Download TOPtoTOP Annual Report 2021
Our Progress — how we meet our goals
In line with our belief that “inspiring youth to act” is the most efficient way to facilitate long-lasting change, we, as is customary, visited schools and universities with our program.
In January, we participated in the “Expedition Sailing Virtual Boat Show”. While waterfall-ice climbing, Dario broke a rib. The fracture was discovered days later by physiotherapist Paul Johan Hansen.
Even though it was very cold and pitch dark, Noé continued Optimist sailing in the fjord. He came up with the idea to start the most northerly sailing club for kids on the globe: “TOPtoTOP Lyngen”. He got two Topper sailboats donated thanks to Roger Proctor in the UK and six Optimists thanks to the Sailing Club in Tromsø. Noé’s idea to have the International Topper World Championships in 2024 in the Arctic, generated some radio interviews, TV reports and articles.
Our kids became ambassadors for other kids to go outdoors and see nature as a “friend”. Sailing and mountaineering connects young people with nature and has many benefits: Increasing resilience, learning endurance, being healthy, becoming a part of nature, thinking strategically, taking responsibility, and increasing self-confidence. To become a good sailor and mountaineer, we integrate other sports into our training: chess for strategic thinking; diving and swimming for strength; climbing for balance; surfing and skiing for coordination; ski-mountaineering and biking for endurance. But the most important thing for us is that young people get back in touch with nature, become a part of it and protect it. In addition to the weekly training, we organized various events, camps and expeditions, especially for families with kids.
Meanwhile, we prepared for the “TOPtoTOP Arctic Research Expedition 2021” with professor Birgit Sattler and the two master students Sebastian Pohl and Max Kortmann from the University of Innsbruck. The Arctic is facing increasing stressors. Plastic pollution and climate change are the major threats to pristine Arctic environments. Yet, research concerning the quality and quantity of pollution, as well as public awareness on this issue, remains scarce. We intend to change this with our research expedition and combined outreach work:
- Analyzing origin, quality and ecological impacts of microplastic pollution on the Arctic environment.
- Raising Awareness and inspiring action with our campaign “SAVE the ARCTIC”. Our vision is to create a scientific hub for Arctic Research out of Lyngen.
On May 10, 2021, we celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary with a “wedding-ski-tour”. We put the kids to bed and were so tired that we fell asleep too. It wasn’t until 11:15 pm that we woke up, hastily packed our backpacks and skis, and headed out. – Twenty years later and 6 children richer, we reached the top of Tafeltinden in the Lyngen Alps at 70 degrees north at 4 am. Another “natural high” on our life journey together. Our great respect for nature has always been our most important “risk management tool” in the two decades now that we have been non-stop on the expedition. Our “wedding jubilee tour” reminded us once again to stay true to this principle: “Wummm” sounds alerted us, and we were able to trigger two avalanches from a distance! On the descent, we crossed a fresh debris field of ice and snow from a cornice break! – In recent years, we have mastered doing detours and turning back, and have gotten a sense to come back at the right time when conditions are best.
The start of the “TOPtOTOP Arctic Research Expedition 2021” was challenging: we left Lyngseidet on June 17 after stocking the boat with plenty of water and food. Soon after, we had an engine failure. Due to the fierce wind, it was too dangerous to continue without the support of our engine. We changed the plan and finally anchored in Koppangen. The anchorage was quite deep. Max and Sebastian went to take samples. We were busy all day and night disassembling the engine to fix the problem. Then the wind picked up, and we drifted towards a cliff, even though we had 80m of chain out. We had to act quickly: we tied all the ropes together, and volunteer Peder Pederson managed to lay a safety line to shore between gusts. Finally, we were able to fix the problem.
Approaching Svalbard, we spotted several whales and seals feeding. Just like last year, we were warmly welcomed by Helge Markusson, the leader of the most northerly research base on earth, Ny-Alesund. The staff enjoyed our “TOPtoTOP event”. Later we joined the annual clean-up of this multinational research base in the High Arctic at 78.56 degrees north, before being invited to their mid-summer party.
