BSES HQ receives expedition field updates weekly so check back every Monday to see what has happened in the week gone by.

Tuesday, August 11



The third and final phase is now under way. The Fire groups have been split across three different activities which will take place over the last week. Once all the groups have departed, we will not be returning to base camp. The expedition will reconvene as a whole at a camp site near Alta for a final debrief, kit sort and barbecue before flying home. We don’t anticipate any further blog entries so we will see you at Gatwick!

Mountaineering Group
Itinerary: Up at 5am this morning, the third phase mountaineers hopped on the local ferry to take them around to Langfjord. The area was investigate by the second phase kayakers and a new glacial snout promised access to a second ice cap and the opportunity for some science in measuring the glacier’s location.

Kayaking Group
Itinerary: After a day’s advanced sea kayak training, the paddlers hope to head eastward around the peninsula. They will be continuing the science conducted in the first two phases and will capitalise on vehicle support to undertake a one-way journey from Oksfjord.

Cultural Trek Group
Members: Natasha, Gabby, Gribbs, Alistair, Sam, Rose, Katie, Emma, Rachael, Clem
Itinerary: This activity is organised by the Young Leaders from the Leadership Development Programme. The Young Explorers will be travelling back through Alta to the Finnmarksvidda where they will be trekking across the plateau to a Sami-run Reindeer Centre.

Base Camp blog entry

Group: The Big Blue Mess Tent
Members: Holly, Emma, Trou, Lizzy, Danielle, James, Nathan

So, a lot has happened with our group since the last update. You can read about our activities in mountains in the blog entry above. Myself (Emma) and Clem are currently the only members at base camp (although Clem has actually been spending a lot of time with another Fire, Man Mountain), and the only members of our Fire taking a trek down culture alley (bring on the reindeer!).

Danielle, James and Holly are learning some snazzy kayaking manoeuvres for their third expedition; Lizzy, Trou and Nathan are being transported to the glacier for their third expedition.

I think what The Big Blue Mess Tent has learnt most is how to communicate and work with people. Maybe it’s because we are not so dissimilar after all, maybe it’s because we have some aspects in common. I don’t know to be honest. This is the philosophising rambles of a twenty year old, who has been away from civilisation far too long. I know I’m going to miss our Fire because of the things this Fire has taught me about myself, and other people.

Kayaking Group 1 blog entry

Name: Drittunge
Members: Rose, Gabby, Katie, Tasha, Gribbs, Laura, Callum & Alistair

“Darling, it’s better, down where it’s wetter, under the sea” Or at least it was until the tents were in it. That’s right, this week we’ve been kayaking.
Gabby has been keeping us going by singing delightfully. Rose has turned into a pirate and attacks any other kayak she sees. Tasha has put her mountaineering knotting skills to good use for tying our escapee boats up.
Katie has been out early everyday to try her hand at fishing but so far she’s only got one; not as good as Reg (who she is competing with) but he cheated by swapping one small one for two big ones with the other fire. Gribb’s has been lurking in the shadows in an attempt to hide from the sun. However, if chocolate is near she will be fighting you for it...

We are all still alive thanks to Laura’s light sleeping, which allowed her to wake us as our campsite flooded. Although Alistair still endeavours to eat us out of hearth and home, Callum and Alistair managed to catch a fish big enough for Alistair and the rest of us to share; Nahom (honorary member) even had a bite since he taught them how to gut it. Along with fish we have seen a variety of wildlife including white-tailed sea eagles, porpoises and a river otter and that was only on the surface. Gabby and Rose got to play scientists with a clever underwater camera but we only saw one sea urchin…plenty of (star)fish though!

P.S. Rob and Sheena, Tasha is really enjoying raisins and sultanas so if you could take some to the airport she would really appreciate it. From Rose 

Mountain Man blog entry

Mountain Group 1
Name: Man Mountain
Members: Izzy, Ruth, Rachael, Luke, Peter, Sam and Clem

The rest day saw an 'expedition' to the local shop with everyone getting quite tanned in the heat of the day.

