- A two person team will drive a modified Land Rover Defender 110 Station Wagon 1,500km across Georgia and Armenia to create the Caucasus region's first long distance hiking trail.
- The team will use GIS technology to survey off-road routes and develop in real-time the resources for the 1,500km trail.
- Six-month expedition sets off today, Tuesday 26 April, from the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG)'s headquarters in Kensington, London.
- Expedition, funded by the 2016 Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) Land Rover Bursary, aims to improve accessibility to the Lesser Caucasus mountain range for the local community, as well as international travellers, hikers and geographers
- Jaguar Land Rover's Special Vehicle Operations have transformed the Defender, creating a mobile surveying and communications unit
Whitley, 26 April 2016 - Two pioneering travellers are set to create a fully mapped 1,500km hiking trail through the Lesser Caucasus mountain range, with the help of a modified Land Rover Defender 110 Station Wagon, which will act as their mobile surveying and communications hub. The expedition will see the team explore and survey off-road routes through the dramatic terrain that lies between Georgia and Armenia, renowned for its rich biodiversity.
RGS-IBG Fellow Tom Allen and Alessandro Mambelli will undertake a challenging six-month expedition to the little visited region, comprised of some of the most diverse mountains in the world. The purpose of the mission is to create the first long-distance hiking trail in the area, while also supporting a broader aim of improving access for local hikers and outdoor professionals, as well as the international community of travellers, hikers and geographers who are attracted to the area.
An integral part of the expedition will be gathering data while out in the field. In order to facilitate this, Jaguar Land Rover's Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) has transformed a Defender 110 Station Wagon into a mobile surveying and communications unit.
The vehicle carries the Global Positioning System (GPS) that will collect the data for a new Geographic Information System of this little-known territory. The information gathered will then be uploaded to the OpenStreetMap mapping platform in real time.
Special Vehicle Operations worked closely with the expedition crew to adapt the Defender to suit their requirements. A number of electrical additions will enable the team to charge all of their equipment while out on the road, with 1,000W of usable power available, three times more than an average Defender.
A lockable gull-wing door replaces the third row window, allowing the team to securely store kit and access it while working outside the vehicle. There is also a plethora of self-recovery modifications, including a front winch, tow bar, diagnostic tools and a tyre compressor. The roof rack enables the team to store additional kit, as well as 40 litres of extra fuel and 60 litres of water. There is also a drone-landing platform, a side deployable tent for overnight accommodation, a built in fridge/freezer and a snorkel.
Tom and Alessandro will work in conjunction with the newly-formed Transcaucasian Trail Association. The Land Rover-backed team's target is to create a fully mapped 1,500km hiking trail. Tom comments: "Access to the outdoors is a problem in the Caucasus due to an absence of formal trails and up-to-date GIS data.
"By creating the first long-distance hiking trail in the Caucasus, we hope to remove these barriers and encourage greater enjoyment of the incredible natural landscapes in Georgia and Armenia."
Alessandro adds: "The terrain is varied and challenging, so the Land Rover Defender will allow us to survey the region effectively. We will be combining the vehicle exploration with drone and hiking surveys."
The group were this year's winners of the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) ninth annual global bursary and went through a rigorous application and interview process. As a result, the Transcaucasian Expedition team will receive up to £30,000 of funding to complete their mission.
Mark Cameron, Jaguar Land Rover Experiential Marketing Director said: "Our partnership with the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) is important to us as we are committed to contributing towards their research, education and fieldwork expeditions. The Transcaucasian Expedition is a worthy recipient of the bursary as the team's work will open up this undiscovered region for further exploration and valuable geographical and botanical research. I am very excited that Land Rover will be playing a key part in this expedition."
Dr Rita Gardner CBE, Director of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), adds: "The Society is delighted to be supporting, in partnership with Jaguar Land Rover, the Transcaucasian Expedition through our 2016 RGS-IBG Land Rover Bursary.
"It is important that people have opportunities to understand places near and far - their cultures, environments and landscapes. Opening up this long distance hiking trail and working with local communities will enable more people to experience the area, more safely. I hope it will enhance geographical knowledge of the Caucasus and its outstanding landscapes among both travelers and scientists, and benefit the local communities".
The Land Rover Bursary was first awarded in 2007, offering funding and the use of a Land Rover Defender vehicle as part of a partnership with the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) that stretches back more than 25 years. The award is aimed at those who want to go 'above and beyond' to complete a journey or exceptional challenge, and for which a Land Rover Defender, with its expert all-terrain capabilities, is an integral part of the expedition.
More information about the expedition can be found at www.transcaucasian.com and on Twitter #transcaucasian.
Since 1948 Land Rover has been manufacturing authentic 4x4s that represent true breadth of capability across the model range. Discovery, Discovery Sport, Range Rover, Range Rover Sport and Range Rover Evoque each define the world's 4x4 sectors. Land Rover products are currently sold in around 180 global markets.
The Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) is the learned society and professional body for geography. Formed in 1830 for 'the advancement of geographical science', today it delivers this objective through developing, supporting and promoting geographical research, expeditions and fieldwork, education, public engagement, and geography input to policy. It aims to foster an understanding and informed enjoyment of our world. It holds the world's largest private geographical collection and provides public access to it. It has a thriving Fellowship and membership and offers the professional accreditation 'Chartered Geographer' www.rgs.org
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