Explorer Antony Jinman says the question threw him off when he first heard it a few months ago. It is one of the most interesting questions he's ever gotten about his trips to Baffin Island and the North Pole.
This month, Jinman is leading a group of graduate students to Baffin Island, one of his favourite spots in the world. The students, whose specializations include Earth science, geography, zoology and even film studies, are blogging and tweeting about their experiences from atop glaciers and cliffs in Auyuittuq National Park. They are each there for their own research, and Jinman is their guide.
The 27-year-old explorer from Plymouth, U.K. — the same town that was home to Robert Falcon Scott, a Navy officer who led two expeditions to the South Pole a century ago--has made trips to some of the world's most extreme environments and turned what most might call a string of adventures into a livelihood.
Jinman is the founder of Education through Expeditions, a company that aims to bring distant sights and sounds into classrooms and people's homes.
I caught up with him at the International Polar Year conference in Oslo in June, where he was getting ready to present findings from his most recent trip during which he hiked, skied and climbed his way to the North Pole.
With his slight frame and greying hair, laptop bag slung over one shoulder and a coffee cup in hand, Jinman doesn't give off the vibe of someone who's recently returned from a ski trip to the North Pole. Nor does he have the aura of someone who's spent time with bedouins in Libya or trekked across mountains in Iran. But his website, which features photos of him in full snow gear next to snapshots of him pitching a nomadic tent in preparation for a trip to Timbuktu, begs to differ.
Jinman is aware that not all people have the means or ability to see the North Pole for themselves. So one of his goals as expedition leader to Baffin Island is to help bring the Arctic and the geographical North Pole to classrooms.
"A textbook is only as current as the day that it's printed," Jinman says. "When I was at school I hated the idea of homework, exams, revisions, all of that."
His own education is through experience, but during his talks and through his campaigns he encourages kids to stay in school and enjoy their education.
Jinman visits schools after each of his expeditions to tell them about his experiences. In Baffin Island, he and the team of graduate students will document every step of their trip. Using GPS, they'll create a virtual expedition using their photos and videos to show at school presentations.
It's a thrill that can become addictive. "The best way soothe the [post-expedition] ache is to plan the next adventure," he says. "You do one trip, and then you do one more and it turns into a full-time occupation."
So what does the North Pole smell like? It's noisy, Jinman says, with ice blocks crashing and wind howling, and you can definitely taste the salt in the air. But the bitter cold is apparently scent-less. Either that, or odours never make it past one's frozen nostrils.
Follow the expedition from home by visiting baffinisland2010.wordpress.com.