Image of the January 2016 Wilderness Magazine Cover Read more from the
January 2016 Issue
Home / Articles / Wild People

Arctic explorer

Tara, seen here on Stewart Island, has just completed a circumnavigation of Svalbard archipelago in Norway.

Tara Mulvany, sea kayak circumnavigator extraordinaire

For explorer Tara Mulvany, no corner of the globe is too remote. In fact, the fewer people there are, the more likely she’ll be paddling past.

In 2014, she became the first woman to circumnavigate the three main islands of New Zealand by kayak. But she didn’t stop there, completing a five-week circumnavigation of Vancouver Island in Canada in 2014.

And last year she braved icy waters, solitude and – most threateningly – polar bears, to be the first to circumnavigate the archipelago of Svalbard, with fellow Kiwi Jaime Sharp and Norwegian Per Gustav Porsanger.

To give you an idea of how far north Svalbard is, it’s part of Norway but almost 1000km north of the mainland. Think glaciers to sea level, reindeer, frozen tundra and polar bears. The trip was 2200km long with 100-plus kilometre spells where no landing was possible.

“I was lured in by the sense of adventure, the wilderness, the thought of seeing polar bears in the wild, paddling in ice, and pushing the sport of expedition kayaking to a level of adventure I could only dream of at that point,” says Tara.

Tara, who’s only 26, has plenty more dreams to fulfil including paddling down the coast of Norway, a circumnavigation of Iceland, island hopping along the Kuril Islands from Hokkaido to Kamchatka in Russia, and a self-supported trip along the Antarctic Peninsula.