We are delighted to announce that our project leader, Prof. Gina Moseley, has been named as a 2021 Laureate of the Rolex Awards for Enterprise. The Rolex Awards were established 45 years ago to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Rolex Oyster, the world’s first waterproof wristwatch. The Awards received so much interest that Rolex developed an ongoing programme with the aim of supporting those striving to improve life and protect our planet.

Congratulations to Felix Brooks-Church, Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, Rinzin Phunjok Lama, and Luiz Rocha who are all named alongside Gina as 2021 Rolex Laureates. To read more about their exciting work, please visit the Rolex website here.

Gina during the first Greenland Caves Project expedition in 2015. Photo Robbie Shone

“I am extremely humbled and grateful to receive the Rolex Award for Enterprise, and am honoured to be listed alongside these inspiring people.”

For Gina, this journey started when she was 12 years old and her mother wanted to try caving on a family holiday. Later, in 2008, she joined the weekly social meeting for the University of Bristol Spelaeological Society, and it was there that fellow caver Charlie Self told her about his years of dedication to an exploratory caving project in the far north of Greenland. Charlie explained how in the Cold War, a giant cave entrance in North Greenland had been photographed during aerial reconnaissance. No one had yet explored it, and he, as well as others, had tried many times to raise the funding for an expedition. Gina listened in amazement, intrigued and excited about what lay within one of the world’s most northerly caves. Charlie lent her his treasured folder of research, containing papers, maps, photographs and correspondence that he had collected over the years. Gina protectively stored this valuable information for years, thinking, hoping, dreaming that one day she would be in a position to lead an expedition to the elusive cave in North Greenland.

The project has the potential, however, to be so much more than just exploration. Gina is a palaeoclimatologist; someone who specialises in climate change that occurred prior to instrumental or historical records. To find out how the climate has changed in the past, Gina analyses the chemical composition of calcite deposits found in caves, and these provide a record of temperature, moisture availability, and vegetation changes. Gina is hoping to find such calcite deposits also in the caves in the North. In order for the calcite deposits to form, the climate needs to have been warmer and wetter than it is today. If calcite deposits are found in the caves in North Greenland, they will therefore provide a record of when the Arctic was warmer and wetter than today – this information will be highly valuable and critical for understanding how the region may develop in the future under anthropogenic warming.

“The Rolex Awards for Enterprise have a long history of supporting innovative high-risk, high-gain projects. I have therefore been following the Awards for years, knowing that Rolex might be willing to provide the support needed to finally get this project off the ground, some 60 years since it was first imagined. I am excited to finally know what lies within ‘the cave’ and to improve our understanding of how the Arctic responds in a warmer world. Thank you Rolex for providing the opportunity.”

You can read more about Gina’s work here.

Looking out of a cave in northeast Greenland. Photo: Robbie Shone