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Choose your own adventure

World record-breaking explorer, endurance athlete and biological science graduate, George Bullard talks us through his most recent expedition and his passion for making adventure accessible.

George Bullard
Photo by Emma Hall.

Alongside a degree in biological science with management, George Bullard has completed 14 expeditions and covered more than 2000 miles on foot in the polar regions.

At 19 he broke the world record for the longest fully unsupported polar journey, a feat that was described by explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes as genuinely ground-breaking.

This summer, George and Olly Hicks, an equally intrepid fellow adventurer, kayaked from Greenland to Scotland, a journey of about 1,200 miles (1,931 km).

This expedition had easily the most profound effect on me because it was very long, very boring and pretty risky plus the fact that we ran out of food (minor details!), never saw the colour green, never sat down or went inside.

George BullardReferencing his Arctic expedition in 2008

From myth to reality

George Bullard kayak
Photo by George Bullard.

Inspired by an oral tradition in Belhelvie, Aberdeenshire relating to an Inuit man and his kayak being washed ashore on the Aberdeenshire coast in the 1700s, George and Olly were intrigued by the journey and keen to find out whether it was possible and the myth a possible reality.

Dressed in dry suits and fleece base layers, the two-man team set off from Greenland on 1 July and, after 46 hours of paddling, arrived on a beach in north west Iceland. The following two weeks consisted of paddling between headlands around the north and east coast of Iceland until they reached Neskaupstadur. By now the practicalities of life at sea were beginning to take their toll and ways of combatting the very real risk of hypothermia, such as regular hot meals, were made significantly more difficult by their choice of transport.

We lived in the kayak, resting and paddling both at the same time barely an inch above the burningly cold ocean water which was black like the inside of a cave and made your hands flinch with every touch and left us questioning what animals could survive in such Arctic temperatures.

George Bullard

Waiting for the weather

George and Olly
Photo by Henry Hunt.

The most dangerous stage of the trip was a stretch of open ocean between Iceland and the Faroe Islands famously known as The Devil’s Dance Floor. On the second attempt and 100 hours and 260 nautical miles after setting off, George and Olly collapsed into the sand of Tjornuvik Bay.

The next stop was almost a week on the uninhabited island of North Rona waiting for the right conditions for the final push. 66 days after leaving the coast of Greenland, the team paddled silently into Balnakeil Bay on the north coast of Scotland and the journey was complete.

Sharing the joy and the pain

As well as his own expeditions, George is passionate about encouraging others to embark on their own adventures and confront what he terms the challenge of the unthinkable. As well delivering motivational lectures, George has led youth development programmes in the Amazon and scientific research in Antarctica.

He also runs IGO Adventures, a company who organise multi-disciplined expedition races around the world for people who want to challenge themselves and have a week rather than several months to spare. With 3 IGO Adventures events already scheduled for 2017 in Norway, Montana and Morocco, George is ready for the next adventure.

I truly believe that as social media becomes more and more prevalent and people spend more time looking down at their phone or at a computer, our need for experiential products become so important. We have seen a surge in the weekend experience challenges (like Tough Mudder) but there really is a gap for the slightly more extreme, more epic week long experience.

George Bullard

Related links

George Bullard’s website

George Bullard on Twitter

IGO Adventures