The Celtic challenge 2014
Rowing 160km across the Irish Sea
Over the May bank holiday weekend 2014 I raced a traditional wooden skiff across the Irish Sea with Team GOAL and the St Michael's Rowing Club, Dun Laoghaire. We experienced a mix of conditions from an eerily calm night to a fairly rough morning and the crossing took us a total of 25 hours. We were delighted to be awarded the Spirit of the Celtic Challenge trophy in recognition of the novice status of half our team and the fact that we were the only competitors in the traditional style of boat. All together a wonderful experience!
The Celtic Challenge is the World’s Longest true rowing race where teams race from Arklow in County Wicklow, Ireland to Aberystwyth on the Welsh coast, a distance of about 90 nautical miles. Each boat is about 24 feet (8m) long and has 4 fixed seats and one cox. Each team doing the Celtic Challenge consists of 12 people who take it in turns to row, spending the time in between on a support boat. A small inflatable is used to transfer people between the support boat and the rowing boat. The race starts in the afternoon with all teams rowing throughout the night and arriving in Aberystwyth some time the following day. The Celtic Challenge happens every 2 years.
The Great pacific race
2,400 miles in 57 days, 5 hours and 45 minutes in the first ever Pacific Ocean rowing race.
In the summer of 2014 I raced over 2,400 miles across the Pacific Ocean by rowing boat as part of team Pacific Warriors - the first mixed team of four ever to row the Pacific Ocean. We left Monterey California on 9th June and arrived to a wonderful welcome from friends and family at Waikiki Yacht Club on Oahu Island, Hawaii, 57 days, 5 hour and 45 minutes later. On route we saw all sorts of interesting wildlife, seascapes and weather, and experienced enourmous physical and psychological highs and lows.
Team Pacific Warriors: Duncan Tebb (Skipper), John Wagner, Matt Lasky & Susannah Cass.
Find out more about the Great Pacific Race at www.greatpacificrace.com.
London to Rio by human power - Rowing the Atlantic
A human-powered journey marking the transition of the Olympic and Paralympic games from London 2012 to Rio 2016. I took part in Stages 2 and 3 of this epic adventure. First as Skipper of our record setting Atlantic crossing - rowing from Lagos in southern Portugal to Recife in northeastern Brazil, and then cycling down the East coast of Brazil to Rio.
In February 2016 we set of from Lagos, Portugal to row 3,500 miles across the Atlantic Ocean to northeastern Brazil. Our journey took us past the snow-capped volcanoes of the Canary Islands, fishing fleets off the African coast, across the Equator, and through the doldrums to the southern trade winds. We experienced oar-snapping waves, tropical downpours, bioluminescence, flying fish, 30 degree sea temperatures and a curious shark. On April 23rd we 'parked' our boat on a tiny patch of sand outside the only bar in a small Brazilian fishing village, the first team of four, first mixed team and first women ever, to row from mainland Europe to mainland South America.
Row2Rio crew: Jake Heath, Melanie Parker, Luke Richardson & Susannah Cass (Skipper).
London to Rio by human power - Cycling Brazil
After a two weeks of R&R - and building a giant plywood shipping cradle for the boat - we set off by bike from the city of Recife, riding the 2,300km to Rio de Janeiro in 25 days. The stage 3 team consisted of Mel and Jake (completing the full London - Rio challenge), myself, photographer Shaun McCance, support driver Ian Heath, and our brilliant translator, fixer, co-cyclist, and all round hero Eric Gunnar.
On route we cycled along tropical beaches, through coconut plantations, cattle ranches, small remaining fragments of Atlantic rainforest, and knee-high mud. We fuel ourselves with regional delicacies from the many States we passed through, and stayed in some of the lovelies pousadas (B&Bs) despite our minimal budget. We were even adopted for a night and invited to eat, party and stay with a Brazilian family when we failed to find accommodation.
At points we piled our bikes onto ferries, riverboats and canoes to cross the many rivers feeding out into the Atlantic, and on our final morning we cycled onto the commuter ferry across Guanabara Bay, and peddled through Rio's hectic city traffic to finish our human powered journey at Parque Large - home of the British House for the 2016 Olympics.
