Innovation Category Finalist
There are few places in the world where our planet's fragile beauty is more evident than inside the Arctic Circle. The icebergs, polar bears and whales make this a region like nowhere else on earth. And there are not many other places that are experiencing the impact of climate change so visibly, or so rapidly. In recent years the Arctic sea ice has melted at an ever increasing rate, threatening to change this wilderness forever.
Iceland's North Sailing is a travel company that is perhaps as remarkable as the area it takes visitors to see. Thankfully, however, where the plight of the Arctic is one to provoke the most serious concern, the innovations of North Sailing are a rare cause for hope.
In 2015, the company's schooner Opal became the first ship in the world to be installed with a Regenerative Plug-In Hybrid Propulsion System, enabling her to recharge batteries while under sails. Now she not only sails silently when the wind is blowing, but also, thanks to her unique electric motor, when the sea is becalmed as well. Such innovation isn't just good news for the climate. Having no engine burning fossil fuels means the ship releases no soot or fumes into the water, nor does any engine noise disturb the wildlife that people have come to see. Being better for the environment and better for the whales means a better viewing experience for everyone on board too.
Having been operating for 20 years in Husavik, North Iceland, North Sailing has a long track record of preserving the cultural heritage of this small fishing village. For years it has restored old oak fishing boats and inspired the reinvigoration its historical waterfront buildings. And because it plans to have converted all its fleet to be carbon-free by 2020, the company is now giving the region a prime position in a more sustainable future too.