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Record-breaking explorer, conservationist and campaigner Pen Hadow, has been awarded the Shackleton Medal for the Protection of the Polar Regions. Launched in January 2022, one hundred years after the death of Sir Ernest Shackleton, the Medal recognises Hadow's decades-long commitment to protect the central Arctic Ocean and his latest initiative to establish a Marine Protected Area in the region.  

Credit: Martin Hartley

Pen Hadow is the only person to have trekked solo, and without resupply by third parties, from Canada to the Geographic North Pole. He is also the first Briton to have trekked, without resupply by third parties, to both the North and South Geographic Poles from the respective continental coastlines of North America and Antarctica. Given that the sea ice on which he achieved his Arctic feats is disappearing at record rates, it is impossible that anyone will be able to achieve these journeys ever again. It is this fact that has driven his career over the past twenty years. 

Credit: Martin Hartley

Hadow’s first major foray into scientific exploration was in 2007 when he led the multi-award-winning £6.5m international research programme, Catlin Arctic Survey which investigated sea ice volume, ocean acidification and ocean circulation. In summer 2017, he led Arctic Mission, which became the first boat expedition without icebreakers to sail into the ice-free international waters surrounding the North Geographic Pole.

the orginalCredit: Martin Hartley

Hadow is the founder of the 90North Foundation, which, in partnership with Exeter University’s marine research faculty, is at the forefront of efforts to protect the Arctic Ocean from evolving threats (shipping, oil & gas exploration, militarisation) arising from the disappearance of sea ice. As well as direct campaigning, his work is focused on providing governments, NGOs and corporates with the scientific evidence needed to help bring about the world's largest Marine Protected Area in the central Arctic Ocean by 2030, which would safeguard the region's biodiversity and provide a vital habitat for marine life. If this goes ahead it would – at 2.8million square metres – become the world’s largest wildlife reserve, with ‘Fully Protected’ MPA status.

Hadow receives the silver Shackleton Medal and a prize of £10,000 as a contribution towards his ongoing work in the polar regions.

The 2023 Medal was judged at the Royal Geographical Society in London by a panel of experts and academics from the polar and scientific community. A long-list of over 50 nominees was reduced to a 5-person shortlist. Hadow was the unanimous winner with the judges praising his outstanding former  achievements as polar explorer and guide as well as his current and future commitments to protect the regions he loves from the very many threats it faces.

“The Shackleton Medal is awarded to individuals who show leadership, courage, ingenuity and determination in service of polar protection. Having spent many years of his life in the Arctic, Pen Hadow, now 61, continues to devote himself to its safekeeping and seeks to achieve a similar level of protection for the newly accessible Central Arctic Ocean that Antarctica enjoys via the Antarctic Treaty. We think he is a tough, committed and worthy winner; we are certain the Boss, Sir Ernest, would agree.” said Martin Brooks, Shackleton Co-Founder.