Derek Fordham - Polar Medal 2016



Derek Fordham


Derek Ernest Fordham was awarded a Polar Medal in 2016 'for outstanding achievement and service to the United Kingdom in the field of polar research' as 'Arctic Expedition leader, mountaineer and ambassador'.


Derek’s involvement with the Arctic began in 1968 and 1969 when he organised university mountaineering club expeditions to East Greenland. These were followed in 1971 by becoming the Anglo part of the Anglo-Danish Trans-Greenland Expedition which made the longest purely man-hauled sledge crossing on the Inland Ice. In 1976 together with his wife, Jeni, 2 Polar Inuit and 27 dogs, they dog sledged from Qanaq in NW Greenland to Grise Fjord, Ellesmere Island in Canada, for which trip Derek received a Winston Churchill Fellowship. Sailing and kayaking trips to East and West Greenland followed with an RAF supported traverse and plant collecting trip on Hochstetters Forland. In 1982 he spent the spring with Inuit hunters out of Resolute Bay and Grise Fjord.

1984 brought a return to mountaineering with an expedition to Mont Forel followed by summers with the West Greenlanders hunting caribou around Sisimiut and Søndre Strømfjord. In 1992 and 1994 Svalbard beckoned and Backlundtoppen and Newtontoppen were climbed on skis. In The Watkins Mountains of East Greenland, Gunnbjørnsfjeld, the Arctic’s highest summit was reached in 1996 and Petermann Peak and Shackleton Bjerg were climbed in 1998. Together with Committee member Lorraine Craig, Derek has been on expeditions to Kamchatka and in 2015 to Saqqaq in West Greenland where his Trans-Greenland expedition ended in 1971.

Derek has written regularly on Arctic issues for Mountain Magazine, until its demise, and for The Alpine Journal and various ski club journals He has provided book reviews for the science journal Nature and letters to The Times on polar affairs. In 1979 he wrote a book entitled Eskimos which was also published in Danish.

As well as having been a long-serving Honorary Secretary of the Arctic Club, Derek is Chairman of the Gino Watkins Memorial Fund and a member of the Andrew Croft Memorial Fund and The Augustine Courtauld Trust and  – believe it or not, is planning another trip to Greenland!   



 Kristians Glacier East  Greenland Derek stream crossing with sledge On the Inland Ice Abseiling off the Inland Ice