Ilfracombe students brave polar bear country

Joseph Bulmer

Trip of a lifetime to the Arctic for teenagers invited to take part in London 2012 Olympic art project

TWO Ilfracombe Arts College students have set off on a trip of a lifetime with an expedition to retrieve an island from the Arctic and bring it back to the UK.

Sixth formers Lydia Maloney and Charlie Logan have been selected to join Nowhereisland, a public arts project for the South West of England led by artist Alex Hartley as part of the Cultural Olympiad for the London 2012 Olympic Games.

They are two of only three young people chosen to accompany the expedition and are currently aboard the schooner Noorderlicht near the island of Svalbard, deep in the Arctic. The third student is from Budmouth College in Weymouth.

The Year 13 students have joined an 18 strong party of the UK’s brightest minds to retrieve a portion of a small island revealed by the melt of a retreating glacier, discovered by Alex in 2004 and are currently towing it to international waters where it will be declared a “micro-nation.”

Originally only one per school was going to be chosen, but organisers were so impressed by Lydia, aged 18 and Charlie, 17, they decided to take both.

Next year the 40 by eight metre floating artwork will be calling in at Ilfracombe plus six other ports and harbours as it is towed around the South West during the Games. It will be shadowed on shore by a mobile “embassy.”

So far the party have enjoyed watching the northern wildlife including walruses basking on the rocks, as well as a single inquisitive polar bear that came down to the shoreline to watch.

They are posting blogs of the experience on the Nowhereisland website. A recent entry by Charlie, from Lynton and Lydia, from Ilfracombe said:

“After three days of intense sailing we finally set foot upon Nskjaeret and gosh, did solid ground feel good!

“By completing the extraction in a single day, the team had a couple of days spare, so Arctic hiking was now on the agenda.”

Earlier they wrote: “Two days in after leaving port, more than half our expedition team are hit by seasickness. Our luxury sailing boat had now turned into what was effectively a fairground ride!”

The trip should prove unforgettable for the teenagers, who will continue to be involved in the project until September 2012.

“We’re really excited about this aspect of working with young people,” said Alex, “when we interviewed them they were both so strong and they’ve had great support from the school.

The aim is involve thousands in one of the biggest arts projects of the Cultural Olympiad, inviting them to become “citizens” of the new micro-nation. It is an Artists Taking the Lead project, funded by Arts Council England.

It will provide a testing ground for the formation of a new nation, encouraging people to debate issues such as migration, nationhood, global responsibility, human rights and climate change via the website at

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