This August, fourth year Chemistry student, Liam Garrison, will be the photographer and filmmaker in a team of five who will ski for 30 days across Spitsbergen, an island off the Svalbard archipelago in Northern Norway.
They will mirror the Oxford University expedition that took place 93 years ago by following the same trek and geological mapping, conducting the same surveying and capturing the same photography.
The group of five were inspired by a talk on the 1923 expedition at an event put on by the Oxford University Exploration Club, in which Liam is Secretary. Inspired by the original team’s of use of state of the art technology, the group will use the most high-tech equipment including drones to capture accurate 3D mapping.
Using sophisticated technology adds a huge amount of extra baggage to transport on their journey. Liam estimates they will have to carry around 80 kilos in gear, including two large solar panels to charge the electronics. The drones, for example, will only hold enough power to fly for about 30 minutes.
At Somerville Liam is a Chemistry Student, although his research currently goes beyond his field. He has recently submitted a patent for a new MRI method, which is the focus of his thesis. Liam has been passionate about photography since he was young and became interested in filmmaking after making a five-minute film of a bike trek along 4000 kilometres of the pacific coast of America.
More recently Liam has been practicing shooting and editing in preparation for the trip, and has made a trailer for the expedition that you can see on the Spitsbergen Retraced Facebook page. Also assisting with the film making is Jamie, a third year historian at St Hugh’s College, and Martin Williams, an Emmy and Bafta winning executive producer.
The 2016 team also includes expedition leader, James Lam, a physicist at Queen’s College; medical officer, Will Hartz who is a Chemistry undergraduate at St Catherine’s College; diarist, Stephen Pax Leonard who is an ethnographer of the Arctic and a research Fellow at Trinity Hall and Giles Colclough who is reading for a degree in healthcare innovation and who will be managing the coordination of the expedition and the PR from Oxford.
As well as summiting the same peaks climbed on the original expedition, the group will carryout the same biological samplings of plant life, an endeavour that has not been repeated since 1923. They will share their findings with both the Oxford University’s Plant Sciences Department, as well as with the University Centre in Svalbard to see how the harsh changes in the environment might be affecting the plant species.
To try and raise the remaining funds for the journey, a Spitsbergen Retraced page has been added to Somerville’s crowdfunding platform. The group are offering some great rewards, including tickets to a recreation of the 1923 ‘Arctic Dinner’ that was held at Merton College after the successful return of the original team. As well as offering the menu from the event 93 years before, the original artefacts and diaries will be on display.
To keep up with the team’s rigorous training regime, you can follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. For more information on the expedition, visit svalbard2016.com or to help the team raise funds, please visit somerville.hubbub.net/p/SpitsbergenRetraced.