon as dates and venues have been confirmed.

I look forward to seeing some of you there!

Enjoying the documentary teaser

If we find the sponsorship in time, I hope to be travelling to the Arctic in Aprilnext year to ski the last degree to the North Pole with a team of women from across Europe and the Middle East.

Holly Morris is making a documentary about our journey and she has put together a short video for us to introduce the expedition and the project. It uses footage taken during our two training expeditions - the first in Iceland, and the second in Oman.

It's a tantalising teaser of the full length film to come (working title 'Exposure')...but it all depends on finding the support we need...if you can help get information about our expedition in front of the right people, please do get in touch! You can contact the expedition via the website at www.euroarabianexpedition.com


Last September I held the first training meet of the Euro-Arabian North Pole Expedition on Langjokull Glacier in Iceland. For the team's second training meet it seemed fitting that - having travelled to a European destination last time - we should this time head to the Middle East.

The team in the distance clearly visible on the Sugar Dunes...

The team in the distance clearly visible on the Sugar Dunes...

Finding a suitable location for Polar training on the Arabian Peninsula might seem a hopeless prospect but Oman provided the perfect solution. We spent a week crossing the Wahiba Sands of Oman, a compact desert of bright red sand dunes a few hours drive from the capital. The heat was certainly a new challenge for a Polar team but in many other respects the skills demanded were ideal. From navigation to on-the-spot route finding, travelling together and learning to trust each other as a team - it was a perfect training ground.

Oman also provided a white landscape to make us feel at home. A little further along the coast from the Wahiba Sands are the Sugar Dunes, a patch of desert so white that at first glance it could be snow and ice. As the team hauls sledges full of equipment in polar style, the only thing that gives it away in the photos are the t-shirts and bare feet!

You can read a daily account of our training journey in Oman on the expedition website at www.euroarabianexpedition.com

Receiving an Authors' Foundation Grant

Very excited to have received a grant from the Society of Authors administered Authors' Foundation Grant. The funds will enable me to make a journey needed to finish off a book I have been working on for a while. However, I'm also deeply grateful for the belief in the project that the award of a grant implies. Thank you!

Giving the Royal Geographical Society Annual Children's Lecture 2016

I was really delighted to be asked by the RGS in London to give their annual lecture aimed at younger inquisitive minds. The 700 or so capacity Ondaatje Theatre at the RGS - with the names of legendary explorers etched in gold around the walls and a palpable sense of history - is always a pretty intimidating place to speak but I admit that a younger audience motivated me to prepare even more carefully than usual!

My talk 'Freeze! Adventures through the coldest weather in the world' ranged from meeting the Lord Keeper of the Cold in the coldest inhabited place in the world, to travelling to the North Pole in a nuclear-powered icebreaker, to skiing through whiteouts in Antarctica. There were lots of really great questions from the audience at the end - which, I think, is always a good sign that everyone has enjoyed themselves and found something interesting at the same time. I certainly enjoyed meeting many of the young geographers afterwards, even if I did miss out on the squash and activities going on in the next room!

Thanks to Sandi for the photo...

Thanks to Sandi for the photo...

On the BBC!

You might remember that I disappeared off to the Yukon for a month back in May/June? Well, the BBC History three-part series we were filming is due to be broadcast on BBC Two over the coming weeks with the first episode airing tonight (Sunday 30th October) at 9pm.
The remaining two episodes will be broadcast on Sunday 6th November at 9pm and Sunday 13th November at 8pm.

We had an epic time in the Yukon following the route of the 1898 Klondike Gold Rush, crossing mountain passes, running rapids in home-made boats, rowing 400km down the mighty Yukon and mining for gold. It was a lot of fun to film (mainly due to my companions Dan Snow and Kevin Fong being so unrelentingly witty and the rest of the crew being brilliant too) so I hope its as much fun to watch...

Update: If you missed the shows, you can see them on iPlayer for the next month here:


Revealed as a 'First Women' ambassador

A couple of years ago photographer Anita Corbin got in touch and invited me to be a part of her First Women project. I was delighted to have my portrait taken and was completely inspired by the project. What struck me was how surprising some of the 'firsts' were. It revealed how slow progress has been towards gender balance in many areas and how much ground there is still to cover.

