A FORMER Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) student is embarking on the first navigation of the Amazon River from its highest source at the summit of Volcano Chimborazo in Ecuador to the river’s mouth at Belem in Brazil.

John Bathgate, who studied Countryside and Environmental Management and Ecology Surveying at SRUC while serving as a Royal Marine, will embark on the Summit to Sea 2023 Expedition on April 28 with his brother Ben and a group of friends.

The challenge was originally devised by the brothers’ father, and will take seven months and cover more than 5000km through snow, ice, rocks and jungle.

The group will conduct water sampling and abiotic surveys in the Ecuadorian Andes and the Amazon Basin – areas under threat from deforestation due to agriculture, oil extraction, mining and the expansion of cities – while raising funds for the charities Rainforest Concern, Royal Marines Charity and RV.ONE.

John, 34, from Edinburgh, said: “My father planted a seed and cultivated it in the form of old maps, dusty books, scribbled expedition diaries and mysterious stories.

“The Amazon Basin is the most biologically diverse place on the planet, but we are clearing it at a rate of around 15 square miles a day. To put that into perspective, an area half the size of Scotland is disappearing annually.

“Will the ‘sea of green’ that my father described in 1968 when he paddled the Amazon be there in 2023? We are embarking on our journey in the name of adventure, but we also want to connect with and learn from indigenous people along the way.

“I think the West could learn a lot from the sustainable practices used by these people who have lived in harmony with the forest for centuries. We hope to pass this knowledge on once we return to Scotland, aiming to eventually change our culture to prioritise the natural environment that supports us.”

For more information visit: www.summittosea.org.uk.