The North Pole Summit 2017
This July, SeaLegacy co-founders Cristina Mittermeier and Paul Nicklen will be traveling to the North Pole for Quark Expedition's North Pole Summit 2017. Sailing aboard 50 Years of Victory, one of the world’s most powerful nuclear icebreakers, Nicklen and Mittermeier join a colourful cast of "Thought Leaders" including famed British explorer Alan Chambers, polar historian and geographer James Raffan, and Inuit elder David Serkoak, among others. These nine icons will join a boat full of excited (and lucky) travellers on a transformative 14-day journey from Murmansk, Russia, to 90°N at the top of the world. We spoke with Jonathan Carroll of Quark Expeditions to hear more about what passengers can expect on this trip of a lifetime.
SL: How did you choose your special guests, or your “thought leaders?”
JC: The president of Quark came to me knowing that I had a background in outdoor adventure and education. He told me that he was looking at putting some programming together on this and hoping to attract some business leaders. Maybe we would do a “President’s Voyage” or something like that, so I got to thinking about it and thought that this destination, this caliber of trip is not really where business leaders think to go to brush up on business skills. So I wanted to find people more in keeping with the destination and theme of the Arctic, the North Pole, and the importance of this place. Given that it’s so exclusive and only a couple hundred people go there annually, how can we think of turning that amazing experience into an opportunity to pay it forward?
That was where I thought that Quark has 25 years of history working in the Polar regions, and a ton of connections, so why don’t we start by reaching out to some of our old friends and find some new friends as part of this process?
SL: That sounds like a great fit for Paul. The polar regions are like a magnet for him.
JC: Paul has travelled with us before, and then by his connection Christina, came with that package. And we were really pleased. We started getting some traction, different people… As you can see, the seven… now nine thought leaders that we have connected to this summit, they come from all different backgrounds. Adventurers, photographers, writers, scientists.. what I was trying to do was not have one slice of the pie over-represented. It was to try and find an eclectic group of people who essentially add to a conversation about the importance of the exploration, the appreciation for and research of the Arctic for future generations. And what better place to do that when you are standing at 90 degrees North and all directions are south. You are essentially standing at the top of the globe. Not just talking about issues as they relate to the arctic, but global issues such as climate change and protecting natural resources.
SL: A trip of this magnitude seems like a huge undertaking.
JC: It came together better than I had hoped in the end, and we’ve got an amazing and eclectic group of people who are all excited about it. I’m sure they are excited to meet the other leaders as well as be a part of the summit itself. And I couldn’t be happier that it all came together with enough time for us to promote it, and get if off the ground before the Arctic season arrived.
SL: As someone that goes on the voyage, what kind of access would the regular person have to the leaders?
JC: The ship is quite small--it’s only 130 passengers--and these thought leaders will be living amongst the passengers on the ship. So at all meal times, in the bar and lounge etc. they will be available. It’s not like they will come out for their presentation and then disappear behind a black curtain never to be seen again. And I’m sure in the case of Paul and Christina, they will be just as excited to hear from Alan Chambers or Maureen Raymo or James Raffan… there is going to be a lot of interesting people and I think that everyone is going to be excited to be a part of the ongoing conversation as it unfolds. The idea I had had was that it’s not a bunch of stand alone conversations, but an unfolding global one as the journey moves forward.
SL: Give me an idea of what each day on the ship is like for passengers.
JC: This is essentially an adjunct to a regular itinerary that we offer to the North Pole, we just have this really awesome programming that we have attached to it. So it starts with clearing customs in Murmansk, Russia, which is a pretty big deal given that you are about to board a nuclear powered vessel and there is a lot of security. But once you have cleared the port and boarded the ship, you are now on the largest, most powerful nuclear icebreaker on the planet, and that in itself is a pretty amazing treat. The first probably six days are basically breaking through ice. And the ship goes to work doing what it was designed to do- break through nine feet of ice. 3 metres…all the way to the pole. We have helicopter flight seeing on board and it’s also used for reconnaissance, to find routes and places in the ice where the ship will have to use the least amount of effort to get through.
We get to the North Pole and celebrate for a day on the sea ice, some people take a dip in the Arctic Ocean. It's basically a big party on top of the world. It's a very special feeling to stand where so few people have been before, and with such an international contingent.
SL: And what about the return voyage?
JC: We take our time coming home. Lots of wildlife viewing, relaxing, zodiak tours, helicopter tours to scout for the easiest way through the ice. It's a pleasant, leisurely trip back.