1. Tell us about your most memorable Adventure.
Polar Bears in Qikiqtarjuaq, Canada
48 hours prior to landing in the coldest environment I’d ever been to, I was sat in New York prepping for one of my wildest adventures. We had read articles and watched videos about the state of the Polar Bear population in Russia, along with mounting concern over the effects of global warming on these already vulnerable animals. It was obvious to both Cory and I that we needed to find out more and to understand if this was a global Polar Bear problem. With that in mind we managed to get ourselves onto an expedition which would see us spend 10 days living in one of the most unique environments in the world and more importantly the possibility of getting up close to the largest land carnivore on the planet.
4 flights and 2 days later, going from a warm 75f (23c) in New York to a bitterly cold -29f (-33c) in Qikiqtarjuaq, Canada, an Inuit community just north of the Arctic Circle, we were met by our local Inuit guide Jay and his son Kyle. We would be spending the next 7 days with them, living on the frozen Atlantic Ocean surrounded by towering icebergs and of course Polar Bears, which we were reminded of multiple times during our initial briefing… “Make no mistake guys” Says Jay “You are in Polar Bear territory now, do not forget that. Always stay close to us and keep your wits about you”. With a few more words of warning and our bags packed onto the back of skidoos, we saw the small town we flew into disappear into the distance as we blasted across the ice and out into the white abyss that we would now call home.
Nothing can really prepare you for the first time you see a Polar Bear making it’s way toward you, the power in it’s body as it charges through the snow, confident and focused. They can smell seals from over a mile away, even hidden below meter of ice — which means there was no doubt it knew we were there. We had been on the ice for 2 days searching for tracks and signs of bears and this was going to be our first encounter. The bitter cold was scratching at my fingers as I nestle the tripod into the snow and attach an 800mm lens to the camera body - we were told to be completely silent as to not scare the bear so each movement I made was slow and calculated. I expected for this encounter to be a distant one, where the bear would walk past and keep its distance from us. But I don’t think I judged it quite right as it started to come directly towards us.
Behind the bear, who Jay said was a female, were two 4 month old cubs, playful and clumsy as they tried to copy their mother and charge through the snow. Even with the cute displays from the cubs, Jay was vigilant - eyes locked on the mother who was now about 50ft from us and still moving rapidly towards the group. I couldn’t take my eyes off them either, but out of pure fascination for being so close to these majestic animals, I tracked them through my lens, photographing each moment they moved closer. It wasn’t until I brought my head up from behind my lens and looked out to the where the bears were that I realised they were now just 15ft from us. The mother looked up and locked eyes with Jay before she began to bow her head in a dominating position, for a moment he held the stare with her, before slapping his hand on the side of the skidoo and shouting. This wasn’t to scare the bear but purely to distract her and make her think about her two cubs again — who were still happily playing in the snow. With the surprise of the noise she turned, beckoned the cubs to follow and continued her way through the deep snow and slowly out of sight.
It took a moment of processing to appreciate the moment that had just happened, then following that a sense of immense sadness that an animal so beautiful, was in such imminent danger in other parts of the world. It was of course, due to the videos we had seen in Russia, that we decided to come out to this remote area. We had expected to see and hear about the negative impacts global warming has been having on Polar Bear populations here as well. But to our happy surprise we found that those issues were not something that was impacting the population here and with more research followed by interviewing Jay and other Polar Bear experts in the region, we found that in fact it was rather the opposite. Polar Bear populations are on the rise in that area, with more numbers seen here in recent years than ever before. On top of that, the fact we saw young healthy cubs (and some older cubs during the following days) meant that Polar Bear mating was not being affected which is a huge win for the species. The following days were equally as magical, seeing and photographing a total of 13 bears, while Jay saw over 40 as he scouted the vast landscapes around us.
2. What are the top 3 items on your bucket list?
- Namibia & South Africa (I am yet to do a safari or explore any of Africa)
- Do an open-door helicopter photo shoot above Paris (The permissions are nearly impossible)
- Skydive onto a baron desert road in Abu Dhabi which I found on google maps (This project is in the works)
3. Tell us about your biggest struggle / setback to date; how did you overcome it?
2019 was a hugely challenging year for me. On a personal level I broke up with my girlfriend through difficult circumstances and it definitely caused huge set backs in my life. But one of the biggest things I learn is the power of the people around you and the friends you have and how important it is to lean on them for support and guidance to help you through challenges. Keeping stuff quiet and only to yourself is not the way to deal with things.
On a creative level back in 2017 I made the hardest decision of my life to leave Beautiful Destinations, my full time secure job, and go freelance — I was terrified. I had no idea what to expect and whether I had made the right choice but with determination and a lot of hard work I made sure to never regret the decision and I certainly don’t now. Sometimes taking that leap into the unknown can be the best thing that will happen to you.
4. Looking forward, what lessons has life and adversity taught you that you will carry into the future?
Something I was told a long time ago and that I have really resonated with in recent times is this:
“Just because it didn’t last forever, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth your while.”
Everything you do and all the experiences you have whether positive or negative help you grow and learn. They help shape you into a better person. Sometimes the hardest things that eventually be looked at in a positive light and show hugely positive change.
5. What advice would you give to anyone facing a challenge and that might be afraid to take action?
First up, you are not alone. Talk to friends, family and others about the challenge you are facing, get their advice and opinions. Of course it will always come down to your final choice but sometimes opening up to people can help hugely. Second, don’t be afraid of change. It is so easy to be comfortable in what you are doing and eventually become complacent but to continue to grow you need to keep challenging yourself. Look at any challenge, positive or negative, as a way to help you grow and achieve more.
6. Please share a quote that relates to the #PursuitOfAdventure campaign.
“If it excites you and terrifies you at the same time, it probably means you should do it” — Unknown