Anita has now completed the 100 portraits that make up the core of the project and is preparing a travelling exhibit and a book. Please take a look at the website which features interviews with several of the women as well as a selection of portraits. www.1stwomenuk.co.uk

"First Women comprises a unique collection of 100 portraits capturing women in the UK who were “first” in their field of achievement. The portraits by photographer Anita Corbin provide inspiration and insight for a new generation of women seeking an understanding of their own roles in a rapidly changing world in which equality is still an issue. The full collection will be revealed in 2018 to mark 100 years of women’s suffrage."

Langjokull Glacier, Iceland

After a week of training the Euro-Arabian North Pole Expedition team in all the vital skills of polar travel it was time to test what they had learned! We travelled to Langjokull (Long Glacier), one of the largest glaciers in Iceland for a mini-expedition on the ice.

The team have spent five days on the glacier, camping in tents on the snow and travelling together on skis while pulling sledges. They have done extremely well and, although we still have a lot more work to do until we are ready to face the North Pole, it has been a solid start and the team have exceeded all my expectations. More importantly the group has bonded extremely well. There are lots of smiles, lots of laughter and a really special camaraderie. I couldn't be more proud!

Bringing the Euro-Arabian Team to Iceland

Six months ago I wrote about a new expedition idea on this website, asking women from across Europe and Arabia to join me on a ski journey to the North Pole. Nearly 1000 women got in touch and this week 12 of those women arrived in Iceland to meet each other for the first time.

The women are from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Slovenia, Sweden, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Cyprus, France, Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Kingdom. Despite the fact that many of the team have never done anything like this before, the reason for bringing them to Iceland is to equip them with all the skills and knowledge they will need in order to travel in the winter environment.

We have a lot of work ahead of us and a long journey that begins when they all arrive!

You can follow our progress on the expedition website at www.euroarabianexpedition.com as well as on social media - Twitter @northpole2017 - Instagram @northpole2017 - Facebook

Opening a new exhibition...

Spent the day at The Historic Dockyard, Chatham, where the latest and greatly expanded version of the Pole of Cold exhibition opens tomorrow. Titled 'Pole of Cold: Extreme Cold and Extreme Lives' the exhibition now includes objects on loan from the Scott Polar Research Institute and the National Maritime Museum as well as images, films and sounds from the expedition. I was blown away by how wonderfully all the material has come together to create a totally fantastic representation of life in the Arctic North.

My intention with the expedition was always to try and share as much of the experience of the journey with as many people as possible. The exhibition does that much better than I could ever have hoped. Alex Patterson and his team at The Historic Dockyard, Chatham, have done an amazing job. The exhibition is really 'hands-on' with the opportunity to try clothing and add ideas. I feel very proud to have been a guest curator and hope that lots of people enjoy it.

The exhibition opens tomorrow and continues until the 27th November. Further information can be found online......http://thedockyard.co.uk/whats-on/pole-of-cold/

Svalbard and Franz Josef Land

In mid-June I sailed from Reykjavik, travelling north from Iceland to Svalbard and Franz Josef Land. On our way northwards across the Norwegian Sea we stopped at Jan Mayen. This little island (no more than a volcano poking out of the waves) has always intrigued me when I've seen it on the map, so I was really pleased to visit the small science station there and see a little of the island.

Both Svalbard and Franz Josef Land were full of bears - we even saw eight bears on one hillside! Normally, this would be bad news as it means they have been left behind when the ice retreated northwards in the spring - but all the bears we saw looked fat and healthy.

It was a real privilege to be able to return to Franz Josef Land. The archipelago was as magical as I remembered it. I particularly love the walrus in all their snorting, belching, noxious smelling, gloriously ugly marvellousness!

Looking for Gold in the Yukon

Photo: Ryan Atkinson

Just back from the best part of a month in the Yukon looking for Klondike gold as part of a new BBC History series. We had lots of fun and I think I might have been left with a little gold fever for life - but I won't be sorry not to eat another chocolate bar or bag of peanuts for a while...

