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Spitsbergen Retraced Arctic Expedition

A project by: Spitsbergen Retraced


WE RAISED £10,635

from 31 donors

This project received pledges on Mon 30 May 2016
5 students head to the Arctic to follow in the sledge-tracks of Oxford's 1923 expedition to Svalbard

Did I hear Arctic Expedition?

Yes you did! Spitsbergen Retraced is a historical and scientific expedition that will depart for the Arctic this summer. In August 2016, we will ski unsupported for 30 days and 180 miles across the island of Spitsbergen (Svalbard), just a few hundred miles from the North Pole. We need your help, and are carrying out this appeal to raise the final £10,000 to make this expedition happen!

We will be retracing an Oxford University expedition that crossed Spitsbergen in 1923, one which contributed a great deal of scientific knowledge about the region through geological mapping, surveying and taking highly detailed landscape photographs of the glaciers and mountains. We aim to go back 93 years later using their photographs and original diaries to tell the story of how the landscape has changed over the course of a century.

We will be in working in collaboration with the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS) to conduct new scientific research in the region, specifically hi-resolution 3D mapping of selected glaciers, ice caps and mountains using state-of-the-art drones, and collecting DNA samples of the plants we encounter en route. Our research will help scientists to understand the way the ice and ecology is changing in this period of climate change we are experiencing. We believe it is important to further our understanding of Svalbard on this expedition, much like the previous team did 93 years ago, and hope that the data we collect will be a real contribution to the scientific community. 

Above: Training expedition to the Cairngorms, Scotland

Expedition objectives (see website for more detail):

  1. Repeat photographs of the 1923 expedition’s extensive set of landscape panoramas
  2. Historical analysis of the changes in polar exploration over the course of a century using the extensive material acquired thus far, with a focus on attitudes and technology.
  3. The first 3D maps of selected glaciers and mountains acquired using latest drone technology
  4. The first plant DNA samples to be collected in the area since the 1923 expedition first sampled them
  5. A feature length film of our journey

Above - Andrew Irvine enjoying the sun in Spitsbergen, August 1923

Who are we?

Our expedition team consists of four undergraduate students and a spirited fellow, all from Oxford University.

Liam Garrison (far right, below) is a fourth year chemistry student at Somerville, and is the photographer and filmmaker for the expedition. He has been on climbing, cycling and trekking expeditions across the globe, but has yet to go this far north. He is very proud to be flying the flag for Somerville in the Arctic!

The other team members are (left to right):

James Lam (Physics, Queen’s) - Expedition Leader

Stephen Pax Leonard (Fellow, Exeter) - Expedition Diarist

Will Hartz (Chemistry, St. Catz) - Expedition Medical Officer

Jamie Gardiner (History, St. Hugh’s) - Expedition Historian and Filmmaker

What your donation means to us

In order to pull off an expedition such as this, we require a huge amount of support. We have already received much generous support from gear companies, private donors and corporate sponsors, but we need your help to ensure we reach our target budget, for without your help the expedition could not go ahead! Some examples of our more major expenditures are: hiring a guide for 30 days (£6,000), boat transport to our start point (£6,000) and sledges to haul our equipment with (£2,500)

  • If we reach our minimum, we will spend the money on ensuring the essential expenditures outlined above are fully covered. This will enable us to go ahead with the expedition.
  • If we reach our target, we will be able to put that money towards the production of the film. Specifically, this will be for the hiring of a professional editing studio and editor.
  • If we surpass our target, we will spend the money on additional research equipment such as differential GPS for more accurate positioning, a drone with extended range and flight time to enable more maps to be created, and the latest video production equipment to ensure our film footage is professional as possible. 

During the campaign, we will be sharing updates of our recent training and how preparations are coming along. We want to include all of you as a part of the expedition, whether you have donated £10 or £1000, so please get involved on our social media pages or email us with your thoughts or ideas. We would love to hear from you!

Above: Expedition leader James Lam had too many books to carry to the Rad Cam one day

Our Rewards

We have some great rewards that we think are very unique for our project. Please see the right hand side of the page for more information. If you have any questions about any of them, please don’t hesitate email us.

