Five Whiteness primary school bairns met leading explorer and adventurer David Hempleman-Adams as his yacht Northabout stopped off on her way to Svalbard for a shakedown trip as part of preparations for a grander expedition.
The polar explorer who has a number of notable firsts on his adventure CV plans to circumnavigate the North Pole in Northabout, which will be the first time a yacht has made the hitherto impossible trip.
The fact that the polar ice has retreated far enough to make a circuit by a lightweight vessel feasible is the reason for the trip, according to Mr Hempleman Adams, who plans to highlight climate change.
It is not the explorer’s first stop in Shetland. Two summers ago, his old school friend Maureen Small, who is the janitor of Whiteness Primary School, invited Mr Hempleman Adams to give a talk to the bairns who were studying the polar regions. Mr Hempleman Adams, an industrialist in his spare time, travelled to Shetland at his own expense and gave the pupils a spellbinding two-hour presentation.
Mr Hempelman-Adams said that they had enjoyed a fantastic sail north this week, with the sun and light winds contrasting with the weather of two years ago when it had been more like winter in June.
This time, the bairns accompanied by Mrs Small and teacher Dianne Forsyth, who was acting head at the time of Mr Hempelman-Adams previous trip, was invited on a tour of the specially designed aluminium yacht which has a raking bow to help her breach the ice.
Also on board is 13-year-old Benji Edwards, whose father Steve is part of the crew. Benji will also be taking part in next year’s trip to circumnavigate the pole and will be the youngest person ever to have achieved this.
The yacht will set off tomorrow for Tromso where she will pick up fuel before heading for Svalbard, which, at 80 degrees north is further north than Northabout will be when she circumnavigates the pole – all going to plan. The vessel also plans to stop-off in Shetland on its return in about two-months time.
The vessel is skippered by Magnus Day, who has a wealth of sailing experience in northern and southern latitudes and there is also an expert Russian Arctic sailor on board.
Mr Hempelman-Adams has made several major expeditions since his last visit to Shetland including sailing the Atlantic, a trip to the South Pole and the North Pole – twice. The voyage to Spitzbergen should be a mere bagatelle in comparison.