Arctic Exploration

According to Apsley Cherry-Garrard, the Antarctic pioneer, ‘exploration is the physical expression of an intellectual passion.’ The first known thinker to sail far north was a Greek navigator and observer extraordinaire, Pytheas, in 330 BC. He spent six years searching for a mythical land where the summer daylight was unceasing and the Thule people lived, though an ‘obstruction’ of some descript brought his quest to a halt. On his death, full knowledge of his exploration was lost. The Greeks named the region Arktos, after the Great Bear constellation.

Obstructions thwarted Arctic explorers and travellers for millennia to come, from the early Vikings, the sixteenth century Dutch and English, the Russians and James Cook the following century, who established the separation of Asia and America, to the nineteenth century golden age of quests for the pole and the route from Atlantic to orient. Even then, it took until 1905 for Amundsen to successfully navigate the Northwest Passage, and until 1948 for Aleksandr Kuznetsov and twenty three others to reach 90 degrees north. Several centuries of physical hardship and mental labour produced a tenuous grasp on the Arctic environment and, even now, much of it still remains unexplored. Every Arctic expedition is a serious undertaking and a voyage of discovery, and no two are ever the same. As it has been for millennia, travelling the Arctic is a trip of a lifetime.

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