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Gilles Denis and Nathan Goffart, to be more than just explorers

On April 15, Gilles and Nathan will leave for Greenland for an exceptional expedition. A physical challenge for the two Belgians, who will complete a triathlon combining climbing, sea kayaking and skiing. All with a particular scientific and environmental dimension.

Five months. Five months of snow, mountains and cold. Five months of discoveries, sport and scientific measurements. Five months in Greenland, for Gilles Denis and Nathan Goffart. “What we are going to do is a world first! » Or the combination of a sporting challenge (sequence of 600 km of skiing, 1000 km of sea kayaking and 1 km of vertical climbing without assistance) and environmental (document global warming).

On April 15, the two friends will fly to this autonomous Danish territory to carry out this project which they have baptized “Nanok Expedition”, after having trained for four years.

The love of the Far North

The idea was born after a meeting at the climbing gym in 2018. Gilles, a physicist who became a tourist guide, had already gone to Greenland five times. “My passion for the Far North came to me at the age of 18, thanks to a rather exceptional trip to Alaska and Western Canada. I had met incredible people, especially old trappers who introduced me to their world. » Since then, the guide had only one objective: to become an explorer. Nathan, on the other hand, is a football fanatic and a rock climber. A passion for sport coupled with an attraction for travel, expedition and nature.

© Nanok Expedition

But beyond the physical feat, the two explorers will also take topographical measurements, collect snow and microplastic samples, and measure snow densities and depths along the Arctic Circle. The results of these experiments carried out on the spot will allow in particular to better calibrate the elevation models of the ice cap, to study the impact of the deposition of dust on the growth of algae which blacken and therefore lead to its accelerated melting, or to better understand the balance of the masses of ice in Greenland.

“We travel a lot, but we must admit that the places we like to visit, in the long term, get destroyed. Gilles, who had done a thesis at the Royal Observatory of Belgium, recontacted his internship supervisor, who found the project fantastic and who had a great idea in terms of the scientific aspect”, explains Nathan. The adventurers collaborate with several research centers: the Royal Observatory of Belgium, ULB, ULiège and Geus in Denmark.

“We said to ourselves that if we can, thanks to sample readings and the experiments that we are going to do in the field, help scientists to improve their tables, that would be great. If scientists did what we are going to do, the environmental and financial cost of such an operation would be phenomenal, which will not be the case here,” explains Gilles Denis.

During the expedition, the two adventurers will notably have to collect snow for the research centers in Belgium.
During the expedition, the two adventurers will notably have to collect snow for the research centers in Belgium.© Nanok Expedition

Their dispatch will give rise to a documentary 52 minutes, produced by Sioux Productions; made possible by crowdfunding and which should be broadcast on RTBF. One way to answer this question: what does it mean to be an explorer today, when there are no more lands to discover but a planet to preserve?

“For a whole era, it was all about planting flags and being the first or the fastest to reach a specific place. I think that today there may be better things to do. There is all this ecological awareness that must develop as an explorer. Reach a little explored part of the planet and bring something extra,” says Gilles.

Nathan nods. “What we are going to do is a world first. It is obviously very good. But adding a scientific dimension to the project will also, perhaps, give a more positive image of what science really is. It’s not just people in aprons in labs, Gras also means going to little or unexplored regions and understanding the earth./Gras This will also be the goal of the documentary. »

The temporary poster of the documentary on the Gilles Denis and Nathan Goffart expedition.
The temporary poster of the documentary on the Gilles Denis and Nathan Goffart expedition.© Nanok Expedition

While waiting to be able to discover the fruit of their work on the screens, it will be possible to follow their adventures on the various social networks.

Instagram account of Gilles Denis and Nathan Goffart.

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