Epic journey to the Arctic Circle for former Lewes pupil

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Former Priory School, Lewes, pupil Dougal Fleming has just returned from the adventure of a lifetime.

The 27-year-old was a member of an 11-strong team which spent 10 weeks on an epic journey to the Arctic Circle and the west coast of Greenland.

dougal

dougal

The ‘North of Disko’ expedition sailed the Atlantic in the 49ft ex-Admiral’s Cup yacht Killary Flyer from Galway in Ireland to Upernavik, encountering violent storms along the way.

Here the team split into kayakers and climbers, with Dougal paddling more than 500km through fjords and ice fields.

The unsupported sea journey took 14 days, with the team camping on beaches and spits – and taking part in an impromptu race against Greenland’s native Inuit people.

Dougal, from Cooksbridge, near Lewes, said: “It was a beautiful wilderness with wonderful scenery. We could go for days without seeing anyone.

“There was 24-hour sunlight, which took a bit of getting used to. Out of the sun it could be extremely cold.”

The Southover Bonfire Society member continued: “One of the main points of the expedition was to encourage people to be adventurous. It’s good for people to get out of their comfort zone and do something – even if it’s only climbing a tree.”

While the kayakers made their way south through icebergs, other members of the team tackled a series of ascents on the rugged terrain. In some cases those challenges overwhelmed the experienced climbers. The Impossible Wall, for example, was just that. Impossible.

‘North of Disko’ was organised by the Galway-based Killary Adventure Centre where Dougal is an outdoor instructor in kayaking, rock climbing, skiiing, hiking and cycling.

MD Jamie Young said the team got to experience the native culture first hand when they attended an Inuit confirmation ceremony in one of the settlements.

The menu comprised of polar bear, beluga whale and seal-meat, which Jamie said it “would of course” have been wrong to refuse.

He said: “A lot of people would think it odd to eat bear, but they regard polar bear as their cattle, seals as their chicken. Fish, of course, as their fish.”

The expedition captured some stunning images along the way and photographer Daragh Muldowney will be hosting an ehibition in the coming months.

He said: “I’ve been fascinated by ice ever since I stood on the Fox Glacier in New Zealand – so I jumped at the chance to come on this trip when Jamie asked me.”