Explorer Niccolò Banfi and that ancestral call of the South Seas.

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Milanese explorer and photographer Niccolò Banfi sets off on the “Remoteness – Journeys to the Oceans’ Edge” expedition, a long sailing voyage of discovery of remote Pacific islands. In this interview he talks about the spirit and goals of this great adventure.

The South Seas, with their remote archipelagos, white-sand beaches fringed by crystal-clear waters, and peaceful and welcoming peoples, have always been a mythical destination for those who sail. From strategic stopovers in the earliest explorations of the planet that made seafaring history, they have in recent years become increasingly popular and affordable travel destinations for any avid traveler.

Reaching them by sail, however, is still a great challenge today because of long distances, headwinds, and increasingly unstable and uncertain windows of good weather. Most importantly, these lands far from everything continue to be important principals not only for the millennia-old traditions and unique lifestyles they host, but also for assessing the current health of the oceans, which is increasingly precarious and affected by global pollution.

An expedition to the edge of the world

With the desire to tell the story, the expedition “Remoteness – Journeys to the Oceans’ Edge” by explorer and photographer Niccolò Banfi is about to set sail this May 2024. Milanese by birth, after a career in marketing, in 2022, Niccolò at age 35 decided to change his life to follow his dream: to visit the world’s most remote islands.

His goal is to push the boundaries and document life on the most remote islands on the planet, giving voice to local communities. The Sailing Newspaper previously covered Niccolò on the occasion of his expedition on the trail of the Endurance, Sir Ernest Shackleton’s glorious ship that got stuck in the ice during the first expedition to the South Pole.

Niccolò Banfi

On the route of the ancient Polynesian navigators

This time Niccolò Banfi plans to reach the remote islands of the Pacific on a journey that involves a long sail of more than 6,500 miles to be accomplished in about 80 days. The route is the same as that of the ancient Polynesian navigators who explored this ocean in the second half of the first millennium BC.

Visiting major islands, including Easter Island, Tonga, the Marquesas, and Fiji, as well as smaller, mostly uninhabited atolls that hold millennia-old cultures, Niccolò will tell their stories, documenting life in unique environmental situations, the health of the oceans, and the effects of climate change. The entire voyage will be conducted aboard an early 20th century three-masted sailing ship that embraces the spirit of seafaring tradition. Accompanying Niccolò Banfi in this admirable endeavor is Sebago, a historic brand of boat shoes, clothing and accessories that has always chronicled the intimate and profound connection between man and the ocean.

Niccolò Banfi

Niccolò Banfi, an explorer connected with the ocean

Just before his imminent departure, Niccolo gave us this lovely interview in which he tells us from the heart about what drives him on this journey, what inspires him, and what his goals are.

  • Niccolò, can you tell us about the spirit and meaning of this trip?

“Man has always had an innate desire to explore, driven by a love of the sea and a willingness to cross boundaries. Through the ocean, men have found courage, wisdom and discoveries that have changed the course of history. Those who, like me, love sailing know this: every wave is an invitation to dare, to sail beyond the horizon, to discover new worlds. After the South Atlantic expedition, I returned home, to Milan, but the love of the sea is a call that resonates in the heart of every explorer. Hence the ‘Remoteness’ project was born, of which the Pacific expedition is just a new stage.”

  • What are the stages and how did you select them?

“I will embark on the Pacific crossing in May. We will leave from Easter Island and arrive in Fiji, pass through Pitcairn, Gambier Islands, Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia and Tonga. About 80 days at sea and 6,540 nautical miles on the routes opened by Polynesian navigators in the second half of the first millennium BC.”

  • The medium of this expedition is very special, can you describe it to us?

“I will be aboard the same sailboat as the Atlantic Expedition, a three-masted vessel from the early 20th century. She is a Bark, built in Germany in 1911, with a steel hull to cope with even extreme sea conditions. Her three masts carry 30 sails in total, allowing her to sail with mostly load-bearing gaits. She can accommodate up to 40 crew members.”

Niccolò Banfi

  • Your passion for photography is intertwined with your passion for the ocean. How did the latter originate and how did it mature over time?

The passion for photography and the passion for the ocean share a deep connection in the pursuit of beauty and adventure. Both require patience, attention to detail, and the ability to capture unique moments. Photographing the sea allows you to tell stories of wonder and discovery, offers breathtaking scenery and an endless variety of subjects to capture. Both passions drive us to explore, to capture the essence of the world around us and to share it with others. Documenting the ocean, and the issues related to the climate crisis, that we all now know, or rather, think we know, has become my mission and that of my Remoteness project.”

  • Another element of your journey is sharing. How will fans be able to follow you on this adventure?

“I will share my expedition through various channels: on Instagram (@niccolobanfi) with photos and short videos, on YouTube where I will post stories related to the islands I will visit, and on my website, where I will keep my location updated in real time via my Gps device. However, I also believe in the power and value of disconnection, for me it will be a life experience and I want to live it to the fullest, without having to worry too much about searching for a wi-fi network.”

  • Yours is one more voice on environmental emergency and ocean conservation. Some people pay the price of pollution more than others. Is that so?

“Absolutely, the idea of documenting the most remote islands stems precisely from this, from the need to give voice to the local communities that inhabit them, who are the first witnesses of the climate crisis. For each island I will also try to go and visit the local organizations that are already working with the purpose of safeguarding the territories, as well as the research centers, in Pitcairn, for example, the idea is to document their Marine Science Base.”

Niccolò Banfi

  • In an increasingly global and connected world, what do you think there is still to explore on this planet?

“Although the world is increasingly connected, there are still many remote regions to explore, species to discover and cultures to learn about. However, climate change is rapidly altering many of these places, making exploration and protection of these areas urgent. The Earth is an extraordinary place that still offers many wonders to be discovered and preserved for future generations. The role of the explorer has changed from discovering new lands to raising awareness socially and environmentally.”

 

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