NEWS  6th Sep 2017

SES Lecture Review - Pen Hadow

Honorary Vice-President Pen Hadow was the SES’s guest speaker following the AGM back in March. Introduced by Andrew Mitchell as a leading example of a ‘Pioneer with Purpose’, Pen is still the only person to have reached the North Pole solo and self-supported from Canada. Pen told how his early days on the Arctic Ice and understanding of its incredible properties have ignited a lifelong passion to protect it for future generations.

Pen Hadow - Arctic Mission

His subsequent leadership of the pioneering international exploration programme, Catlin Arctic Survey (2007-2013), resulted in global awards for environmental protection, communications, technology and sponsorship.

Pen’s early upbringing and love of exploration can be directly attributed to Captain Scott. On his deathbed in the Antarctic, Scott wrote a letter to his wife Kathleen advising her in the care of their son, Peter: Make the boy interested in Natural History, it’s better than sport and encouraged at some schools’ and ‘I know you’ll keep him in the open air’. She heeded this advice, and Peter was kept in the open air, often with inadequate clothing! The next role taken by Peter’s nanny, Enid, was to raise Pen’s father using this same regime. He, in turn, followed the advice when raising Pen in Scotland - once aged 2½ to the extreme where Pen actually had frostbite!

Following a first expedition to Svalbard in 1989, Pen spent “the next decade or so” as a North Pole guide. During that time, he made two unsuccessful attempts to reach the North Pole, but developed a greater understanding and knowledge of sea ice - which ultimately enabled him to reach his goal with the first solo expedition to the North Pole in 2003, a record which, with the continued reduction in sea ice is unlikely to be taken from him. He learnt to manage and mitigate the other major risks of solo exploration - physically and emotionally, and willingly shares this knowledge with others.

In 2007, Pen led the pioneering international exploration programme, the Catlin Arctic Survey. This unprecedented project was the first to bring huge commercial sponsorship to scientific exploration, and attract the vast worldwide media coverage that such investment engenders. In its six-year period, the project achieved $1,112 million dollars’ worth of coverage via over 90 broadcast networks worldwide.

Pen firmly believes that the invaluable exposure that corporates can achieve by supporting exploration is key to future scientific exploration and, in turn, enhances the image that these organisations are so keen to build. Organisations must be encouraged to recognise that there has never been a more important or urgent need in human history for exploration - evidenced by drying rivers, reduction in sea ice as a result of the stress and stains we are putting on the planet’s biosphere - so that we can better understand how our world works, and most importantly how to manage it.

The role of the explorer in this partnership is critical; they can Go, Find, Do, Provide Data to scientists who analyse and deliver social development, but most importantly they can communicate from the field. Their vision and passion for carefully chosen projects can draw people in, to inspire others with their passion. They need risk management skills, they need to innovate - to be stronger, fitter, cleverer, better equipped and be better than the last person.

Pen then gave an early outline of his next expedition - a venture aimed at creating a North Pole Marine Reserve. Working towards the UN target of having 20% of oceans protected by 2020 (the current figure is only 7%), the waters of the Arctic and Central Arctic Ocean are crammed with life - producing more oxygen for the planet than rainforests, and as ice levels decrease these waters are becoming more accessible and vulnerable to commercial fishing, shipping and mineral extraction. Pen’s commitment to protecting the oceans, and to pioneering investment essential not only to its success but, also to all scientific exploration, is admirable. We thank him wholeheartedly for enlightening and inspiring us with his wisdom.

Note, Arctic Mission reached the farthest northerly point from the coastlines surrounding the Arctic Ocean than any vessel in history without icebreaker support on 29th August 2017.

Story by Henrietta Thorpe 

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