The next day we started our mountain phase training which meant a hike up to ABC (advance base camp) which the boys the managed in one trip (the girls needed a second to carry up their vital third bag of clothes). As part of our training on the snow we hurled ourselves backwards, forwards and headfirst down the glacier all in the name of “ice axe arrests” (very fun) and mastered walking with crampons, John Wayne style. At the bivi site, we occupied our time mainly with “rock excavation”. Yes, that’s the girls as well. Well, only the girls. It was then time to take on the glacier.

After roping up, and tackling the devious moraine, we reached Coffee Shop Rock, and from then on it was only up. Lukey Luke managed to “lose” his ice axe down a crevasse, less than five minutes up the glacier. Mucho respect to Stevie G for its rescue, the stuff of legend. As Lucy Lu put it, we truly did look like an advancing army, with our lines of rope in perfect order, ice axes in hand. BSES takes on the mountain! The 360 panoramic views from the top cannot be omitted, they were truly awesome. Clem, Izzy, Ruth and Holly proved their metal at the top (the photos have to be seen to be believed) and have found a December picture for the calendar.

The following day, the fire split, and some more intellectual members of the group did science research while the more enthusiastic took an earlier start to summit the glacier. Lukey enjoyed his “Summit Sprite” later on that very day, although sharing it with Rachy and Sam in celebration. The girls drank the “Final Ascent Fanta” somewhat lower down on the snow with Geli, but did not appreciate the numerous attempts at their lives throughout the day, all in the name of science. The group suffered a minor setback when Pete took a fall taking stuff to ABC, but he has pushed on, and is preparing for kayaking with “all the strength of a raging fire”. For Alison (Clem’s mum) don’t worry, Clem has not been lost but merely relocated. At ABC, major change and as a general consensus Clem was adopted into Man Mountain, into a four person tent, which is certainly cosy. “Man” Mountain becomes more ironic every day. The fire is looking forward to the next phase, although cannot mask its sadness at the prospect of being split. Ruth, Izzy and Pete will be reunited with Henry, Jasper and Pete’s boat, Luke has been sent back up the mountains, without Sprite, and Clem, Rachy and Sam will be becoming Culture Vultures, getting friendly with the reindeer. See you all in a week!



The kayak and mountaineering groups switched over and followed similar basic itineraries as they did during the first phase. The kayakers made it all the way around to Langfjord, two valleys to the west of base camp, completing vital reconnaissance for the third phase mountaineering and science. The mountaineers made a repeat ascent of the highest peak and also reached a rocky summit with 360-degree views.

Monday, August 10

Land of the Midnight Sun

It is not often you get to see a sea otter pushing its velvety head through still waters, dark eyes watching you gingerly 12 feet from your boat, or perhaps a sea eagle soaring gracefully above, expertly catching thermals. But in Nuvsvåg, 250km north of the artic circle such Norwegian delights await anyone from the novice to seasoned sea paddler.

This once-in-a-lifetime experience came through a month long expedition with British Schools Exploring Society, a charity set up to provide 16 – 20 year olds with an opportunity for exploration and personal development. BSES prides itself on adventuring to remote places the average gap year candidate would unlikely reach. The leaders for this expedition were an impressive line up of highly experienced paddling and mountaineering coaches.

Nuvsvåg was our base-camp location, a small hamlet of 100 people perched on one of the countless fjords which interrupt the pristine coastline. A blink of the eye and one could be paddling in the Scottish Highlands, until closer inspection reveals the high mountain backdrop of the glacial plateau. There are a mere 17 children in the local school, and our local contact Oddvar Berne, and his effusive wife Anne Marie told us that migration of the younger generation is a growing problem. “It is a very sad day for us when we see the fish drying in the nets” she tells us, “this indicates the fishermen cannot get the fresh fish to the markets in Alta to sell”. She goes on “if they cannot do this, they must hang it until the autumn where the dried fish fetches a lower price; unemployment is a real problem for us here in Nuvsvåg”.

The expedition operates in small teams called Fires, as founder Surgeon Commander Murray Levick (Scott’s Antartic expedition 1911) believed this was an optimal number of people to converse around a fire. So with a group of 6 ‘Young Explorers’, myself and fellow leader Chris Heaney set off for a week of discovering what the Land of the Midnight Sun had to offer.