In Krossfjorden and Lillienhöökfjorden, we took 5 microplastic samples for the Western Norway University and NORCE, and simultaneously eDNA samples for the Swiss Polar Institute and the ETHZ at the impressive vertical 80m high – and 10 km long glacier wall of Lillienhöök Glacier. We anchored not far from the glacier wall, just below Nilspyten, a large rock tower. There are large colonies of guillemots and kittiwakes; which means another opportunity for Max and Sebastian to sample for the Austrian Polar Research Institute and the University of Innsbruck. There is also a WWII German weather station lying S of the anchorage. For Noé, this was another reason to check the seafloor for debris from WWII and also from whalers or modern-day tourist vessels. The Blue Eye is the perfect ROV tool to do this assessment for the Arctic University of Norway.
The next stop was at 79.34N 11.03E in Magdelenefjorden. Before our clean-up, we did a polar bear protection drill and a crevasse-rescue training. Max and Sebastian went off to a side glacier of the Waggonbau Glacier, Brokebreen, to take more air, sediment and snow samples. While Peder, Noé, Alegra and Dario went from the anchorage at Gravneset all the way to the Southern shore and collected plastic. There were some big – and plenty of small – pieces and a lot of microplastic at the tide line. Afterwards, they left the anchorage with Sabine, Mia and Vital for another set of 5 microplastic – and eDNA samples all the way into the glacier wall of Waggonbau Glacier at the end of the fjord to the entrance on both the North and the South side.
After Magdalenafjord we sailed and sampled along the most north-westerly islands of Svalbard, Danksøya and Amsterdamsøya, named by whalers from southern countries in the old days.
Last year, we arrived later in the season and became the first sailboat circumnavigating the Svalbard and sailed up to 82 degrees north! This year in June, the pack-ice stopped us quite further south at 80.06 north and 010.00 east. Once again, we encountered not only the most micro -, but also the most macro-plastics at the edge of the pack ice.
After our turning point at 80 degrees North, North of Amsterdam Island, the most north-westerly island of Svalbard, we sailed to Longyearbyen, where our friend Lexi showed us her commercial food producing plant, where she is growing vegetables in artificial light all year round.
We continued South to Lyngseidet where we reprovisioned and got vaccinated. At the same time, Emily from the University of Tromsø helped us to fix our microplastic-air-sampler. The final stop before we covered the 500 nm to Jan Mayen was in Nyksund where we did some crevasse rescue training drills at the pier and prepared our climbing gear for our major climb this year Beerenberg on Jan Mayen Island.
In the morning of the 13th of July, we first saw the majestic peak of Beerenberg from far. Its name is Dutch “Bear Mountain”, and comes from the polar bears seen there by Dutch whalers in the early 17th century. Beerenberg is a stratovolcano dominating the northeastern end of the Norwegian island of Jan Mayen. After several more hours, we reached the coast and started sampling at the most northerly cape. Alongside glaciers and some icebergs, we finally anchored in Kwalrosbukta in the southwest of the island. From the beach in Kwalrosbukta, we started walking the 16 km at midnight to the base of Beerenberg, while Sabine did anchor-watch with Mia and Vital. First, we followed the eastern shore. When we started climbing, there were many loose rocks. This caused pain in Sebastian’s knee and he and Max decided to turn back.
We continued in the fog, put on our crampons and roped on at the edge of the glacier. The glacier seemed endless. After some hours the fog lifted, and we saw the highest peak of Beerenberg, Haakon VII Toppen with 2,277 m (7,470 ft), the world’s northernmost volcano. As the snow was getting soft, we decided to go in a straight line to the top. It needed a lot of energy and good navigation through the crevasses. It was hard work to make the trail in the snow. The slopes of the volcano are largely ice-covered, with several major glaciers, including five which reach the sea. Andri took the lead and continued at a steady pace for another 16 km. We had to climb steep ice in the summit upswing and had some challenges to cross the bergschrund. We summited on the 14th of July 2021 at 16:00: Salina (16), Andri (14), Noé (11) and Alegra (10) became the first kids to climb Beerenberg and with their climb honoured Swiss compatriot Paul-Louis Mercanton on the 100-year anniversary of the 1st ascent. It took 86 years for the next foreign climber to reach the top!
