The day has come; After two months of quarantine, we were finally able to set foot on our beloved Pachamama again! It felt a bit like coming home from a long holiday and being ready to revert to everyday life. Just that home means being on the move and everyday life means having more variety in the schedule. Well, we certainly did not get bored during the time we spent in ice-olation. The circumstances may have erased our agenda and blown previous plans into the wind. At the same time, though, the situation gave us an unexpected opportunity to hatch new projects and revive old ones! Time, interference and good company are known to be the optimal conditions for thriving! And exactly these synergies we could use to work with double productivity! We already mentioned our exploration-based learning tool ‘Adventure School‘ in the last blog. With some first webinars, a toolbox and an online classroom, we are now ready to take students from all over the world virtually on the next stages of the expedition.
Furthermore, the idea of a new book has been floating in the air for quite some time now. The first nine years of the expedition were captured at length by Marc Zollinger in “The Schwoerer Family – When the Earth Turned into a Nursery” (click for download). The assiduous editor took our perspectives with great commitment and wove them into a multifaceted narrative. Yet, the publication dates back a whole ten years. A decade, in which a lot has happened! First, some important milestones were reached on the expedition route itself. After Mont Blanc (Europe), Aconcagua (South America) and Kosciuszko (Australia), we have climbed Mount Everest (Asia) in May 2010, Kilimanjaro (Africa) in July 2011 and Denali (North America) in May 2014. Hence, six of the seven highest summits on each continent were reached with nothing but wind and muscle strength. For this purpose, we sailed through the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea – crossed the South Atlantic and sailed up the Gulf of Mexico – down to the Caribbean Sea and through the Panama Canal – from the Pacific Ocean to the Bering Sea and via the Labradors to the Greenland Sea. In the Northwest Passage, our Pachamama was even honoured to pass one strait as the first registered boat in history. By 2020, we count 111,000 nautical miles sailing, 24,000 kilometres biking and 500,000 meters of altitude walking and climbing. Along the way, we were enriched with numerous encounters that have shaped and guided the venture to what it has become; A Global Family! 140’000 students participated in our presentations and workshops in more than 100 countries. Clean Ups enabled us to collect around 60 tons of waste and a great number of projects linked us to research institutions, schools and local communities around the world. In addition, we have been incredibly bestowed as a Global Family in the truest sense of the word. Alegra (Singapore, 2011), Mia (Switzerland, 2015) and Vital (Iceland, 2017) joined the Board Crew along the way with their bright charisma and made the deck their floating nusery. Apart from joy and enthusiasm, there were certainly also difficult times. The shipwreck in Iceland drove the expedition to the edge of its existence. At this point, it demanded us a lot to hold against the odds and start all over again. After all, one thing being for certain; ToptoTop from its early stages gives more than enough material to fill a family album for its 20th birthday! And so we met every morning at 6.45 a.m. sharp to plough through stories of old days. Photos were sorted, articles combed through and diary entries brought back memories that seemed forgotten a long time ago. For breakfast, we enjoyed homemade bread – and if spreads were running low, the kids tested themselves making Nutella and butter.
The program then depended on the weather. If it was cloudy and hazy, we dedicated ourselves to daily duties such as homeschooling, route planning, or designing the Adventure School platform. At times, Dario even devoted himself to school duties, which stayed away for the last 30 years. He successfully absolved an exam on GeoHazards; a lecture he attended at the Sogndal University in the past semester. Arguably a striking proof that one is never too old to learn more! Maybe just not every semester.. 😉 If the weather was good, however, the beautiful surroundings of Vatnahalsen offered us plenty of opportunities to enjoy the spring snow on our touring skis. Since public events are not very reasonable and mountain huts are closed, we had to postpone the “fjord2TOP Expedition” for the time being. There was still the possibility of packing tents and start without the little ones. Though, this would have missed the core idea of a joint event so that we decided to wait for our return in summer. After all, mountains rarely run away… And for now, we focused on the highest peaks in the Flåm region that are no less of fantastic beauty!
Every day was rounded off by Salinas virtual community workout on Zoom. After some technical challenges, we were happy to welcome some family and friends from all over the world in our living room.
Between this routine of daily life, there were also some very exceptional events on the agenda. Despite all regulations on distancing and commuting, the Easter Bunny made it up to Vatnahalsen just on time! While some of us sniffed their nests as fast as lightning, others had to earn their sweets by hard detective work along the endless corridors. Last but not least there was Salina’s birthday, which should have been celebrated extensively in spite and because of the situation being. Since buying was not an option anymore, we gave our best to bake, tinker and ponder games instead! Moving, creating, learning and applying – these processes shaped our quarantine in the mountains essentially.
Especially for Salina, it was then a special feeling to get back on the boat last Saturday – considering she has not seen her living room for a full seven months! Of course, we first had to get used to a “little less space” again. In the kitchen, we will probably shed a little tear every now and then thinking back on the time in the spacious hotel. Nonetheless, coming home and setting off was an indisputable elation for all of us! This was not least thanks to our partner Munters, who made our winter in the Arctic much more pleasant than it was the case in recent years. The activity of ten people often produced tropical humidity in the ship, which condensed to rain as soon as the aluminium hull was heated above ten degrees. Thanks to the high performance of the MG90 we can now enjoy a pleasant dry-warm climate even if we cross the polar circle to the North. This is estimated to be the case in two weeks when we reach the Lofoten Islands. The actual reason for our take-off is a research assignment from the Sogndal University and the Marine Research Laboratory in Stavanger. We agreed to take samples of fish, sediment and water in the Greenland Sea to examine them for microplastic particles. This endeavour takes us from Kaupanger towards Lofoten, Tromsø, Bear Island, Svalbard, Jan Mayen, Iceland, Greenland, Faroe Islands, Shetland Islands and back to the Sognefjord. Since the focus of our activities is now on the sea, we follow this example with our sports and environmental campaigns. Supported by our partner Patagonia we start the project ‘Surf 2 Clean the Arctic’. The idea is to get people to surf and – through a closer connection with the ocean – stand up for clean water! Our aim is, inter alia, to enthuse other families with children and to connect local surf communities to a powerful collaboration for the environment! The inspiration for this idea came through an acquaintance who shot the fabulous movie “North of the Sun” (Link for Streaming). Together with his friend, he cleaned up a remote beach in the Lofoten islands and built a winter cottage from the rubbish they found. Every day they littered the shore, surfed the magnificent waves and fed on what the ocean offered. Beautiful landscapes underline a fabulous story on how little material is needed to be happy in the right place. A must-see for every outdoor and movie enthusiast! The talented young filmmaker Jørn Nyseth Ranum will accompany us with the camera in the coming weeks. More about ‘Surf 2 Clean the Arctic’ you will find soon on our blog. Keep posted! (Simon, 6.5.2020)