There is a place in in the Arctic yet to be reached by man, the Inaccessible Pole.
The Inaccessible, or Arctic, Pole lies at the centre of the Arctic Ocean, 800 miles from land in one of the most unforgiving environments on the face of the planet.
In February 2015 I will leave to begin walking to the Pole and give an account of the health of the Arctic Ocean by measuring the thickness of the sea ice and the wildlife that we encounter.
I’ll walk 200 miles before swapping with another group who will continue the cold march. I’ll return to one of our base camps on Ellef Ringnes Island or Resolute Bay in Arctic Canada to help with logistics and communications or anything else that needs doing!
I can think of nicer places to visit than the Arctic in February. Temperatures will dip to around -40C without wind-chill. There could be white-outs; days spent in the tent while outside storms bring visibility down to zero. When we can walk we will be dragging a heavy pulk weighing 90kg over pressure ridges and sastrugi or ice waves.
Hopefully the shifting ice will remain true and not drift too far south or fracture beneath us.
Besides the environment we will be in close proximity to nature’s largest land predator, the polar bear.
When I look at these challenges, I feel scared. Man has no place that far north. So why go? The fear is why. I want to feel that fear and to push through it.
Similarly I don’t want to overly dramatise the expedition. I imagine that the overwhelming emotion could be boredom with the solid routine we will live by on the ice. Everything we do must be done with a mechanical speed and efficiency to reduce exposure to the cold and energy expenditure.
The risks we take will be mitigated as much as we can through training and team building. Repetition of exercises, like putting up the tent, night navigation and first-aid drills become dull and frustrating fast. Not only are they skill building exercises they also teach us patience and clear communications, valuable assets in life as well as in the Arctic.
Besides the challenge there is our scientific remit to consider. I’m passionate about communicating our role as stewards of planet Earth. From recent reports and scientific papers it’s obvious we are not doing a great job!
The readings we take will set a benchmark for ice thickness from the centre of the Ocean. We’ll share our data with American, Canadian, Norwegian, British, Russian and Chinese science agencies. It will help improve their models of climate change and our understanding of its effects on the thermometer of the world.
I hope that our story, the human element, can capture the hearts and imaginations of people who hear it and inspire them to take their role as a guardian of the planet seriously.