On the TOP, after 16 hours of non-stop climbing, suddenly the wind picked up and the temperature started dropping. So, we quickly took a picture and secured the crampons for the steep ice descent. As soon as we reached the flatter part, Salina fell into a crevasse. Noé was fast and managed to avoid a fatal fall. – Drills save lives! – He anchored Salina, who was hanging over a black hole and pulled her to the safe side like a pro.
After 26 hours of non-stop walking and climbing we were back at the anchorage; covering a total of 78 km in distance and close to 3000m altimetres. Everybody was happy about the accomplishment but tired and looking forward to the warm bed on our sailboat. Not before the next morning, and many hours later, did we manage to make it over the tremendous surf to the sailboat, where Sabine offered all an excellent warm meal, even though the boat was rolling terribly. But there was not much rest, the wind turned to the North and the anchorage became unsafe in Kwalrossbukta. It was last minute to leave the bay. The conditions worsened. We hoisted the anchor and sailed further from Jan Mayen towards Greenland.
Because of easterly winds, we had to sail north with a good watch in these foggy waters sparkled with icebergs. The weather cleared up when we approached Scoresby Sund, the biggest fjord on the planet. In calm waters, we did another set of samples surrounded by huge icebergs, before we dropped our SPADE anchor in front of Ittoqqortoormiit, the most northerly Inuit settlement on the east coast. Our Inuit friends, whom we knew from previous visits, gave us a warm welcome. After a presentation and workshop in the kindergarten, we started our “traditional” soccer tournament.
Meanwhile, Max and Sebastian were even able to sample some faeces from a polar bear. We continued sampling the Greenlandic coast south and had an interesting encounter with a polar bear in Römer Fjord. While we entered the narrow fjord, the bear was swimming towards the boat to say hello. Further in, we anchored Pachamama close to a natural hot spring. There we waited for better weather – and sea conditions. We enjoyed laying in the hot water, washing our clothes. We started a fire out of driftwood washed ashore to bake bread and pizza. It is also a good way to keep the curious polar bears away. Even in this remote place, lots of plastic waste and narwhal skeletons were lying around.
From Greenland, we crossed to Iceland. In Bolungarvik, the most northwestern settlement of Iceland we met our old friends Sosssa & Roland, Hordur, Katrin, and Kolbrún. We had a warm welcome in her mother’s house with lots of delicious pizza. The next day, Max and Sebastian left the boat. We had spent nearly three months together. They did a great job in sampling microplastic and always offered a helping hand to operate the boat. They went back to their University in Innsbruck. – We are all looking forward to reading their master’s thesis soon. – For the rest of us, there was a lot to fix and clean. A major job was to reinstall the broken VHF unit.
We continued sampling for Åsta from the University of Akureyi along the northern Icelandic coast. All of us, even 3-year-old Vital and 5-year-old Mia, climbed the top of Kálfatindur 534 m, the tallest cliff in the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve in the Westfjords. It is one of the northernmost locations in the country. Dropping sheerly into the ocean, the cliffs are renowned for their birdlife, being a notably popular nesting ground for guillemots.
The Swiss national day is on the 1st of August, and we celebrated it with our friends Erlingur and Åsta in a remote fjord between Siglufjordur and Olafsfjordur. In Olafsfjordur we met our friend and fisherman Sverrir. There, Mia and Vital learned to swim.
It was very emotional for all of us to dock at the same peer in Akureyri where we had one of our biggest joys, but also one of the biggest disasters in our life: Vital was born here in 2017, but soon after we got shipwrecked in a horrible storm, at exactly the same peer we returned to this year. The warm welcome of our friends in Akureyri, who helped us to overcome the huge challenge we faced to repair our boat, was overwhelming. We learned at our arrival that it has never been so warm and dry for such a long period, and that Akureyri is hosting the National Sailing Championship of Iceland, starting the next day. Noé and Alegra were invited to compete. As a big surprise, Noé came 3rd in the Optimist A class. Alegra went for gold, which means 1st place and Icelandic Champion in the Optimist B class.
