Ex Midnight Sun - What is it?

Exercise Midnight Sun is the Royal Signals Territorial Army exercise to Greenland in August 2008.  To read more about the expedition, and the work that has lead up to this stage, click here.

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Ice CampIt’s the end of an era…  Ex Midnight Sun has drawn to a close.  The biggest TA expedition thus far is complete, but will live on for years to come in the stories and the memories of those involved.  The 100th anniversary of the TA has been celebrated in style, and we have made the most of the opportunities available in the TA today.  The expedition has generated an air of excitement, with people keen to take their skills back to their units and organise their own unit expeditions.  Our thanks go to all those who backed us in the adventure; the R Signals TA for allowing such an ambitious project to come true, our patrons for all their firm support, BT for their sponsorship, the ERT for their hard work alongside us in the Fjord, the military benefactors who gave to us so generously, all those who have worked for the last 2 years to make it happen, and last but not least, the participants for their huge enthusiasm for everything they did!  Such a great experience leaves a burning question on everyone’s lips:  what next?  Watch this space…


To summarise the whole of Ex Midnight Sun, all went fantastically well.  Phase 1 arrived in the Fjord, and were blessed by good Leg 2 crewweather as they set off bravely into the mountains, or kayaked along the fjord (once their kayaks had finally arrived, that is..).  The yacht sailed north much quicker than expected, arriving in Maniitsoq well ahead of schedule and even finding time to get north of the Arctic Circle before finally docking in Kangaamiut.  The ERT worked tirelessly to provide us with the comms network, and got to know the walk up to Geordie’s Point (100 vertical meters over difficult ground) rather better than they had planned!


The end of Phase 1 and the beginning of Phase 2 was celebrated in style with a great party in Kangaamiut, where we had a feast with the locals (whale, muskox and reindeer provided by them, all-in stew provided by us), followed by many jokes and songs.  The second best song of the evening was when Brigadier Hargreaves, John HW, Matt the doc and Johnny G gave us the full rendition of ‘On Ilkley Moor Ba’ Tat (where the dogs play football)’, however the star performance of the evening was definitely the ‘Midnight Sun Song’ itself (lyrics and guitar by Johnny G).  To get the full pleasure of our performance of this now classic song, go to The Midnight Sun song!!


Ice Camp GroupPhase 1 then returned to the UK, and it was time for Phase 2.  The weather was a more mixed bag than for phase 1, including everything from glorious sunshine to full scale snow blizzards.  Autumn certainly arrived early this year in Evighedsfjorden, with the snow level being as low as 400m on some days, and the winds whipping the coastline.  Undeterred, all the groups pushed on with their activities. 
The sailors embarked on their southwards push a day early, in an effort to stay ahead of the incoming bad weather, and have since battled some fairly high seas on their way home.  The kayakers pushed eastwards along the fjord, traveling as far as they were safely able to before they returned to explore the islets closer to Kangaamiut.  The mountaineers put to best use the knowledge gleaned from the adventures of phase 1, with the Ice Camp group grabbing first prize for their ascent of a 1600m peak in a alpine-style 2 day push.  All mountaineering groups are now keen to register the names they have chosen for their previously unclimbed peaks with the Danish Polar Centre, with the best name so far being undoubtedly ‘Mt Ugly Fish’, named by Team Kitty Kat.  The Danish Polar Centre has yet to accept it, however…

Kayak group 1And then the fjord based personnel returned to Tasiusaq Bay, and handed in their kit before heading south on Nivi (the local boat), to the airport at Maniitsoq and then home.  BT pulled down the comms network and loaded their equipment into the freight.  The sailors finally arrived in Gosport. The final expedition personnel hung on in Kangaamiut for as long as they could justify before it was time for them to depart as well.


So that’s the end for this year, but we’ll be back….

AndersThe expedition has been provided with sterling support from Anders Bergwall of Arctic Guides (www.arcticguides.com).  Anders is an internationally certified mountain guide UIAGM, IFMGA, climbing and ski instructor.  He is also educated as a ski patroller and is an active member of the mountain rescue in Lapland, Sweden.  Anders and his colleague David have done a fantastic job for the expedition, providing the essential zodiac transport along the fjord, acting as safety cover for all expedition personnel, and being a constant source of advice and local knowledge.  Their wealth of experience and seemingly limitless ability has meant that on every occasion they have been the right people to have at our sides.  Many thanks to you both!


Ex Midnight Sun - What is it?

Exercise Midnight Sun is the Royal Signals Territorial Army exercise to Greenland in August 2008.  It has taken 82 personnel from all units within the R Signals TA (including attached Arms), and has seen these officers and soldiers involved in mountaineering, sailing and sea kayaking.  There has also been a bespoke communications package provided by the BT Emergency Response Team (ERT), as part of the Defence Career Partnering. It is the biggest TA expedition thus far.  Coming at the time of the 100th anniversary of the TA, the expedition celebrates all that the TA is about; demonstrating the opportunities available to the TA, and helping to train robust, resilient soldiers for the demands of today’s army.  You can read more about the TA 100 celebrations at http://www.ta100.co.uk/


Background News

Planning has now been going on for almost 2 years to get us to this stage.  Early on in the process BT expressed an interest in accompanying us to Greenland, in order to exercise their Emergency Response Team (ERT).  Since then the expedition planning team and BT have been working closely together to ensure this joint venture is a great success for both organisations.  BT also gave us £100,000 sponsorship, an immensely generous offer which was the key to allowing the expedition to go ahead in its current format.

 Soon after this the Master of Signals, General Sir Sam Cowan KCB CBE, and the Chairman of BT, Sir Michael Rake, agreed to be the expedition patrons. They have since represented the expedition’s needs in many forums, helping to ensure its success.

 All the Adventurous Training participants were then selected, after the 5 selection weekends for the kayakers and mountaineers (based out of Capel Curig) and the 2 selection weekends for the sailors (based out of Gosport).  Over 200 people applied in total, so the selection process was challenging!  Bad weather was the norm on all of these weekends, so if your weekend was bad don’t think that you were the unlucky one.  All participants then completed one week of training, sailing across the English Channel, kayaking in the seas around Anglesey, or Scottish mountaineering on Skye.  Some challenging conditions were had by all; but the winners were certainly the kayakers, who had the worst winds so far this millennium to deal with!  Articles and photos from all three expeditions are available via the activity links above.


The 3 training and development weekends then took place, which trained the participants in the skill sets needed for Arctic Survival.  Each group has a nominated group medic, an equipment guru, a mountain rescue expert (for the mountaineers), and a communications operator. Training for all of these was carried out during these weekends, and ensured that every participant can play a crucial role towards the success of the team.


Why Greenland?

KayakGreenland is one of the last great unspoilt wildernesses on this planet.  Few places combine such magnificent scenery, such clarity of light and such raw power of nature.  Once you have seen its soaring granite cliffs under the dancing lights of the aurora borealis, or been warmed by the rays of the midnight sun, you will know there’s no place on earth like it.

For more information: http://www.greenland-guide.gl/