Bringing together three Arctic explorers to narrate their adventures, their feelings, their motivations… All three, convinced that exploration has changed immensely in 100 years, but also that it is still alive, surviving the cycles of history. This theme was the subject of the table “Exploring the Arctic today: the irresistible temptation of the North Pole”, organized by the Spanish Geographical Society at the Ramón Areces Foundation. It forms part of a cycle of conferences (‘The Arctic, the last frontier’), which have thoroughly reviewed the geo-political, environmental and scientific scenarios of this fragile territory.

“Firstly it was geographic exploration, which gave way to scientific expeditions between the 20s and 60s. From there evolving to sport exploration, more linked to adventure. This had its golden age in the 90s, until the arrival of polar tourism at the beginning of this century, and which coexists with the previous ones. Today all are valid because of the impulse of the human being to get to know the North Pole, “summed up the explorer Ramón Larramendi at the table he moderated and in which the explorer and writer Miguel Gutiérrez Garitano and writer Javier Argüello participated in.

Argüello acknowledged that his participation in 2013 in a sailboat trip to shoot the documentary “Latitude 80º” emerged as an unexpected opportunity that he did not want to miss. “It was a hard and strange trip. A journey in which one depended solely on a small boat and what was inside, an extreme situation in which the better and the worst of each one shows up. The most important thing on my side was that it knocked out the idea that there was nothing left to discover, arriving to a place like the Arctic as if it were the first time, ” he recalled. “The moment in which I discovered how wonderful nature is in regions where humans aren’t around, is when I understood that the planet is a living organism, not a mechanism to exploit.” In that sense, he recalled that he was especially struck by the presence of plastic, the material that, at present, is flooding that organism called Earth.

Miguel Gutiérrez Garitano commenced by showing images of the Mars Gaming Northabout Expedition, which he led last summer. An exploration that aimed to break the record of attaining a high northern latitude on a 15-meter sailboat. The ice eventually prevented them from achieving it. “To me, it was not important to break that record. That is a very Anglo-Saxon way of seeing things. I prefer those who travel with another type of objective, such as mapping, research… In my case I wanted to shoot a documentary that illustrated what the Arctic is, the need to protect it… because it is the key arch, and if it goes down, we shall all suffer the consequences.”

To Larramendi’s questions, Gutiérrez Garitano stressed that a trip understood as an exploration “is the best tool for empathy with other peoples, to discover different worldviews in which, basically, we all want the same thing”; Argüello, in addition affirms, “It is necessary to move for life, even babies have to be cradled to be able to fall sleep.”

But is there space for exploration in the tourism era? Larramendi interpellated. “The key is the level of risk. Exploring is not knowing what I’m going to find, and having things not well tied, while tourism is on another planned side, something much more relaxed, “responded Argüello. In the same line, Gutiérrez Garitano remembered the difficulties to advance that he encountered in his adventure, but also the unique opportunity of having polar bears so close by that they broke the RIB zodiac: “That is very difficult to see in a mass trip.”

Larramendi, meanwhile, recalled that today tourism in polar territories is inevitable and that it will be even more so in some areas due to Arctic melting. “The important thing,” he said, “is how it is done and in that sense it is fundamental that it be very careful not to generate an impact.” “Today in Antarctica only a few tourists can disembark at the same time and in very specific locations to avoid it. There are correct ways of doing things, “he reasoned.


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