Andy Marsh is co-founder of our pioneering new client Secret Atlas, who have lead low impact micro cruise expeditions of up to 12 guests to the Arctic and Antarctica (the smallest group size in the regions). Secret Atlas offers immersive photography tours, expeditions and private charters for intrepid and conscious travellers looking to go where few have explored before.
We spoke to Andy about his motivation to start this incredible company.
For as long as I can remember, I had always been fascinated with the Arctic. As a curious child, I remember looking at the top of our planet on a map and imagining what it must be like to stand there and see first-hand the wilderness of Svalbard or the towering icebergs of Greenland. To see a polar bear in its natural habitat or witness the unrivalled beauty of the Northern Lights. Fast-forward a few decades and that day finally came when, bags in hand, I was walking along the gangway to board an expedition vessel in Longyearbyen to go and explore Svalbard.
Visiting Svalbard was more than a holiday, it was a calling. Images and footage of polar bears roaming in their natural wilderness spoke to me over the years, glimpses of the Arctic wilderness on the pages of books and old photos of the glacial landscapes drew me in. I was captured by the romance of polar exploration in the books I read and the tales told by explorers that used Svalbard as a base in their attempts to reach the North Pole (the mast from which Nobile and Amundsen’s airship departed to reach the North Pole back in the 1920s still stands today in Ny Alesund).
But it’s not the traces of human activity which I came for – it’s the escape into a wilderness like no other. The search for a place to witness the majesty of nature, the wonder of wildlife and the power of solitude. If you haven’t visited the Arctic, Svalbard is the perfect starting point – you can fly there before joining a cruise, by far the best way to experience the archipelago’s diverse wildlife, outstanding natural scenery and unique history. As we set sail out into the ice-cold Arctic waters little did I know that, by the end of the voyage, my life would be changed forever.
Soon after departing the dock in Longyearbyen, you are immersed in a natural world, one that many of us don’t realise still exists; it’s something we cannot fathom as we go about our hectic modern, globalised way of living. Gazing out at the pristine scenery, it becomes hard to recall any other significant landscape without buildings or human interference. The sound of nothing but pure nature is a distant memory for most of us. The wilderness of Svalbard gives you the change to reconnect once again.
It is then you get the true sense that things are greater than you, and that this force of nature far exceeds mankind. It’s a humbling feeling and one I hope that every human has a chance to witness.
I left that first voyage with the profound realisation that the actions we take and decisions we make in our day-to-day lives have a monumental effect on the Arctic. Seeing the fragile environment with my own eyes, walking those shores and hearing the glaciers calving made me truly understand the importance of protecting this world.
That is one of the main reasons I co-founded Secret Atlas, as a way of sharing my experience with others and allowing them the same privilege.
We at Secret Atlas are very mindful of the natural environment and take great care not to disturb the wildlife and natural habitats. We climate compensate all our trips and encourage our guests to offset their flight emissions as well. We pick up any trash we find when visiting the shore. We are also asking our guests to sign our passenger pledge to help reduce their emissions on their return home. We are constantly looking at ways to help reduce and mitigate climate change and plastic pollutions and will continue to place this at the heart of what we do.
Educating others about this is part of our mission. Part of my personal mission and that of the business.
It is my hope that people who join us on a Secret Atlas trip will experience the same personal shift that I did on my first voyage to Svalbard, and return home with a strong message about how important it is to protect the natural world.