Teacher will em­bark on trek to cen­tre of the Arc­tic

Western Morning News (Saturday) - - News - BY MIKE SMALLCOMBE

A Cornish teacher is aim­ing to make his­tory by em­bark­ing on one of the most dar­ing and am­bi­tious po­lar ex­pe­di­tions ever at­tempted.

Thanks to pre­vi­ous en­deav­ours and glob­al­i­sa­tion, there are very few re­main­ing des­o­late cor­ners of the Earth left to ex­plore.

But the ‘North­ern Pole of In­ac­ces­si­bil­ity’ re­mains the globe’s last sig­nif­i­cant place yet to be reached by hu­mankind, and ar­guably the hard­est to reach.

More than 270 miles from the ge­o­graphic north pole, by def­i­ni­tion it is the far­thest point from land on the Arc­tic Ocean, and there­fore its cen­tre.

Matt Davis, a pri­mary school teacher and Corn­wall Search and Res­cue team mem­ber from Truro, will be one of 28 or­di­nary peo­ple from across the globe to em­bark on the expedition.

The 38-year-old will be guided by team leader Jim McNeill, a Bri­tish Arc­tic ex­plorer who has made pre­vi­ous at­tempts at the trek.

An­other Bri­tish ex­plorer, Wally Her­bert, thought he had reached the lo­ca­tion on foot dur­ing his 3,700-mile jour­ney across the Arc­tic Ocean in the 1960s, but the Pole was in the wrong place.

It was Mr McNeill who first sus­pected that the co­or­di­nates were in­cor­rect. A group of sci­en­tists fol­lowed up his hunch, us­ing mod­ern satel­lite data to get a clearer pic­ture of the area, and new co­or­di­nates were an- nounced in 2013.

Mr McNeill’s lat­est at­tempt will start in mid-Fe­bru­ary 2019 and fin­ish in May. All go­ing well the 800-mile jour­ney will last 80 days, start­ing on the ex­treme north­ern shores of Canada and tak­ing in the North Mag­netic Pole on route.

The mis­sion, which will col­lect sci­en­tific data about sea ice, weather, pol­lu­tion, waste and po­lar bear pop­u­la­tions, will be di­vided into four 20-day legs.

It will en­com­pass a trek across treach­er­ous sea ice in one of the most in­hos­pitable en­vi­ron­ments on Earth, where tem­per­a­tures can reach -50C in win­ter and it is dark from Oc­to­ber to March.

Matt is pre­par­ing to un­dergo in­ten­sive train­ing to take on one of the four legs and is un­der no il­lu­sions as to the scale of the chal­lenge that awaits him.

In Jan­uary he will be trav­el­ling to the Nor­we­gian ar­chi­pel­ago of Sval­bard, be­tween main­land Nor­way and the North Pole, for two weeks of ad­vanced po­lar train­ing.

He said: “I’ve been in cold con­di­tions be­fore. I’ve done high-al­ti­tude hik­ing and win­ter hik­ing in the Alps but I’ve have never been to the po­lar re­gions.

“I am part of Corn­wall Search and Res­cue so I have a set of skills, like en­dur­ing moun­tain re­gions, but nowhere like this.”

He said the re­mote­ness was a con­cern “be­cause if any­thing does go wrong you’re a long way from an am­bu­lance”. There was also the phys­i­cal chal­lenge. “I al­ways try to keep fit but it’s dif­fer­ent when you’re lug­ging some­thing with your body weight for 12 hours a day for 20 days in those con­di­tions,” he said.

Matt won’t dis­cover which leg of the trek he’ll be em­bark­ing on un­til the train­ing in Sval­bard is com­plete.

He is cur­rently fundrais­ing for the expedition, which he ex­pects will cost him £20,000, and is hop­ing a large Cornish com­pany might sponsor him.

“I’m look­ing for about £500 a patch for com­pany lo­gos on my coat and I can also take flags to the North Pole. There will be sig­nif­i­cant, global me­dia cov­er­age of the event,” he said.

Matt has re­cently fin­ished his teacher train­ing and is hop­ing his sto­ries will in­spire his stu­dents.

If you would like to sponsor Matt, you can con­tact him via email at [email protected] Matt has also set up a Just Giv­ing page which peo­ple can do­nate to at www.justgiv­ing.com/ crowd­fund­ing/ker­nowout­doors.

‘I al­ways try to keep fit but it’s dif­fer­ent when you’re lug­ging your body weight for 12 hours a day’

Matt Davis

Teacher Matt Davis(top) and Arc­tic ex­plorer and team leader Jim McNeill, above. Top right: a pic­ture taken on one of Mr McNeill’s pre­vi­ous po­lar ex­pe­di­tions

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