Meet Hazel Robertson
It’s May 2017 and I’m staring at a line of drying seaweed washed up on the shingle beach of a tiny island in the Pacific Ocean. A group of spruce trees huddle together in the centre of the island, only a few metres away, surrounded by a mishmash of driftwood and branches. My brain is whirring as I run through the calculations, tired from a long day of kayaking. I can’t afford to get it wrong. “OK, here it is.” Tonight’s expected high tide line. “Actually, let’s add a bit more - just to be safe.” We must camp above it to avoid being swept away in the middle of the night, which - on day four - would be a slightly premature end to this three month expedition across Alaska.
Tucked in our sleeping bags later that evening we can hear the water coming increasingly closer. Lapping waves, normally a soothing sound, feel more ominous here. “Did I get the calculations right?” I wonder, keeping it to myself. We set the alarm for midnight - just before high tide - and fall into a restless sleep. At midnight we hear the ocean, desperately close now. We peer out of the tent, head torches reflecting off the black water, which is now only a metre away. Our tiny island is even smaller now - just us, our gear and a few trees for comfort. I feel very insignificant.
Experiences on expedition like this have truly shaped me. Every day I am humbled by the scale of nature and the perspective it brings. Vast oceans, huge tide swings, unforgiving storms. Rocks in parts of Scotland are a third of the age of the earth, an unfathomable length of time for my brain to comprehend. Towering mountains make me feel so utterly small. And people who not only survive, but thrive, in some of the harshest conditions on the planet have been doing so for generations without a second thought.
I was lucky enough to spend four of my formative years growing up in Alaska and Canada, which deepened my love of the outdoors. In 2017 I headed back to Alaska with my husband, Luke, to attempt to travel across it by human power to raise awareness of the impact that climate change was having on the environment and people that lived there. Ironically, our expedition was cut short due to the effects of climate change, but that’s another story.
Undertaking expeditions with purpose is a real passion. From helping people realise their potential through my involvement as a Guide for The Polar Academy, a charity that transforms young people’s lives through exploration - to raising awareness of global issues such as climate change on our recent expedition to the Arctic where we interviewed the indigenous Sami people. The thought of potentially making a positive change to just one person’s life is what keeps me going when things get tough - both in life as well as on expedition.
But it’s not all big expeditions either; I love running on trails. Heading into the mountains, with everything I need in a backpack, free to go wherever my legs take me and taking inspiration from everything around me. Even a slightly different route in the woods near my house - a simple left turn instead of a right turn - opens my eyes to new sights and gives me a sense of awe and wonder. Inspiration is everywhere - and we are all explorers at heart.
I’m really looking forward to hosting the Tiso Outdoor Experience nights across Scotland, hearing from some of the most exciting outdoor photographers based in Scotland, Uisdean Hawthorn, Hamish Frost and Rachel Keenan, and listening to stories from The Polar Academy 2019 expedition team.
See you there!