As Norway has relatively liberal attitudes towards wild camping, we were able to head out along the coastline with a l:50 000 map (sourced at Stanfords) and find a suitable camping spot when we were ready to get off the water. In July, there is still good run-off from the snow melt so fresh, [cold] drinking water was rarely a problem to source. What was more of a nuisance were the carnivorous insects whose favourite feed was clearly freshly salted man flesh, thankfully less present at the breezier camping spots.

We soon realised how the 24hr sunlight added flexibility to our journeying. We dodged stronger winds and unwanted tides by paddling early morning or through the night (night - being purely a theoretical concept which took some getting used to). Due to the high pressure system; we enjoyed a dramatic sun setting scene - cameras at the ready, only to witness the sun touching the watery horizon and then tracking majestically back up into the sky. It was a strange thing to set up camp in a shaded bay early evening, only for the sun to move into view and slowly warm the rocks as the night progressed.

Once we were out of the Nuvsvåg fjord we headed east towards neighbouring Oksfjordjen. This fjord was home to a school of porpoise who kept a regular fishing schedule of early morning and late evening, providing us with one of those rare moments in life where the natural environment is so breathtaking it is hard to take it in.

We carried some rudimentary fishing kit, and with a few false starts caught trout on a hand-line from the boat. We were warned by local fisherman that the catch in the area would easily take a sea boat under so took to fishing in pairs, so at least it could be captured on film as the boat was being taken down by a 50lb halibut. Sadly no such footage was made so we settled for a dinner of more manageable catch within moments of being caught. Mussels were another delight; similar in size to their UK counterparts and abundant at every beach we landed at. This proved a highlight as the group got quite well versed at subsidizing their ration packs.

We headed up Oksfjorden away from the small village towards more remote waters where the occasional summer house was the only sign of human life. Many people come to the area to fish during the summer months returning south as the long winter sets in. “You have to learn to be at peace with yourself” a local told us. “Some people come to live here because it is so beautiful, but then they cannot cope during the winter darkness”. During the dark months of 1944, when this part of the world was invaded, a handful of Lap people over-wintered in nearby caves. Although open and friendly, it is clear that the people of these parts are hardened to their environment and have a strong sense of survival. The weather especially, notorious for being fickle clearly puts those who get in its way to the test. There is a small obelisk in the church yard, family names listed of those lost at sea. Still waters were punctuated with clear storm damage, fishing nets cast high into shoreline trees.

We had a couple of nights at the far end of the fjord, carrying out some scientific research on behalf of the State of the Environment, a Norwegian government department. The science element of the expedition gave the group a chance to engage with the marine environment beyond being mere tourists. Additionally they were able to put something back into specific research projects. With the migration of the formidable king crab into the area, researchers are keen to gather some base data to investigate the longer term effect of this new visitor to the fjords.

A misty morning shrouded our return journey to base-camp, spotting more porpoise along the way. By way of a departure gesture, a white tailed sea eagle escorted us out of Oksfjorden. Unbelievably, these kings of the sky have a larger wingspan than their golden eagle counterparts. As we drew into the beach where we had started from the previous week, the group were unusually quiet and seemed loathed get off the water. This part of Norway had been described to us by a resident as absolute paradise and as our journey concluded we felt unable to argue with such a claim.

BSES run summer month long expeditions; departing to Svalbard in 2010 and Greenland in 2011. If you are a keen with some paddling experience, go to the BSES website at to find out how you can get involved. Article written by Lucy Bound.

Week Three

On Monday August 3rd, the Fires set off on their second phase of activities. That means they’ll be away on expedition for a week – those that kayaked first will have a go in the mountains and vice-versa. More news after this...

In the meantime, you can read a preview of an article written by one of our leaders, Lucy Bound