British Exploring Society Peruvian Amazon expedition 2017 - Manu
As Chief Scientist for the expedition I worked with a fabulous team of Science Leaders to design and deliver a research and education programme enabling 40+ Young Explorers to understand and investigate the biodiversity of the Amazon jungle. We spent 6 weeks living in the jungle conducting a rapid biodiversity inventory using the citizen science platform iNaturalist, recording jungle soundscapes, tracking wildlife including puma and tapir, and creating a Science Expo to share our work and findings with the local community in the jungle town of Salvacion.
Sign up for iNaturalist and have a look at the BES Amazon Expedition project to see some of the 700+ observations of extraordinary wildlife made by the expedition.
Citizen Science in the rainforest
Back to Manu and the Crees Foundation reserve in the foothills of the Andes, this time with an enthusiastic group of citizen scientists organised by James Dyer Expeditions with the expert guidance of entomologist Ross Piper.
Records collected from the expedition will help give a more detailed understanding of the biodiversity of these unique forests in the Andean foothills - areas which combine low altitude cloud forest, primary rainforest and patches of regenerated secondary rainforest. Whilst Ross concentrated mostly on the insect life, I seized the opportunity to indulge my interest in earthworms, and our specimens are currently deposited at the Natural History Museum where the painstaking task of identifying each species is still ongoing. Early results have already been very exciting, with at least two species entirely new to science including the rather grim parasitic worm seen below after emerging from its unfortunate katydid host!
Hiking Europe's Toughest Grande-Ranndonée... with my Dad
What do you do for a combined 100th birthday? Go on a little adventure of course. To be precise we decided to take on what is considered to be the toughest of Europe's 'GR' long distance walking routes, the GR20. At only 180km it may not sound much, but when you factor in Corsica's spectacular granite mountains, 2600m passes, snow fields in late June and sections of chained scramble it certainly earns that reputation. We spent two weeks hiking from North to South, skipping out two stages that were closed to walkers without winter mountaineering equipment (ice axes and crampons... in June... in the Mediterranean!) but walking branch-routes to the town of Corte instead. At night we camped at, and sometimes stayed in, the Refuges arranged along the route, and soon got used to their 'rustic' charms. By day we walked for many hours through sun and thunderstorms, and, despite consuming significant volumes of local cheese and sausage, we both arrived rather lighter than we set off!
British Exploring Society Peruvian Amazon expedition 2018 - Pacaya Samiria
This expedition saw me reprise my role as Chief Scientist, but in a new location. We swapped the mountain ridges and cloud forests of Manu, for the flood plains of the central Amazon basin in Pacaya Samiria, to discover a whole new range of rainforest biodiversity. Once again we spent 6 weeks living in the jungle, exploring trails, streams and cochas (Amazonian oxbow lakes for the geographers out there), and learning to use a wide variety of methods and equipment to record the strange and exciting forms of life surrounding us.
Brilliant media leader Emma Brennand sums up the experience in this fantastic expedition film:
British Exploring Society Dangoor Infinity expedition 2019
In a first-of-its-kind expedition for the British Exploring Society, 2019 saw a mixed ability group of young people from across the UK take on the joint challenges of trekking across the lava fields of Iceland and sailing a 400 ton tall ship across the North Atlantic. I was a group leader on the half of the expedition that took on the cold and rain of the Icelandic wilderness first. For two weeks we hiked and camped our way across a stunning landscape, exploring waterfalls, lava formations and extinct volcanoes, and trying our best to stay warm on a diet of freeze-dried ration packs, giant flapjacks and lots of tea. One morning... in August... we woke up to a view of glittering snow covering the hills we had just walked through!
Having flown out to Iceland at the start of the expedition, our journey home was far more exciting - if a lot more hard work. In Reykjavik we signed on as crew of the tall ship Tenacious, belonging to our partner organisation The Jubilee Sailing Trust, quickly learning the ropes (literally) with help from our wonderful JST Watch Leaders. Although we had swapped our tents for warm bunks, and ration packs for hot cooked meals, every member of the expeditions still earned their passage home. From steering the ship through 2am watches, taking on mess duty in Force 9 gales, scrubbing the decks to climbing the masts to set sail - we experienced the whole pirate life!
The short films below, created by Young Explorers and our magnificent media lead Alex Mallinson, give a taste of our two weeks of life on the high seas and some of the additional challenges faced by members of the expedition team.