Getting away from the routine to travel and explore the outdoors can help unlock new interests and encourage growth through leadership, resilience, resourcefulness and teamwork. This is the ethos of the British Exploring Society, which was founded by George Murray Levick, a member of Scott’s final expedition to the South Pole, who saw the value of offering young people “adventures with a purpose” and led what is now known as the BES’s first expedition to Finland in the summer of 1932.
More than 80 years later, the society continues to provide challenging expeditions to remote environments, with the aim of imbuing young explorers with a sense of confidence, the ability to tackle the challenges of modern life and the opportunity to reflect on their own values and motivations en route from sixth form to university and a career.
The society’s tiered approach and range of programmes contribute to ongoing scientific work by international institutions and research projects. Recent projects have included the discovery of rock art in Namibia, ecological classification in rain forests and glacial monitoring in the Himalayas. Alongside this scientific work, participants are also helped to express their own experience of exploration using photography, video, sound recording and creative writing, both individually and collaboratively. One early explorer with the society was Roald Dahl, whose journal entries from his first expedition to Newfoundland in 1934 have survived.
“Personal development is at the heart of any expedition,” says the society. “The unique experience plays an important role in supporting the achievement of educational aims within the setting of remote wildernesses. All expeditions supplement project and fieldwork skills with applied science in the outdoors – which is extremely valuable in providing ‘stand out’ in the University UCAS process. This is complemented by the option to achieve the Gold Duke of Edinburgh award and also John Muir Explorer award certification.”
This year, in the summer, the society will be deploying two expeditions. The first will travel deep into the Peruvian Amazon jungle, while the second will venture into the high mountainous ranges of Ladakh in the Indian Himalayas.
The Peruvian Amazon expedition will be collaborating with the Crees Foundation, whose long-term aim is all about “protecting the biodiversity of the rain forest, [in a way] that involves the people who live there”. Participants will be supporting the foundation’s mission of sustainable development whilst also gaining first-hand experience of field data collection techniques, including setting camera traps in a search for new or vulnerable species such as the spectacled bear.
The Indian Himalayan Expedition with explore the dramatic terrain of Ladakh. It’s a landscape of extremes nestled between the world’s highest mountain ranges, whose corridors are those through with traders once travelled on the Silk Road. Participants on this expedition will trek from the busy markets and monasteries of Leh to the summits of peaks of more than 6,000 metres. Fieldwork research will include collecting data from the third highest weather station in the world and studying glacial retreat rates – essential data for climate scientists engaged in ongoing research into global warming.
“The British Exploring Society is a unique and precious natural resource,” says explorer Pen Hadow, the first man to walk solo and unsupported around the north geographic pole. “In combining scientific research in extreme environments, through the vehicle of expertly organised expeditions, it offers unrivalled personal development opportunities for young people.”