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!
Where is Felicity right now...?
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!
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...
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."
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!
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
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/
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!
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...
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!
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!
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!
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.
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
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! 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!!
I was in Krasnoyarsk, one of the largest Siberian cities, for a little while this month and took the opportunity to visit the Regional Museum which has one of the best ethnographic collections in Siberia. There were some good displays on a variety of the ethnic groups across Arctic Asia including Yakut, Ents, Evenki, Dolgan and Ket, with a special section dedicated to shaman.
I was particularly interested because I have been invited to guest curate a brand new exhibition about Arctic peoples that will be based around the Pole of Cold expedition. The new exhibition is due to open in late 2016 but the development work has already begun. I see myself as a story-teller, so this new creative challenge feels like a wonderful new extension of that. Whether through books, talks or exhibitions, it is sharing stories in brilliant new ways that I find exciting.
Yesterday I was invited to join the 2015 Women of the Year lunch - an annual event held by the Women of the Year Foundation to highlight the achievements and struggles of women in all sections of society and across all industries.
The room was full of so many incredible women, all of whom have excelled in their own fields, such as Wing Commander Nikki Thomas (first woman to command an RAF fast jet squadron), politician Shirley Williams, actress Nicole Kidman, Reverend Libby Lane (first female Church of England bishop) and, one of my personal heroines, Joy Lofthouse who flew Spitfires during WWII.
Among the award winners was Dame Stephanie Shirley who started her own software company in 1962 which became a vast concern valued at £1.2 billion by the time she retired. Calling herself 'Steve' at first in order to be taken seriously, she made a point of only employing women in her company - right up until the Gender Equlity Act of 1975 forced her to do otherwise.
But the story that struck me most was that of another award winner, Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell. In 1967 she discovered a new type of star - a Pulsar - but despite the importance of this discovery it was her male colleagues that were awarded Nobel Prizes. In her acceptance speech she said, 'The world is unfair but it is how we respond to that unfairness that is important.'
It didn't take me long to get back on the sea. This time aboard the M/V Sea Spirit as it sailed from northern Iceland to East Greenland and back. I was on board as a lecturer talking about aurora, vikings and polar exploration as we nudged through close pack ice in the Franz Josef Fjord and Scoresby Sund fjord systems - some of the biggest by area in the world.
I've just returned from a summer on board the 50-Let-Pobedy (50 Years of Victory), a Russian nuclear powered icebreaker and the most powerful icebreaker in the world. We made four trips across the Arctic Ocean to the North Pole from Murmansk. The ship will now return to its normal icebreaking duties, keeping shipping moving along the north-east passage throughout the winter.
The world's icebreaker fleet will only grow in importance in the decades to come, so I valued the opportunity to experience what they do for myself. I was also fortunate to take part in a new Arctic Ocean Sea Ice Research Project run by Alex Cowan and Lauren Farmer (www.polarcollective.org) which has the potential to set a new and important standard practice for Citizen Science in the Arctic.
Images and film clips from the journey are shared on my Facebook page if you would like to take a look.