Together with our new crew Ueli (the guardian of the Cavadiras hut in Switzerland), we waved goodbye to Iceland and sailed along the most northerly point, Grimsey Island. Because of a low-pressure system further east, we decided to head north for several days and passed huge icebergs. We stopped again in Jan Mayen to take more snow, sediment, and bird dung samples from the southern part of the island. It was impressive to see Beerenberg in the distance. Sven from the Norwegian Army confirmed that Salina, Andri, Noé, and Alegra were the first kids to climb Berenberg. He honoured them with a patch for their perseverance. After our last clean-up on Jan Mayen, we were ready to sail off towards Norway.
Noé had his 12 birthday on the 15th of August, exactly at the meridian – the latitude where “West” is changing to “East”. We made landfall at Yngwar&Torgunn’s in Ballstad-Lofoten, where Ivo & Nina joined us.
From Lofoten, we sailed to Lyngseidet for Vital’s birthday and Mia’s 1st school day, before taking some more samples towards the North Cape and more sailing events for the kids.
In October, we took part in a road trip to the south of Norway and Sweden to renew our expired passports in Stockholm. There we met Swiss ambassador François Voeffray-Peyro. In Oslo, we did a presentation for the Royal Norwegian Yacht Club and were invited to visit Swiss ambassador Bernard Jaggy at his residence. At the University in Sogndal, our presentation was streamed to all 5 campuses and therefore reached many students. Many thanks to our friends Pål, Rolf and Pål K, for connecting us with interesting people and providing accommodation and even appropriate clothing.
Before we went back to the cold Arctic, we accepted the invitation from Kalymnos Diving Center to update our scuba and climbing skills. It was a great experience for the whole family to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary and be away from the cold for a bit, after years of ice and snow. Thanks to Mikes, we learned important diving skills. Now we are able to clean up from the bottom of the sea up to the highest peaks.
Back on the boat at 70 degrees north, we were busy visiting local schools and taking eDNA- and microplastic samples while the orcas were around. It was fantastic to share these great moments with friends. The whole year we were blessed and had no accidents. But at the end of November Dario slipped on the ice, while walking to a school presentation in the fishing town of Skjervøy and broke his elbow. Good news: he is recovering fast.
After nearly sinking in an unforeseen hurricane in the port of Akureyri in 2017, we have known the tremendous forces of nature. Therefore, our greatest desire is to be in a safe place. Even in the sheltered bay of Lyngseidet, where we are moored at the moment, we have been forced to evacuate our children ashore twice due to easterly storms. Now, at the end of the year, after months of careful evaluation, we finally got our storm anchor set. It was bitterly cold and we had to fight the icing. Three heavy anchors of 1.5 tons and heavy chains secure our expedition sailing vessel. We are now better prepared if another hurricane hits us. Many thanks to all involved, especially Dag Olav Mollen, Lyngen Kommune, Lerøy, Boreal Maritim and the tough crew of working ship Runa.
- distance sailed: 10,000 nautical miles (of a total of 126,000 nm)
- distance climbed: 100,000 altimetres (of a total of 700,000 a.m.)
- distance cycled: 100 kilometres (of a total of 23,500 km)
- number of attendees at presentations: 10,000 (of a total of 155,000)
- number of DNA – and microplastics samples collected: 100
- plastic collected in clean-ups: 7,000 kg (of a total of 70,000 kg)
- start campaign “TOPtoTOP Arctic Research Expedition”
- campaign “Save the Arctic”
- campaign LPS,“Leave the Plastic in the Shop”
- campaign OHO, “One Hour Outdoors”
- 1st kids on highest volcano in the Arctic, “by human power and nature’s force”
- sailing to 80 degrees North
- TOPtoTOP sailing openings for kids
- Community actions and Clean-Ups to fight plastic waste
- Great media coverage! Everywhere we travelled, the media were interested in an interview. In all destinations, TV, radio and print media reported very positively about the TOPtoTOP actions.
- The TOPtoTOP Global Climate Expedition teamed up with the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, the Norwegian Research Center, the University of Tromsø, the University of Akureyri in Iceland, the ETH Zürich in Switzerland, the Swiss Polar Institute, the University of Innsbruck and the Austrian Polar Institute to get a better understanding about the Arctic Seas, especially the Norwegian Sea, the Barents Sea and the Greenland Sea.
