How schools can join the B.I.G. North Pole Expedition

Next month, a group of intrepid explorers head to Svalbard to start a groundbreaking ski journey to the North Pole, raising awareness about and collecting data on global emissions. Partly sponsored by Air Quality News and Environment Journal, another partner brand, Evotech, is inviting teachers and pupils a chance to join. Director John Lumb explains how. 


They say good things come to those who wait. That certainly rings true for Felicity Ashton MBE and her comrades. In April, the team will set off on a mission to the top of the world, taking ice and snow samples en route to be analysed for black carbon content, while also measuring air quality in one of Earth’s few remaining wildernesses. 

Author, speaker – no stranger to Air Quality News’ annual conferences – and polar explorer, Ashton and her team’s latest endeavour was supposed to complete last year. The B.I.G. North Pole Expedition, or Before Its Gone, was sadly postponed due to the outbreak of war in Ukraine which impacted a number of logistical, tech, equipment and navigation specialists working in the region. 

12 months on and the adventure is about to begin, although nothing is guaranteed. Once dropped off at Barneo, a floating base camp on Arctic Ocean sea ice, the crew will begin a 110KM ski to the Geographic North Pole, the top of the world, with a 10 day timeframe to get there. The going is tough, with temperatures as low as -40C, while even in good conditions the ground shifts underfoot due to tidal changes. However, there’s also an outlying possibility that this year’s great melt will be so extreme no route across the ice will exist. While that would be a disaster, it would also send a clear message to the world. 

‘This in itself would provide significant evidence and increase understanding of global warming. Essentially, that ice shelf should not be melted,’ says John Lumb, Director of Evotech Air Quality, one of the firms sponsoring B.I.G. North Pole, before explaining how he came to be involved. ‘We thought we liked the sound of it, and so got in touch to ask how we could get behind the trip. The overall purpose is to take samples of snow and ice, send them to various researchers involved, who will be able to see the level of black carbon in those deposits. 

‘That could really help improve how much people understand the impact of burning fossil fuels elsewhere in the world, on this region. I mean, we need to understand what humankind is doing to effect and change one of the cleanest places on the planet, which in turn will highlight what we’re doing to the Earth as a whole,’ he continues. ‘Anyway, we asked what we could sponsor, and in the end we’re covering the actual black carbon analysis. Then we brought in AQ Mesh, whose technology is proven in these conditions, to broaden the remit by monitoring ambient air quality in the region.’ 

Evotech and Lumb have gone much further than this, though. Having launched the Calderdale Clean Air for Schools campaign on Clean Air Day 2021, providing five schools in the West Yorkshire borough with a fully-funded air quality monitoring programme for an academic year, the company is now inviting teachers and students to join on the B.I.G. North Pole Expedition. 

A series of resources have been created, available to download below. These make it easy to track the team as they head out across the ice shelf, and offer an insight into the indigenous animals that call the Arctic home. Many of which are now critically endangered due to the impact of climate change on their natural habitat.

‘I mean, if we can teach the youngest generation about air pollution, and about climate change, then they’re the best placed to make change,’ says Lumb. ‘So we’ve made an art competition, fact cards about different species, and posters signposting people to the GPS tracker website where they can keep up to date with progress.’ 

Download the B.I.G. North Pole animal fact cards here

Download the B.I.G. North Pole GPS tracking poster here

Download the B.I.G. North Pole art competition poster here

Download the B.I.G. North Pole art competition assets here

Find full details of the B.I.G. North Pole Expedition here


All images: B.I.G. North Pole 



Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Help us break the news – share your information, opinion or analysis
Back to top