Exploration as a way of denouncing Climate Change.

David Hempleman-Adams

Laura Hernández, Miguel Gutierrez, David Hempleman-Adams, María Valencia

Adventures begin in the most unlikely places. The Mars Gaming Northabout Expedition came to being one haunted night, in the middle of the countryside, somewhere between the English cities of Bath and Bristol.

It was January 2017, and the night was dark as ink; so mucho so, that even the stars shone cold and desolate. We were the strangest party: six souls making their way through the fields where the blackness stretched before us like a doormat to the great beyond; the frost was setting in and we could see our breath, but we were kept warm by the candor of the moment, which we felt would be special.

John Haning Speke

Nilo John Haning Speke Memorial

We were been guided by a livig leyend: world fame explorer David Hempleman-Adams known, among other things, for being the first man to reach the four Poles and tread the Seven Summits. Suddenly, from a corner between the drystone walls, he called out:

– Excellent! Here it is, just like I remembered.

There, hidden from peering eyes, in the place where he was killed in a hunting accident, stood the monument to one of my idols: Nile River explorer John Haning Speke. To stay warm, Hempleman-Adams covered his nose with the scarf he wore, and leaned over the monument to clear away the ivy covering it. We stood silent. All of us were offroad travelers, sailors of the sea of adventure. Three Britons and three Spaniards, gathered around a memorial stone in a cold, dark night. It was then and there that Laura and I decided to carry out our arctic project.


Earth is warming up at an unprecedented rate. In the last 30 years we have lost three quarters of the floating ice layer and 2017 is on its way to become the warmest year in history. Climate Change not only threatens Arctic species and cultures, but the whole planet. However, there are some who strive to denounce this environmental disaster by trying to raise awareness of its consequences; the same people who hope to declare an Arctic Sanctuary to preserve it from the greed of multinational companies.

Worried about this reality, I met with Laura Hernandez, an entrepreneur who is deeply aware of social injustice and environmental disasters, and has been the driving force behind some of my expeditions. Both of us had been meaning to do something to raise the subject of global warming; opportunity came to us through two friends who are also seasoned explorers: Mike Stewart and Maria Valencia Basaldua. The first, an expert sailor and retired British SAS instructor, had accompanied David Hempleman-Adams in the last stretch of an expedition destined to go down in history. The British explorer had been knighted by the Queen after crossing the Northwest and Northeast passages, and becoming the first man to sail around the Arctic.

Aware of our interests, Mike offered to introduce us to Hempleman-Adams and put forward an environmental exploration project since – he assured us – “he might help you in your enterprise”.

THE CITY OF John Cabot

Laura and I flew to Bristol with a project under our arm and a suitcase full of hopes. We enjoyed this Atlantic-facing city through its historical port, from which John Cabot – and many others who explored and settled North America – had set sail. We toasted with a pint in the very inn where Stevenson set the first chapters of “Treasure Island” and visited the trendy spots in what used to be the slave market. .

David Hempleman-Adams

David Hempleman-Adams showing the route circumnavigated by the Arctic

One night, Mike took us to David Hempleman-Adams’s “cave”, which is a room brimming with maps and exploration gadgets located on the side of David’s company, him being a successful businessman in addition to an explorer. There, in such an exceptional setting, the legendary man welcomed us and we were immediately dazzled by his manners and his elegance. With surprising humbleness for such a well-known and charismatic man he listened to us as we detailed our plan over a map of the Arctic.

pub Quarryman`s Arms
He then took us to the countryside, to the historic Quarryman’s Arms pub, where he thought he could get to know us best.

For my journeys, I’ve even hired psychologists to determine if people are fit for the test. But the beer test is what works best. Drink with a man and in the end he will open up his soul – confessed David later that evening.
We talked a bit about everything and in the end, inevitably, the conversation steered to classic Victorian explorers. Livingstone, Burton, Speke…
– Well, Speke died about a mile from here – Hempleman proclaimed – There’s a memorial stone to remember him. We can visit it if you want.