Sailing the China Seas

I was given the opportunity to be a speaker aboard a ship making a three-week voyage around the China Seas throughout March from Hong Kong and Shanghai to South Korea, Japan and Taiwan. This was the first time I had travelled to this part of the world and it was a revelation. South Korea and Japan have completely captured my imagination and I am anxious to find a reason to return and do some proper exploring!

Exhibition Opening in Reykjavik

Thanks to everyone who came along to the opening night of our exhibition 'Pole of Cold: What does winter mean to you?' in Arctic Trucks, Reykjavik yesterday. It was a wonderful turn out and a lovely evening with chocolates, prosecco and a Land Rover! The exhibition features images, sounds and objects from our journey to the coldest inhabited place in the world in 2013/14. It will be open to the public in the Arctic Trucks showroom until Friday 4th March - so if you are passing, please do pop in for a look!


Becoming an honorary Doctor

On Friday I was very privileged to attend a wonderful ceremony in the magnificent Canterbury Cathedral to receive an Honorary Doctorate from Canterbury Christ Church University, awarded by its Chancellor, The Archbishop of Canterbury. I was particularly touched when Vice-Chancellor Rama Thirunamachandran explained that it was the values behind my projects and expeditions that had led to the recognition from the University. I am very proud of that. It was also inspiring to be among so many graduates setting out on a new journey in their lives - thank you for sharing your day with me!


Speaking in Scotland

I spent last week on a mini speaking tour of Scotland, presenting talks about the Pole of Cold Expedition to Inverness, Perth and Bridge of Allan (Stirling) as part of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society's 'Inspiring People' series. We had a fantastic turnout, including sell-out audiences in Inverness and Perth (where we had to find extra seats for the 250 strong audience!) so thanks to everyone that came along. I was also delighted to speak to BBC Alba who reported on my talk in Inverness for the daily 'An La' news show. Appropriately for a talk about extreme cold, my final talk in Bridge of Allan ended with the snow falling outside - lovely to see Scotland looking so beautifully frosty.

Launching a new expedition!

I am looking for women from across Europe and the Middle East to be a part of an international team to ski the last degree to the North Pole in April 2017. The expedition will face many physical challenges – temperatures down to -40°C, polar bears and shifting pack ice - but the core purpose of the expedition is to foster greater dialogue and understanding between women from Western and Arabian cultures. In addition, the expedition will work to inspire all women to reach beyond the expectation of others to fulfill their own ultimate life ambitions.

Any woman of any age and level of experience who is a national and/or resident of any European or Arabian country is welcome to apply.

More information and the online application form can be found on this website here

Women's Adventure Expo

The inaugural WAE was held in Bristol. I was invited to speak and later sat on a general exploration panel alongside Arita Baijens, Ann Daniels, Lois Pryce and Rosie Stancer. It was a fantastic day overflowing with inspiration and enthusiasm. Congratulations to Tania and Rebecca who put together an impressive programme and an event with integrity. Here's to lots more!

Explore 2015

Explore! is the annual expedition and fieldwork planning seminar held over a weekend every November at the Royal Geographical Society in London. It brings together experts from a wide range of fields to share projects past and present, network, spark ideas, inspire and inform. There are panels that specialise in travel across deserts or the polar regions, sessions that are dedicated to travel by cycle or by vehicle, lectures on medical health, risk assessment and nutrition, as well as workshops on elements such as writing, filming and field research.

My first Explore! was more than a decade ago and every time I am invited back to speak or sit on a panel, I come away invigorated to start work on a new project. It is also pretty much the only occasion that brings together many of us expedition-types, so it is a much-valued opportunity to catch up with friends old and new.

This year, as well as sitting on the Polar Panel with Ben Saunders (awesome to hear from him about his recent epic across Antarctica), we were also both asked to be a 'dragon' on an expedition-dragon's den alongside Emily Penn, Neil Laughton, James Borrell, Dave Cornthwaite and Andrew Harper. Lots of fun and, I hope, a useful session for those that presented. See! We're not so scary!!