Tim Jarvis: a man on a polar mission

Tim Jarvis standing amongst snow

You’ll find few people more passionate about environmental sustainability and more obsessed with exploring our planet than Tim Jarvis. We sat down with Tim to talk about his fascination with the polar regions and find out what he’s looking forward to most on his upcoming Spitsbergen Explorer trip with Intrepid…

What inspired you to become a champion of environmental sustainability?
“I’ve always been fascinated by the natural world. Once you realise how under threat it is you can’t do anything but try to protect it. My environmentalism is fuelled by a love of the planet, as are my adventures to try and see more of it and discover more about my place in it.

I think travel to the polar regions allows you to discover more about yourself once the background noise of modern life is removed. I now use my expeditions and the books and films about them to communicate messages to the corporate world, politicians, schools and the general public about the importance of trying to be more sustainable and make a positive difference.”

In your 20 years of expeditioning, what has surprised you most about our planet or its people?
“I think the thing that amazes me most is peoples’ resilience and adaptability. Humans can literally adapt to any set of circumstances. I never forget seeing a guy up in Arctic Russia in a place called Norilsk selling individual cigarettes from a stand in temperatures of -40C. Incredible resilience, but it was his livelihood so he had no choice. Similarly, when I worked in Guatemala building gravity-fed water systems in the 90s it was normal for women to walk 10km to get clean water, coming home carrying backbreaking weights.

This adaptability means humans can cope with virtually any circumstances and that is a positive as well as a negative. It means we have the capacity to stoically put up with things, but it also means when it comes to issues like environmental degradation we have an ability to simply accept the changes going on and adapt to them rather than saying ‘I don’t like these changes’ and act to stop them happening. The speed of ice melt due to climate change in the Arctic is sadly happening very fast.”

Spitsbergen Svalbard polar bar photo by Olle Carlsson courtesy of Quark

What are the 3 things that you love most about the Arctic region?
“The three things I love the most about the Arctic are the wildlife, the people and the incredible landscapes. I love the fact that you see polar bears and walrus in the Arctic, not to mention Arctic foxes and the spectacular birdlife – all of which are unique to the Arctic.

In terms of people, I have had some wonderful experiences with the Norwegians and Russians, from ice pilots of ships I’ve travelled with to the now abandoned community of Pyramiden on Spitsbergen, through to people such as the Inuit, Lapp and Sami, who have managed to not only survive but thrive in the Arctic.

The Arctic journeys of exploration too fascinate me, from Hubert Wilkins who tried to take an old submarine under the Arctic Ocean to prove it was floating sea ice to Nansen and his teardrop-shaped ship Fram who tried to float to the North Pole and the tragic, ill-fated expedition of Andree who left Spitsbergen in 1897 to try and take his air balloon to the North Pole. The Arctic has inspired some amazing feats of human endeavour.

And the topography? The mountains and glaciers of Spitsbergen, volcanic landscape of Iceland, through to the incredible thickness of ice on Greenland at over 3kms are truly magical to behold.”

Spitsbergen Svalbard Walrus Arctic courtesy of Quark

What are you hoping you’ll get to see on this Spitsbergen Explorer trip?
“I’m always hopeful I can see Orcas and Walrus. They are two of the most spectacular of the marine animals and totally unique. I am constantly surprised at how Orcas swim, socialise and hunt together. I have seen some breathtaking formation swimming by Orcas. They are utterly fascinating to watch and menacing at the same time.

On the land I can never get enough of seeing polar bears (particularly viewed from a safe vantage point and not trying to get into your tent!). I’m also looking forward to reacquainting myself with some of the places I visited when I crossed Spitsbergen on foot back in the mid-90s. I’d be fascinated to visit Pyramiden that I visited in 1995, which is now a ghost town. I’ll never forget the cows who lived underground there eating grass grown under solar lamps. I guess they’ve gone now!”

Experience the Arctic with explorer Tim Jarvis
On this spectacular voyage along the Spitsbergen coastline in June, 2014, you’ll get an insight into the challenges and diversities of this polar environment, and discover this remote landscape and ecology from the unique perspective of prolific polar adventurer, Tim Jarvis. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience this classic Arctic expedition alongside the explorer himself, Tim Jarvis. View the trip.

Take a holiday to Greenland and the Arctic with Intrepid Travel

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About the author

Sue Elliot - Like many of us, Sue contracted a serious travel bug at an early age. She's visited over 90 countries in search of a cure, but her wanderlust just seems to get worse. Thankfully at Intrepid Travel she's amongst people who understand the affliction and since 1998 Sue has enjoyed being our blog and newsletter editor. Here you'll find helpful travel advice and inspiring tales from Sue and other Intrepid travellers.

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