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Arctic Sailor Wins £2,500 for Powerful Climate Change Story

22nd October 2022
Glaciers on the Arctic island of Svalbard have retreated more than a kilometre in 12 years, a rate of more than 100m a year. Norwegian sailor Jon Amtrup has witnessed the changes first hand, having sailed to Svalbard regularly over more than a decade
Glaciers on the Arctic island of Svalbard have retreated more than a kilometre in 12 years, a rate of more than 100m a year. Norwegian sailor Jon Amtrup has witnessed the changes first hand, having sailed to Svalbard regularly over more than a decade

An Arctic sailor from Norway has won £2,500 cash for his account of climate change on the island of Svalbard. Jon Amtrup’s article was the judges’ first choice in Yachting Monthly’s Brian Black Memorial Award 2022, which seeks to promote and encourage adventurous sailors to explore environmental issues and to document them in writing and photos.

Glaciers on the Arctic island of Svalbard have retreated more than a kilometre in 12 years, a rate of more than 100m a year. Norwegian sailor Jon Amtrup has witnessed the changes first hand, having sailed to Svalbard regularly over more than a decade.

Glaciers on the Arctic island of Svalbard have retreated more than a kilometre in 12 yearsGlaciers on the Arctic island of Svalbard have retreated more than a kilometre in 12 years

His evocative account of the desolate beauty and incredible wildlife of the island demonstrates a deep love for this landscape, but puts it in stark contrast with the global effects of climate change, as well as the local effects of mass tourism, oil exploration and other threats to the environment.

Jon was awarded a prize of £2,500, thanks to the sponsorship of the award by marine electronics company B&G, as well as a trophy of a barometer and clock mounted on hand-crafted elm wood by Les Silkowski. The award also included a donation of £1,500 to UK-based marine conservation charity Sea-Changers.

The judges, including Dee Caffari and Mike Golding, chose Jon’s as the winning article because of its clear communication of the biggest environmental challenge of our time, seen through the lens of one small island group. The writing was beautiful, brought to life by the stunning photographs of crewmember James Austrums.

The article can be read here

Jon Amtrup said: “I am truly honoured to receive the Brian Black Memorial Award. The severe threat that climate change poses to the ocean is something I have focused on for a long time. The climate in the Arctic is changing way faster than the rest of the world. Winning the award encourages me to keep going with my work documenting this area, and the money will go towards Gate to the Arctic to help educate young people about how they can make a difference.”

Jon Amtrup Leaving TromsøJon Amtrup Leaving Tromsø

Runners up prizes were awarded to Niklas Sandström for his article ‘The Beautiful Baltic’ about the impact of pollution in the Baltic, and to Tobias Carter for ‘The Arctic is Changing Colour’ about his scientific expedition from France to Greenland. The articles will be published in Yachting Monthly and on www.yachtingmonthly.com during 2023.

Mike Golding said: “Each of this year’s 18 high quality entries describe visible issues around the world from our oceans in places on the forefront of climate change, but that most of us will never get to see. Jon Amtrups winning piece eloquently captured his observations of the receding ‘permanent’ ice front in the North – while at the same time highlighting the complex contradiction of the visitors who travel to witness the same – inevitably at yet further cost to the planet.

“One hopes that each of these visitors can, like Jon, communicate what they’ve seen so that ultimately, we all learn to tread lighter on the earth towards a future where, just perhaps, ‘climate change’ describes a world getting cooler again.”

Receiving the donation for Sea-Changers was charity trustee Tanya Ferry, who said: “The Brian Black Memorial Award's focus on communicating environmental issues is closely aligned with Sea-Changers’ core value of giving back to the sea. Sharing first hand witness of environmental damage brings the challenge faced by our oceans into sharp focus and highlights the issues addressed by our grant funding which delivers practical action on the ground in the UK. .

“This donation from the Brian Black Memorial Fund will allow us to keep delivering projects. It is crucial that we continue to build partnerships with marine businesses and other organisations to enable the distribution of funds to grassroots projects making a real difference around the UK coastline.”

Brian Black Memorial Award logo

The Brian Black Memorial Award was established last year in order to commemorate the lives of Brian and his wife Lesley Black.

Brian was a lifelong sailor, a television journalist for RTE in Ireland, UTV in Northern Ireland, and later through his own production company. He was also a passionate advocate for the marine environment, writing and filmmaking about the crises facing fragile Arctic ecosystems. His wife Lesley blazed a trail for women in sailing, becoming the first female yacht club commodore in Northern Ireland, and was an author in her own right. 

The late Brian Black in SvalbardThe late Brian Black in Svalbard

Brian and Les passed away in 2020 and 2019 respectively, and this award was established by their family and Yachting Monthly in memory of them, and to encourage more sailors to use their unique access to tell stories about the environment that the world needs to hear.

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