Spitsbergen Retraced | Expedition Objectives
Researching, mountaineering and skiing in the High Arctic, following in the footsteps of the groundbreaking 1923 Oxford University Arctic Expedition.
svalbard, expedition, arctic, oxford, university
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Expedition Objectives

Historical documentary

Three of the four members of the sledging party kept a diary of their time on the ice, subsequently publishing papers in the Alpine and Geographical journals. In addition, they took tens of large-scale landscape photographs. We have already completed extensive archive research at the Royal Geographical Society, Scott Polar Institute and Merton College, Oxford, to piece together the events of ninety three years ago. All that remains is to match those stories to the landscape.


By producing a documentary film-feature in the field, we will be able to compare these two contrasting polar narratives.

Scientific Research

We are working closely with researchers at Oxford University and the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS) to collect a variety of data throughout our journey. The Ny-Friesland area of East Spitsbergen has received very little attention from researchers, especially compared to other areas of the archipelago. The only recordings of biological samples ever made in this area were by the 1923 expedition and we will record, photograph and collect DNA samples from the species of vascular plants we encounter en route.


We will be using photogrammetry, the science of measurements through photography, to investigate glacial change in the Arctic. By using a drone as well as a ground mounted camera we hope to be able to create accurate 3D maps of selected glaciers and their surroundings. Fixed-point repeats of the original photos taken on the 1923 expedition will add a powerful comparative element to the study.


We will also analyse the snow to measure grain size and assess the concentration of black carbon particles emitted from incomplete combustion of fossil fuels and biomass. This data can then be used in conjunction with satellite data to enhance local and global climate


Svalbard boasts some of the most dramatic peaks in the Arctic. Indeed, the name Spitsbergen derives from the Dutch phrase, ‘pointed mountains’, chosen by the Frisian navigator Willem Barentsz in 1596.


The 2016 team aims to summit a number of ultra-prominent peaks climbed on the original expedition, including Poincarétoppen, Mount Irvine and Svalbard’s highest, Newtontoppen (5666 feet). Most importantly, the underlying motivation for the 1923 expedition was to scale hitherto unclimbed mountains. Following in the same spirit, it is our intention to carve out new routes and lines in the remote Stubendorff/Atomfjella range.