Teacher will embark on trek to centre of the Arctic
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’
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