I’ve been researching polar exploration for more than 40 years, so going to Svalbard and Spitsbergen was an incredible opportunity. You go out in small boats and make landings in all kinds of weather, which allows you to experience a little bit of what it was like for the explorers who went to these places 200 years ago. You’re where they were, and you can juxtapose the things you see with what they saw, whether it’s the wildlife or the geography. Sharing these stories with passengers is my job when I’m travelling with One Ocean.
Here’s an example. In 1818, the British sent two ships, HMS Dorothea and HMS Trent, to try and cross the Arctic Ocean from Spitsbergen, sailing through the Bering Strait and into the Pacific. On the Trent was a man who had never sailed in the Arctic before but who would one day be renowned for his journeys in the region: John Franklin. Impenetrable sea ice meant that by July 6 the ships had reached their farthest point — 80°34’ N — the exact spot we reached with One Ocean 198 years later, to the day.
Moments and stories like that astound people. At first they can’t believe they’re at the same places, but then they really start to connect with explorers and the idea of exploration. As a historian, being there brought everything full circle for me. It’s hard to imagine a more complete experience.