And so we set out, the six of us (David Hempleman-Adams, a friend of his, Mike Stewart, María Valencia, Laura Hernández and myself), near midnight, through the fields, in a quest for the headstone of a dead explorer. And it was in front of this monument that David decided we had passed the beer test; on our part, we engaged in a project that had been but the hope of two restless minds until then.
John Haning Speke

Nilo John Haning Speke Memorial


Northabout in the port of Bristol

The next day we went upriver on board the legendary polar exploration sailboat “Northabout”, designed in Paris by Caroff Duflos Naval Architects. The Northabout was built in Ireland in 2000 by Jarlath Cunnane and is entirely made of aluminum. It is a 15X4 meter vessel with no concessions to aesthetics, one of the world’s finest when it comes to sailing in icy waters.

“It’s a tank, everything in it is made to resist”, Mike Steward said about it.

Hempleman-Adams had made the wonderful decision to support our project and contributed with his ship, as Nansen had done with the Fram when he gave it to Amundsen for his conquest of the South Pole. We were ecstatic as we cruised up the River Avon, though an industrial-era landscape and surrounded by a dream crew. Along with Mike, who would be the helmsman, were Pete – a charming fellow brought up in the Merchant Navy, Dave “the Dangerous” and Rob, a very decided-looking young man. We sailed upriver and left the ship in a repair shop where it would be prepared for our budding adventure.

Exploring to create awareness

From the moment we got home, we put all our efforts into carrying out or project of exploring to raise awareness. We would take a team of multidisciplinary experts with us in the Northabout, trying to sail to latitudes never before reached in a vessel like ours, exploring uncharted places and documenting the impact of global warming on the ecosystems and the Inuit way of life.

Thousands of people have climbed the Everest and several hundred have been to both Poles, but only a handful have reached latitude 81º on a sailboat and not been trapped by ice.

Mars Gaming Northabout Expedition intends to break this record to denounce the quick retreat of the ice field with actions.

oso polar

Polar bear

To do this they will navigate unfriendly iceberg-filled seas, and face the possibility of being trapped by ice. The path chosen is the Nares Strait. The starting point, Qanaaq (Greenland). The expedition will also travel overland, as a team of explorers will try to reach the North Geomagnetic Pole – the center of the Earth’s magnetic field – located in Ellesmere Island (Canada) this year, amidst glaciers and untouched peaks – in the Victoria and Albert Mountains – which the team intends to climb.

The Nares Strait Route

If successful, this would be the first time in history a Spanish team reaches the North Geomagnetic Pole. A real “gate to the white hell”, the Nares Strait was the chosen route for countless historical expeditions trying to reach the North Pole by sea, as it was erroneously believed that a warm sea would be found across the ice barrier. This led to great tragedies and epic tales. Travelling with the team are experts in the history of expeditions;

Mars Gaming Northabout Expedition Route

Experts in the history of expeditions will travel with the team; the Northabout will retrace the steps of other historical expeditions the likes of those led by Greely, Peary, Ross, Nares, etc. The book resulting from this voyage will give an account of the history of expeditions as well as the highlights from the Mars Gaming Northabout Challenge.

But our most important goal is to raise awareness. The team will carry out journalistic work on the impact of Climate Change both on Inuit culture in settlements like Grise Fiord and Qanaaq and on Nares Strait flora and wildlife. They will endeavor in making society aware of the dramatic situation of our planet.



Grise Fiord
23 AUGUST, 2017

12.- The Inuit: a people at the crossroads

Grise Fiord is a grain of human sand on an immense island the size of England. Only 140 people inhabit this village which is the only settlement of Ellesmere, the northernmost insular of the Canadian Arctic. The rest is unleashed nature and implacable severity.

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North York Land
16 AUGUST, 2017

11.- Towards the mountains without a name

On August 8 we marched up the glacier carrying the equipment on pulkas or sleds. We wanted to climb the highest peak in the area. We were in the mountains that surround the Manson polar cap, the so-called North York Land. It is a remote white territory on the map.

