Explore: Each November, Expedition and Field Researchers Gather Together at the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) for the Explore Weekend. in Anticipation of This Year's Event, We Asked Some Recent Attendees How Their Subsequent Expeditions Fared and the Role That Explore Played in Their Genesis
Turnsbergdalsbreen Project, NORWAY
Karen Weichert is the Norwegian project co-ordinator for the Tunsbergdalsbreen Project, which runs annual expeditions to the Tunsbergdalsbreen glacier--an 18-kilometre-long, one-to-two-kilometre-wide ice stream in western Norway--for young people from the UK and Norway. The project aims to promote awareness of glacial environments and environmental issues related to climate change, while also helping young people to experience expeditions and develop their interest in the natural sciences.
'Members of the expedition learn about climate change first hand,' Karen says. 'And through their fieldwork, they contribute to the monitoring of the biggest outlet of Norway's Jostedalabreen ice cap, the largest mass of ice on the European continent, and learn how glaciers can be used as indicators for climate change.'
Last August, a team travelled to the glacier and set up its base camp close to its snout, a remote area that can only be reached by boat. There they used advanced GPS equipment to collect data on ice velocity, elevation of the glacier surface and changes in its front position.
'Investigations have been made annually since 2009, and each year, the data get more interesting,' says Karen. 'For example, the 2011 expedition found that the glacier surface on the lower part of the glacier had melted down by an average of 4.5 metres since August 2010--on the 2009 to 2010 expeditions, the figure was 3.4 metres.'
Karen attended her first Explore conference last year and is looking forward to being back there in 2012, where she will once again be representing the Tunsbergdalsbreen project.
A medical elective at Manma Hospital, Kalikot, NEPAL
During his medical student days, junior doctor Ryan Hogan attended Explore a couple of times, and greatly enjoyed the experience. His first Explore led to a post as an assistant expedition medic, which gave him a taste of expedition medicine and altitude-physiology field research. Lessons learned prepared him for a recent solo trip to Nepal.
After finishing medical school in spring last year, he travelled to the far-western Kalikot region to work with the staff of Manma Hospital. 'The region is one of the poorest in Nepal, reflected by a childhood mortality rate of 15 per cent,' Ryan says. 'The 20-bed hospital had two doctors for a region of more than 120,000 people.'
Ryan was warmly welcomed into the hospital community, where he ran outpatient clinics, witnessing the burden of infectious disease among these communities. 'Typhoid, tuberculosis and cholera were rife--conditions associated with poor living conditions and unclean water supplies,' he says.
He also ran weekly workshops on the initial management of serious limb and head injuries, which are commonly sustained when farmers fall from farming terraces. 'These patients were particularly difficult for the staff to manage, as definitive treatment often involved surgery--available only after a long car or bus journey to a larger hospital,' Ryan says.
But there was also time for a bit of rest and relaxation. 'After the evening ward round, we would see the day out with a volleyball match against the local boys from neighbouring villages,' Ryan says. 'Special attention was required to keeping the ball from rolling down the mountainside!'
As a delegate and then as a speaker, Ryan found that Explore acted as a catalyst for planning and executing his dream expeditions. 'Returning to Explore gave me the drive to plan this solo expedition, from hearing fellow delegates' stories and getting great fundraising tips and encouragement to visit the Himalaya for a second time,' he says.