- With our concept to get everybody on board, we have been received with open arms in Norway, Svalbard, Jan Mayen, Greenland and Iceland, establishing many partnerships with local individuals, organizations and initiatives.
Our Strategies — how we act
Our belief ‘to go together is to go far’ is a success: the family members and volunteers have gone far again this year and accomplished to inspire many to act too.
Our strategy to reach out more and to get the media involved worked very well. This approach also helped us to get in contact with the school authorities to organize events and actions.
We learned that our message is so much more powerful when our children started to talk to their peers of the same age.
Activities from TOPtoTOP members in other countries were reduced as a result of the COVID-19 situation. Our ongoing story and challenge is the backbone that creates the unique global family of activists. Our global network is based on understanding and solidarity in order to solve the global challenge we face with climate change.
Outlook 2022 – our campaign “Save the ARCTIC”
In 2022, Pachamama will operate in the Arctic Sea. We plan to sample up to the highest summit in the Arctic, Gunnbjørn Field. We will collect data for climate and plastic pollution research in Svalbard, Jan Mayen, Greenland, Iceland and Norway. Furthermore, we will combine our environmental education program and clean-ups with our research activities.
- We plan to reach the highest mountain in the Arctic Gunnbjørn Field, from sea level, CO2 neutral, “by human power and nature’s force”
- We start to establish an Arctic science hub in Lyngseidet
- We invite families and their kids to join our outdoor camps and events. Our goal is to connect as many people as possible with nature through outdoor activities. This, with the ultimate goal, to preserve this paradise for the next generation.
- We transfer our sustainable tourism – mountaineering and guiding skills – to give new perspectives and hope to young people living in the Arctic and to protect their environment, and also to enable them to get an alternative source of income to survive in their fast-changing Arctic environment caused by climate change.
- We aim to give remote places a voice and connect schools from different parts of the planet.
We aim to inspire another 100,000 students over the coming years on our route circumnavigating the Arctic and the Americas from POLE to POLE in a figure of 8, making optimal use of the winds and currents. On this endeavour, we sail the Northeast Passage to finish the circumnavigation of the Arctic and have a second try at climbing the last TOP, Mount Vinson in Antarctica.
- Our ultimate goal is to save the planet with the inspiring examples we collect, as well as with our environmental actions and educational events. We aim to build a global network of activists to solve global challenges, based on understanding, friendship and solidarity.
It is time to save our planet! Our goal is to establish a lasting movement that inspires youth to act. Please consider an annual donation and scan below QR code or go to ttps://toptotop.org/donate/.
Become a member
The annual TOPtoTOP-membership is 50 USD/Euro/CHF per household/institution. A lifelong membership is 250 USD, please register at https://toptotop.org/donate/toptotop-membership/ .
Thank you for your support!
Without the generosity and hospitality of the people we meet on our journey, and without your support, our efforts would have been unthinkable. A big THANK YOU especially to our main sponsor VICTORINOX as well as to the patronage of UNEP and our science partners NORCE, HVL, UNIS, UIT, ETHZ, SPI, UIBK and APRI;and our carbon offsetting partner myclimate. Our thanks also go to all the benefactors and all those who support our project with their TOP products and services, especially: SAC, Sportler, PredictWind, Patagonia, Hostpoint, Sunware, Optrel, Munters, Sørheim Brygge, Magic Mountain Lodge, Lyngen Lodge, Kraemmervika Rorbuer, Kloster Engelberg, Hotel Waldegg, Topper International, Torqeedo, Nogva, Skarvik, Tromsø Seilforeining, Lerøy, Boreal Maritim, Lyngen Kommune, Credo Partners, MMC First Process, Computerwerk, Swiss Consulate Stockholm, Swiss Embassy Norway.
Special thanks to our members on the expedition: Sabine, Dario, Salina, Andri, Noé, Alegra, Mia, Vital, Odd, Natasha, Hanne, Rolf, Yngvar, Torgunn, Peder, Ueli, Sebastian, Max, Åsta, Erlingur, Sverrir, Arngrimur, Roland, Veronika, Carlito, Franz, Fabio, Paul Johan & Inge, Malachi, Bruno, Emily, Julien, Henrika & Patrick, Mikes, Ivo & Ina.
