The Polar Ocean Challenge

History in the Making

The Polar Ocean Challenge (POC) made history by becoming the first British yacht to sail around the Arctic Ocean (anticlockwise) in one summer season.

This expedition was lead by our founder David Hempleman-Adams and the crew included Arctic Explorer speaker Hazel Richards and 14 year old Benji (the youngest person to have sailed around the North Pole). 

On the 20th of  October 2016, Northabout and her crew returned to Bristol. The historic Polar Ocean Challenge (POC) was a success, but it brings home an important message – this journey was only possible because climate change is causing the northern ice cap to melt.


Until recently there has been too much ice for even a small boat to get through in one summer. The Northeast and Northwest passages used to take 2-3 years each to complete due to the extent of sea-ice melt, it took the POC just 4 months to complete the whole journey.

The Route

The expedition was broken down into four legs:

First Leg: left Bristol, UK 19th June; arrived Murmansk, Russia, 14th July

Second Leg: left Murmansk, Russia 20th July; arrived Point Barrow, Alaska, 28th August

Third Leg:  Point Barrow, Alaska to Iqabuit, Baffin Island (Canada)

Fourth Leg:  Iqabuit, Baffin Island (Canada) to Bristol, UK, arriving back on 20th October 1016.

An Educational Adventure

This record-breaking voyage was only possible because the northern ice cap is melting due to global warming. Until recent years there has been too much ice for a boat to get through, and circumnavigating the North Pole in one go has been impossible. But due to sea ice retreating, the number of ice-free months in the Northeast Passage has increased, opening up both the Northeast and Northwest passages of the Arctic Ocean at the same time. The opening of these passages is the most important geographical landmark to date to signal the rapid progress of global warming.

David made this journey to highlight changes in the Arctic due to climate change. His passion to protect the Arctic comes from seeing the changes first-hand:

“We hear about global warming on the news, but it can be difficult for people in the UK and around the world to fully appreciate the threat until it directly impacts them. I’ve seen massive changes since 1982 when I first went to the Arctic. There’s a lot less pack ice. If we get around, it will show we’ve got massive problems because normally it would take three years. To do the whole journey in one season indicates what state our planet is in.”

“The Arctic is ours to look after. From a very early age children can start to think about this, which is why Wicked Weather Watch is so important.”

A Snapshot of the Crew

David Hempleman-Adams – Expedition Leader 

David is one of the most experienced and successful adventurers in the world. In his 40 years as an adventurer, David was the first person to reach the highest peaks on all seven continents and journey fully to the North and South Geographical and Magnetic Poles. 

Nikolay  Litau – Captain

Nikolay has enjoyed 30 years of yachting crossing all the oceans, including 7 trips in the Arctic ocean, and a circumnavigation of the Antarctic. 

Ben Edwards – Crew member all 4 legs

Ben is the youngest person to sail around the North Pole at the age of 14 years old. He was a full crew member for the whole trip and raised money for research into Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis. 

Hazel Richards – Crew 1st Leg

Hazel found her legs for the first time having trekked the Arctic and Antarctic and crossed the Gobi. She is a training and financial consultant by profession.