THE CREW of a yacht that aims to become the first British boat to circumnavigate the North Pole in a single season while also raising awareness of climate change stopped off in Shetland this week.
The 15 metre aluminium yacht Northabout arrived in Lerwick harbour on Tuesday for a three or four day pit-stop before heading to Norway to continue its Polar Ocean Challenge mission.
The boat will then head to Russia before travelling around the North Pole, crossing the Atlantic Ocean and arriving back in Bristol in October.
The expedition is led by renowned explorer and adventurer David Hempleman-Adams, who has visited Shetland on a number of occasions.
Due to crew changes, 14 year old Benjamin Edwards – one of only two staying onboard for the whole journey – is set to become the first Brit to travel around the North Pole in one season.
It will be only the third boat ever to go around in one season, and the first British one.
The teenager’s father Steve Edwards is also onboard to look after any engineering and technical issues.
He said the only reason why the Northabout can take the 14,000 mile trip in one season is because the polar ice is receding as a result of climate change.
“The driving idea is to go on an expedition and to be the first British boat to get round in one season,” Edwards senior said.
“The second objective is to draw attention to the reality of what’s going on in polar regions because of global warming.
“We’re not intending to really campaign about it, but David set up a charity called Wicked Weather Watch, which shows people what’s going on and how much the ice is thinner and receded and the effects that is having.
“It’s only possible to do this in one year because there’s so much less ice. This boat has been around the North Pole before, but it took them three years to do it.
“Now if we succeed, this will be only the third boat to ever go round in one season. Global warming is really changing the ice in the polar regions quite significantly.”
The “cosy” boat carries seven crew members, who do four hours on watch and eight hours off watch on rotation, with renowned Russian yachtsman Nikolay Litau acting as captain.
Northabout left Bristol in mid-June and should reach Russia around 11 July before travelling around the North Pole.
It’s not so much an appetite for adventure, however, that has encouraged Benjamin Edwards to sign up for the full trip, but more a light-hearted family rivalry.
“I have more of an appetite for competing with my siblings,” the teenager smiled.
“My older sister went for a trip to the South Pole over Christmas, so I want to beat her.”
The 14 year old is missing a number of months of school to take part in the expedition, but he has taken the entire syllabus for his GCSE courses on board.
The crew are also raising money for charity, with Wicked Weather Watch, Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust and research into inflammatory bowel diseases in children set to benefit.
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