A special thank to all in the background: Dag Olav Mollan, Halvard Eneberg, Meret Jucker, Dominik Schaub, Simon Unternährer, Hanna Law, Bruder Martin, Frederic Marty, Peder Pederson, Hanna Lykka, Marianne Nielson, Tarald Seldal, Alessio Gomiero, Loïc Pellissier, Jørgen Berge, Ásta M. Ásmundsdóttir, Birgitte Sattler, Florian Ledoux, Andy Schmied, Toby Maloy, Rosi & Ernst Ammann, Ottavia & Reto Schwörer.
We also wish to thank for their friendship and assistance: Pieter Heerema, Family Carl & Veronika Elsener, Sylvia & Juerg Zahnd, Bruder Martin Hieronymi, Kloster Disentis, Dominik & Sylke Schaub, Marco & Ines Kappenberger, Karin Caderas & Marco Koch, Family Torgen & Lindsey Johnson, Family Pia & Andy Zimmermann, Stefan Baumann, Peter Locher, Mario Okle, Family Pholenz, Lars Ole Gudevang, Family Odd Tufte & Gunvor Steine, Natasha Tufte, Ric & Emma van Wachem, Clark & Barbara Blynn, Andrea Kuhn, Juliane Köhler, Elisabeth & Rolf Hefti, Rita & Johann Kaufmann, Magnus Mugaas Heiland, Eli Heiberg & Christian Zurbuchen, Hanne Lykkja & Harald Renum, Michael Thorne, Family Torgunn & Yngvar Rist Aagaard, Alexia Spencer, Iger-Lise & Rikart Evensen, Marit&Stein-Erik Eliassen, Family Henrika Lönngren & Patrik Jonsson, Ingunn Riverts Vatne & Mathieu Blein, Susanne & Chérif Khater, Ursula & Alex Zehnder, Nathalie Thierstein & Stefan Leimer, Fred Marty, Family Marius & Karine Løken, Sten-Robin Morfjord, Peder and Kaja Pedersen, Roland Müller, Naxo Tomey and Kavin Ochoa, Florian Lars-Åge Larsen, Tobias Maloy, Andy Schmid, Delphine Garcin & Espen Prestbakmo, Sanna Kaivantola, Salve Dahle, Roman Aguaviva, Magne Anderssen, Hebe Markussen, Norwegian Polar Institut, Dutch Arctic Station, Åse Hansen, Thomas Haavik, Sysselmannen på Svalbard, Andy Hodson, UNIS, Marianne Nilsen, HVL, Tarald Seldal, HVL, Alessio Gomiero, NORCE, Loïc Pellissier, ETHZ, Håvard Fjellheim, Kjell Roger, Jan Kiil, Ymgvar Hansen, Erlingur Gudundsson, David Skinisson & Annakari Sandvik, Paul Johan Jensen & Inger Palopää, Veronika Bodner & Graham Austick, Elisabeth Braathen, Swiss ambassador François Voeffray-Peyro, Swiss ambassador Bernard Jaggy, Turid Samuelson & Haldor-Inge Samuelsen, Terje Fagerborg, Rolf Kragerud, Pål Kragerud, Pål Brynsrud, Roland Smelt & Soffia Vagnsdóttir , Birma Hjaltalin Pálsdóttir, Christian Wehrli, Christian Pasquali, Nele Schimpf, Rune Madsen, Ragnar Evensen, Caroline Brynsrud,Roar Henriksen, Eva & Kurt Mesmer, Kristian Kaminski, Agnes Ammann-Illien, Manuel Bügri, Peter Gnehm, André Regli, Pater Andri, Pater Guido, Eugen & Susi Funz, Dominik & Elisabeth Brun, Familie Bicher Hotel Waldegg, Jacques De Vos, Christian Langlo, Rita Dolci, Roland Möncke, Jann Flütsch, Nils Thomas Lien, Reidar Fougner, Hans-Arne Lorange, Ole Melhus, Arno Berg, Lars B Thoresen, Tore Eiklid, Edgar Haugen, Truls Persen, Andreas Rørvik…