Léa Adamson / Medical Student / London
EXPLORE weekend offers something for everyone with an adventurous spirit. This event, hosted annually by the Royal Geographical Society (RGS), aims to educate, inspire and empower you to transform your expedition and fieldwork dreams into reality. Drawing on the expertise of explorers, geographers and field researchers, EXPLORE covers a broad range of topics and is sure to appeal to anyone with an interest in exploration.
EXPLORE’s two-day programme is curated to both ‘inform and inspire’. Shared experience of over 100 leading scientists and explorers is presented through a series of talks and specialist workshops. The workshops allow discussion and give practical advice on project planning and execution and ample time is provided between sessions to network in the historical map room.
EXPLORE is held at the RGS in South Kensington, London. This beautiful building has the feeling of a country house nestled amongst the city, packed with curiosities from historical expeditions. Alongside the Natural History and Science museums and Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine the location alone is enough to inspire the mind.
A range of tickets are available to cater for single day, weekend and virtual attendance. Prices then reflect duration, level of interaction, members and non-members, students and early bird tickets.
This year heralded EXPLORE’s first in-person event since pre-pandemic times, and what a magnificent debut it was! Over twenty talks allowed for a huge diversity of topics to be covered. With such an impressive line-up, it was difficult to select those that stood out the most. Professional explorer Lucy Shepherd inspired us with tales of adventure, followed by practical expedition planning advice. Chris Woodfield delivered a harrowing but necessary reminder of the climate and ecological emergency, discussing how our actions today can help the planet tomorrow. In an alternative twist, Myles Harris’s research enacted possible healthcare scenarios in the exploration of alien planets. This was complemented by Elly Trobe and Jason Gibbs, who walked us through the numerous medical preparations required to safely explore our planet Earth. The afternoon ended with the first round of specialist workshops: Expedition Logistics. Led by a panel of experts, delegates could choose from a number of different environments including ocean, mountain and polar.
The Explorer’s bar, open after the conclusion of Saturday’s proceedings, provided the perfect venue to continue the day’s discussions over a well-earned pint!
Sunday’s follow-up did not disappoint. The morning opened with Niall McCann’s ‘Why Fieldwork Matters’. His authenticity and undiminished enthusiasm for conservation and the natural world was infectious. He instantly captured the room. Niall left us with a powerful take-home message that “human health, animal health and planetary health are all one health”. It is all of our responsibilities to ensure we conserve it for future generations. Morning talks were concluded with Anthroposea, a short but powerful film by Michelle Sanders on human interconnectivity to our oceans shot aboard Sail Britain. A second round of workshops covered field research in a number of social, biological and medical disciplines.
A huge variety of talks were crammed into the final afternoon. Jamie Buchanan-Dunlop’s profound and heartfelt talk covering communication in the field, international collaboration and humanity had us all reaching for the tissues. Artist Sarah Fortais provided an alternative perspective on human endeavour. Bridging the gap between science and art her displays included space suits for giraffes and genuine NASA moon rocks!
Numerous exhibitors across a range of specialist areas provided delegates with further opportunity for expert advice and networking. These included Nomad Travel, who provide expeditions with bespoke medical equipment and Silk Road, who deliver environmentally sustainable first aid training to those exploring challenging environments. A full descriptive list of exhibitors may be viewed here.
I asked a number of delegates and exhibitors about their experiences of EXPLORE weekend:
“Inspiration from a range of experts and people who have gone and done the extra-ordinary”
“Very cool to meet people who are doing this differently… this makes it feel possible”
“The talks have been inspired and varied… having snippets of people coming in talking about their experiences is lovely”
“Some of us are planning to organise expeditions and get funding… the practical side of things, the talks were really good”
“I have been able to see people that when they have a strong enough idea, there will be others willing to fund it!”
“Having come in with an expedition plan, it’s been pretty helpful to think about areas that we haven’t considered… evacuation plans, yes!”
“It’s been really nice to meet new people… gaining contacts”
This was my first EXPLORE weekend. My dad, often knowing me better than I know myself, had twisted my arm slightly and bought me a ticket as an ‘early Christmas present’. I therefore felt rather obliged, on that rainy morning in November, to make my way over to the RGS. However, as I squelched through the doors, I was immediately drawn in by the buzz and excitement that greeted me. The staff, delegates and exhibitors were incredibly friendly and welcoming. I soon got chatting during the morning coffee break. Living in London, it is a rare occurrence to find like-minded individuals who have managed to incorporate their love for the outdoors with a career in medicine. What inspired me so much was meeting others who were in the place I aspired to be. I was so encouraged to believe that it is actually possible.
EXPLORE weekend is not just for medics. It offers a huge variety of content on the essential aspects of expeditions and planning. You may, therefore, share my early scepticism about the relevance of certain areas of this event to your future career as an expedition medic. Why would a medic need to learn about applying for expedition grants, or the creative sharing of experiences through music and art? Well, I’m afraid I can’t provide you with a clear or correct answer. After all, I’m not even a medic yet…
I reflect that as medics we can be caught up in what we do, perhaps missing the bigger picture. EXPLORE was a refreshing ‘zoom-out’ and a reminder of the part we can play. An appreciation of the work that goes into getting you to that polar ice cap, jungle or atop that mountain. We can learn to be a much more effective small cog in that bigger machine. We can enable exploration, positive change and a greater breadth of understanding of the world around us.
Thank you RGS for hosting such an inspiring and successful weekend.
Make sure you keep your diary clear for next year’s event. To find out more about EXPLORE 2023 click here.