The polar expedition research vessel Northabout harboured in Jersey in June. Its Jersey skipper Tobias Carter has been speaking to school children about climate change. By Caroline Spencer
In their lifetime, secondary school children will witness the first summer when there will be no sea ice in the Arctic.
That’s quite a stark statement that Tobias Carter takes into schools. Tobias, son of the late Senator Dereck Carter, is skipper of Northabout and founder of Unu Mondo, a sailing expedition which gathers scientific data and testimonies from local communities in the Arctic to better anticipate climate change and promote concrete actions.
‘The Arctic with no sea ice is the clear demonstration of the effect of climate change,’ he said. ‘In the Arctic, average temperatures have risen twice as fast as anywhere else. Soon, Northabout won’t need to go around the Arctic. We’ll be able to go straight across it.’
Northabout docked in St Helier earlier this summer and Tobias had a chance to speak to nearly 400 pupils at three secondary schools. He and his crew have also spoken to 7,000 students in France. He is bilingual, having been educated in France since the age of six.
‘I have always been interested in the environment since I was 17 or 18,’ he said. ‘After initially working in construction, I hitch-hiked to Australia, taking a north route through Russia and Kazakhstan. I try to avoid taking planes, so the trip there and back took about four and a half years. In Australia I learned how to sail.’
Having bought a boat in Phuket on the way back, he went on to South Africa, where he met Sophie Simonin. ‘By the time we reached Brazil 33 days later, the Unu Mondo project was all mapped out,’ he said. ‘Two months later we were in the Caribbean and were calling all the research institutes in Europe to see if we could be any use in the Arctic.
‘Two years ago I had no sailing experience in high latitude sailing,’ he said. ‘More than anything it’s a will to talk about climate change and do something about it. I’ve always tried to limit my own impact and I wanted to take that further. Sailing is a great way of communicating to get a message through. With a sailboat you can go to areas where other people can’t.’
They went on their first expedition in 2020 in an old boat which was not designed for the Arctic. It was neither heated nor insulated. They have since purchased Northabout from British explorer Sir David Hempleman-Adams.
‘With the Polar Ocean Challenge, instead of taking four years like the Irish who built the boat, Sir David set out circumnavigate the North Pole in one season, and he did it with Northabout in four months and one day,’ Tobias said. ‘They succeeded in proving that unfortunately a 15m sailing vessel can go round the North Pole today in a single summer almost without seeing any ice. Fifteen to 20 years ago that wasn’t possible.
‘Climate change is real. In the Arctic, you can see the difference year by year. We anchored in front of a glacier for three days and that was 10km from what our navigational charts were telling us was the front of the glacier. All the locals tell us that their villages in the south are retreating extremely fast.’
Tobias (32) is keen to develop more ties with his Jersey roots and it was important to him that Northabout was registered in Jersey. The Jersey ensign was raised by Assistant Environment Minister Deputy Gregory Guida on their last visit.
The expedition is heading to Iceland this year and next year they will travel to Svalbard which is heating up faster than anywhere else. The team are also working on their first documentary which is due out in October.
‘Current predictions for sea level rise is 44 to 83 cm by 2100. That’s a lot of water for an island like Jersey,’ Tobias said. ‘It’s really important that school children understand that when they are the age of their parents, they will see a good portion of that sea level rise. It’s about telling them how we can slow it down and we can plan for the future instead of just pretending it’s not happening.’
*To find out more about the expedition go to www.unumondo.org