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Cape Norton Show Bay
14 AUGUST, 2017

10.- A lost world

There was a movie – an adaptation of a Jules Verne story – that marked my childhood. The movie was about explorers flying over unexplored Greenland in an airship. They discovered, among other wonders, a surviving Viking community, plus a bay lost in time and mist where the whales were going to breathe their last breath.

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13 AUGUST, 2017

9.- Weather is in charge

Everyone has a plan until it gets spoiled. I had a plan. I had been watching the ice charts, the satellite images of the Sentinel – sent and analyzed by the expert Íñigo Orue – and the charts and had observed the following: the Strait of Nares is like a bowling alley.

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Familia Inuit llegando al Northabout
9 AUGUST, 2017

8.- Soriapaluk, a village on the border of the cold

On day 1 a speed boat was presented in front of the Northabout. It was a visit. The hunter Pullaq Ulloriaq and his daughter Bebiane honored us with their presence on board.”The Inuit are tight and distrustful of foreigners. It’s hard to get in touch,” some experts had warned.

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Northabout entre el hielo
1 AUGUST, 2017

7.- Defeat in Smith Strait (Chronicle 2)

The ice chart, an indispensable tool for anyone traveling on icy seas, gave rise to some hope: even Cape Alexander, the westernmost point of Greenland, only a third of the surface of the water was covered with ice. Enough for us. So we marched through a white maze dodging icebergs thanks to the skill as helmsman of Aitor Basarrate.

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Northabout atrapado en el hielo
1 AUGUST, 2017

6.- Defeat in Smith Strait (Chronicle 1)

They say that any polar adventure involves some kind of suffering. On July 27 we started our first major battle against ice. And we lost it. I will never forget the crash of the ice against the helmet. Runs from the beds to deck. And the long hours of hopeful and nervous glances trying to peer out into the ice maze.

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iceberg en la niebla
28 JULY, 2017

5.- Ghosts of the Baffin Sea

There are few experiences in life more disturbing than seeing an iceberg appear in the fog. We saw it on the third day of navigation from Upernavik to the north by the bay of Melville; Of course, it was not the first floating block of ice we came across; But this was veiled in mystery by an oleaginous haze, typical in this area of ​​the Baffin Sea.

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boda inuit
26 JULY, 2017

4.- Shipwrecks and beluga carpaccio

An Inuit wedding is a strange mix between tradition and modernity. They emphasize the traditional costumes: The grooms dress old fashioned, he with white anorak and she with a colorful coat; And both in sealskin pants and boots. We were fortunate to be invited to his wedding by Nunarleq Mathaussen, a pure Inuit who married Ane, a local girl with Nordic features.

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Pájaros sobre iceberg
26 JULY, 2017

3.- Quixote things and other unforeseen

People come to the Arctic in the hope of seeing new and wonderful things; To bring in his pocket money to tell that really worth it.

The lucky ones attend a northern aurora, spot a formation of whales or discover the polar bear at the time of breakfast with a seal; But what is really unusual is to see is two Basques carrying on a dingui – a standard Zodiac – and with a poke in their hands fighting against an iceberg.

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12 JULY, 2017

2.- The Strait of Nares, the gates of the White Hell

If the Mars Gaming Northabout Expedition succeeds, it will be the first time a Spanish team has reached the Geomagnetic Pole. But the most interesting is the territory where the bet will be developed. Authentic “door of the white hell” the Strait of Nares (which the expedition intends to cross) was the passage chosen by numerous expeditions throughout history to reach by sea the North Pole, because it was mistakenly thought that behind the ice barrier, a warm sea existed.

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David Hempleman-Adams
7 MARCH, 2017

1.- Mars Gaming Northabout Expedition

Adventures begin in the most unlikely places. The Mars Gaming Northabout Expedition came to being one haunted night, in the middle of the countryside, somewhere between the English cities of Bath and Bristol.

Read More…