Retired farmer's once-in-a-lifetime trip to mark his milestone birthday
PUBLISHED: 08:30 15 February 2019 | UPDATED: 08:30 15 February 2019
A retired farmer from Great Bardfield has travelled to the Arctic to mark his 80th birthday.
As his birthday approached, Mac Beanland, who had never travelled further than Paris and has always been interested in wildlife, decided he wanted to see a polar bear and booked a ticket for a 15-day adventure to Svalbard, a chain of islands between Norway and the North Pole.
Mr Beanland nursed his wife Joan, who had Alzheimer’s, for four years before she died last year. After her death, Mr Beanland sold his Great Bardfield farm and downsized to Shalford, leaving him enough money to pay for the excursion.
The grandfather-of-seven only retired two years ago and, when speaking to the Broadcast, had just returned from New Zealand and Hong Kong.
An abandoned whaling station, scavenging polar bears and beluga whales swimming metres from his dinghy are some of the sights Mr Beanland witnessed. Whilst on land, guides carried rifles in case a polar bear attacked. Luckily, guns were never needed and Mr Beanland saw six polar bears, including four cubs. He caught sight of the first set whilst on board the ship which was his home during the holiday.
Describing the moment, he said: “Everybody was excited by it. Everybody was up on the deck. They were doing what polar bears spend their days doing, hunting for food. The first ones were eyeing up a herd of walrus.”
Mr Beanland admitted he was probably the oldest on the trip, taken last July, saying: “I decided I was going to give myself a treat for my 80th birthday. It’s a once in a life-time trip.
“I wish I could have travelled when I was younger but there was no way I could have afforded it,” Mr Beanland said.
“One of my regrets, well in a way its a regret, we all had to do national service and some of my friends did national service abroad whereas I was exempt from it, because I worked in agriculture. So I never did any travelling.”
As to what his family think of his Arctic expedition? “They were all excited on my behalf,” he says, “and some of them envious.”