More detail on the ‘Arctic Dinner’:  In the spirit of the 1923 expedition, we will be hosting a pre-expedition dinner at Merton College on the 18th June for our most generous supporters. We are aiming to recreate the menu from the dinner they had at Merton upon their successful return 93 years ago. It will be a great opportunity to come and meet the team and the other donors; we will also have the 1923 team’s original diaries and artefacts available for browsing.

Above: photographs from the 1923 expedition

Let's get social

Please do have a browse of our website for more information on the expedition. Follow us on Facebook Twitter and Instagram (yes, all three!) to hear and see our progress over the next few months as our departure date for the Arctic looms closer! Or if you are feeling sociable, tweet or message us, take a selfie with us in the street, tell us what you had for breakfast this morning, show us a cute husky video, whatever!

Just in case you missed them above...
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Help us get to the arctic!

Though this might all seem like a blatant plea for money, you don't need to give money to help us succeed! Please share this project with anyone you think would find the expedition interesting or who might support us – on Twitter, Facebook, by email, telephone, telegram, snail mail etc…We want to spread the word about Spitsbergen Retraced as much as possible, and we think it is a fantastic project, so if you could, erm, share it with everyone that would be great!!!

And just in case you need them again ;)
Website Facebook Twitter Instagram

And we know we said you don't need to give money to help us get to the Arctic, but we would love it if you did! Donations - at all levels - are greatly received and will make a huge difference to the success of the expedition. Please sponsor us and help make this exciting project happen!

Crowdfunding love

The Spitsbergen Retraced team x

Above: The team on a recent training expedition to Dartmoor

If you would like to support the project, but don't have a PayPal account, you can make a gift through the Somerville website . You will need to select the 'Annual Fund' and note that your kind gift is to be designated towards the Spitsbergen Retraced project.

9 months, 3 weeks ago

Hi All,

As most of you will have heard, we returned safely from a successful expedition to Svalbard.

Despite some rather questionable weather we have had a fantastic thirty days following in the footsteps of the 1923 expedition. As well as successfully retracing their route traversing the ice cap we secured repeats of over twenty original photographs. 

Particular highlights from the history included discovering remains of the 1923 'Carpet camp' and a note signed and cached on Mt Chernishev by the original team to which we have added our own.

The expedition also proved fruitful on a scientific front. We conducted DNA sampling of a number of vascular plants and drone-mapped several transects on the Bear Bay Glacier. 

Lastly, the team enjoyed several good days of mountaineering. Notably, we made a first ascent of the west ridge of Newtontoppen and a second ascent of Irvinefjellet via the ridge first climbed by Noel Odell and Sandy Irvine (which we have christened the '1923 Route'). 

Needless to say, this expedition could not have taken place without your support and we remain hugely grateful for your kindness and generosity.

Please take a look at our photo album from the trip which can be found here. We hope you enjoy looking through them!

With very best wishes,

The 2016 Team

1 year, 1 month ago

Hi everyone!

We have now raised enough money for the expedition to go ahead! Thanks so so much to everyone who has kindly given their support. We now have a month and a half to finalise logistics, science and food before we depart for the Arctic on the 25th July. Not to mention all tyre dragging we will be doing to train our legs for hauling heavy sledges across the ice cap! 

Now that the crowdfunding has finished, we will be getting in touch with you to discuss rewards. Some will be delivered upon our return in September and some before we go. We are looking forward to getting in touch with you about these. 

Best wishes,

The Spitsbergen Retraced team 

Raymond Dwek matchfunded £5000

Spitsbergen Retraced

generated 964 clicks and caused 6 donations totalling £700.00


generated 37 clicks and caused 1 donation of £20.00

Dennis Garrison

generated 100 clicks and donated £50.00


donated £500.00


donated £250.00

Hamish McRae

donated £250.00


donated £250.00

Tim Stephenson

donated £250.00


donated £100.00


donated £50.00

Peter Brown

donated £50.00

Philip Pullman


Mark Clark


O'Donald Family


Pascal Noth


Milly Baddeley


11 anonymous donations totalling £1795.00

Only project creators and their sponsors can post comments.

What fantastic photos! Thank you so much for sharing them. I'm really looking forward to seeing and hearing more on 12 November. Libby Hartz

Best Wishes for an expedition that increases our knowledge of the ever changing environment!

This is such an exciting adventure and I'm delighted to be able to support you. I hope the expedition runs smoothly and I look forward to hearing all about it. Good Luck!