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OF Mark Agnew conquers the Northwest Passage with two world records

Congratulations to Old Fettesian, Mark Agnew (Gl 2005-2009) who has set two world records while kayaking the Arctic’s Northwest Passage. Mark and his teammates have become the first to kayak the Northwest Passage and the first to complete the entire route under human power, rather than using sails or engines.

On 2nd July 2023, Mark and his team set off on the 2,000 mile journey from Baffin Bay, Greenland and arrived at the Beaufort Sea, three months later, on the 8th October. During the passage the foursome encountered 3m waves, coming face to face with a polar bear and getting trapped in ice.

We spoke to Mark shortly after his return from the expedition:

"I am so proud and so content. I keep welling up with tears every time someone messages me. Everyday was tough in the Arctic and it was the most wonderful experience too. I'm now looking forward to the next chapter, sharing the lessons from our record setting expedition through talks to schools, companies and other audiences. While kayaking, I thought a lot about the road to this point in my life, and about how it didn't happen in a vacuum. It was a result of all the support, encouragement, validation and opportunities I had throughout my life, not least at school. I set two world records in the Arctic because of my parents' support and love, my wife's support and love and the countless times I was encouraged to believe in myself. Each and every donation to the Wilderness Foundation UK means the world to me - they help people with their mental health by reconnecting with nature. I suffered a mental health crisis in 2018 and being in nature was an important tool in my recovery."

"One of the scariest moments was being woken by a polar bear. The tent was shaking and my teammates thought it was just the wind. Then we heard this deep growl. The bear was pressed against our tent, inches from us. I fired a flare gun out the door, but it didn't run away. I rushed out of the tent and started shouting and screaming, hoping to scare it. The bear just stared back at me. The others joined in too. Finally, after what felt like an age, the bear turned and wondered off. We had so many incredible encounters with bears and whales. It was fascinating to observe them in the wilderness. But this one was too close for comfort."

The expedition has so far raised over £10,000 for the Wilderness Foundation UK, a charity offering education and therapy programmes to help people reconnect to themselves and society through outdoor adventures, therapy and mentoring. If you would like to donate, please visit

We hope to invite Mark back in 2024 to tell us all about his adventure in person.  Well done again, Mark. What an amazing achievement!