Blog Entry

Written by: Man Mountain
Members: Izzy, Luke, Peter, Rachael, Ruth and Sam

We set off on our kayaking phase of the expedition and covered an impressive 8km in the first evening, surrounded by spectacular views of the glaciers around us. We arrived at our first campsite which we quickly christened “pebbly beach,” and tucked into the first of many ration pack meals. Some of us were huge fans, others not quite so keen. After a spot of unsuccessful fishing, we made a campfire on the edge of the beach, although some help from our leader Chris was needed, and a little help from a petrol bottle! Stuey the starfish also enjoyed the fire but luckily from a safe distance.
The following day we paddled around the headland to a rock pool site where we carried out some of the scientific work, which produced some interesting findings. We then completed a 3.5km open sea crossing which was challenging but everyone felt a great sense of accomplishment once completed, and spent the evening in the local village of Nuvsvag where we bought the much needed and loved Coca cola and ice cream!
Day three was by far the most demanding of days; as we had a very early start at 5.30 am, to go and retrieve the stove we had left behind at the rock pool where we had lunch the day before. We then had to paddle approximately 12km to the next camp, which has become known as “flea beach”; for its less than pleasant beach, and residing smell of rotting seaweed.
We then paddled on towards Oksfjord, and had to battle through force 5 winds, luckily nobody capsized but it was challenging and tiring. Later that evening Chris, Lucy and Peter saw a Sea Otter, which was quite exciting for them.
We saw a lot of wildlife on Tuesday, including several Porpoise, Sea Urchins, Trout and a White Tailed Eagle.
The last two days were spent by our fire paddling the considerable distance back to base camp in glorious sunshine, with another overnight camp at Nuvsvag, where we watched the Sunset. Overall we had a great week kayaking.

Rachael”cutter- upper” Wood couldn’t paddle for more than a mile without intercepting someone despite the groups best attempts at paddling as far away as possible. Izzy successfully cut off three people causing a threeway head on collision and due to Ruth and her lightness of paddle, a rather competitive and wet splash war ensued. A triple attack on Luke (Leek) for refusing to sing the group anthem “Reach” by S-Club 7 left his treasured beanie as good as gone to Davy Jones Locker. Sam (Stove Man/God – messiah in training) bought his brother a really big knife much to the fear of the group as his willingness to “Do the Deed” i.e. whittle any emergency spoons on request left many quaking in their boots and running for our ramshackle mess tent built and designed by Sam with his large knife and collapsed by mother nature and Luke’s shoddy gaffa tape work to smash Rachael’s head and sliced Ruth in half, only to be majestically resurrected and which is predicted to be demolished for bad weather conditions. Luke loves Tescos and his love of it sparked many fruitful conversations with Ruth concerning trips to the said supermarket and the products which might fit inside Henry (Ruth’s kayak), as Jeremy (Rachael’s boat) needed to be constantly pumped at each stop to prevent any scuppering. Jasper, Izzy’s boat, was very much loved in spite of his inexplicable weight gains and hindrances at transporting him up the seaweed infested slopes, thanks to Pete’s help at defeating the high tide mark the whole group managed to stay within the camp site limits rather than in open water.

Blog Entry

Written by: Drittunge
Members: Gabby, (Laura) Gribbs, Rose, Tasha, Katie, Laura, Callum and Alistair

If you don’t want to hear about us throwing ourselves down glaciers then “go put on a brew” because this is exactly what we did; backwards, forwards, head first and roly-poly, braking only with something that resembled a weapon (ice axe). Despite this, Tasha can still walk but she has difficulties getting to the toilet safely by creating rockfalls narrowly missing “Windy Alley” while her comrades sleep peacefully below.
When we say Windy Alley we are referring to our open-air camp next to the glacier where we Bivied (sleeping in sleeping bags under the “night” sky) for three nights while sporting sunglasses and suncream. We stayed in fluctuating temperatures from 30 degrees to minus 3 leaving us burnt, frozen and bitten from every angle, but we are still enjoying it!
Rose (along with 22 others) managed to celebrate her Dad’s birthday by climbing up to the highest ice point in Finnmark. It was a long way up but an even longer way down with crevasses opening up below our feet, which resembled Sibera’s answer to football boots. Katie managed to lead the rescue group as Rob trailed behind admiring the view leaving the rest of the rope team in the capable hands of its youngest member.
Gabby’s enjoying 3000 calories a day; no chance of her wasting away! Although if you saw the bizarre combinations - take peanut butter and pitta bread as an example - we are currently creating (with the help of Laura’s can-opening skills) you would think all the sunshine has gone to our heads. Alistair has been playing the role of tinkerer so that we can eat, despite our temperamental stoves’ best efforts by clearing them of soot.
Callum has been good at carrying things when the girls have been struggling, even if we do have to “work as a team” to get it over the heavy rocks.
Despite Gribbs taking up so much room in the tent and receiving several death threats, we are all still alive.