What is the background to your expedition?
In 2007, Hampshire Scout Expeditions put three scouts on the summit of Mount Everest in commemoration of the Centenary of Scouting. This inspired the team to decide on Antarctica as the next challenge, the only continent which hasn’t been visited by Hampshire Scouts.
In 2018, we will ski unsupported, 700 miles from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole in 60 days, dragging a 100kg pulk or sledge in temperatures as low as -45 degrees Celsius and a wind speed of up to 80 mph; all the while in perpetual daylight.
The team are doing this to inspire, empower and promote values of determination, self-motivation and cooperation to all young people, whether they are involved in Scouting or not.
How have your studies influenced your decision to take up this challenge?
Studying for the Masters of Environmental Science degree and continuing with doctoral study has allowed me to develop a profound understanding of the natural processes which humans are not often attuned to.
Landscapes are shaped by natural processes and this can sometimes be forgotten in an age where most wildernesses are open to paying clients who go without really experiencing the place. We want the expedition to be an authentic experience of Antarctica, hence why we’re unsupported.
Being able to directly apply my knowledge of the environmental impacts of human activity means we can act in an environmentally conscious manner and educate another generation of polar adventurers.
How is the training progressing?
The key to any expedition success is training and preparation. The Hampshire Scouts deliver an annual training programme and so you’ll find us in Scotland each February, the Lake District at Easter and Snowdonia in October, among others. So in general, we have a good level of mountain fitness, which can then be tailored for specific Polar expedition preparation.
In addition, we’ve done a number of expeditions over the last three years. To the Alps for altitude and glacier-based crevasse rescue training, to Norway for Nordic ski training and we are planning to head back to France to build up our skills on skis. In the coming years we will need to have an extended period of time living and skiing in a cold environment, which will most likely see us in Greenland within the Arctic Circle.
The team are currently undertaking a year of gruelling challenges to raise money for the Motor Neurone Disease Association.
These difficult and at times, dangerous challenges are designed not only to simulate the difficulties we will face during the expedition to Antarctica, but also the adversity faced by Motor Neurone Disease sufferers on a daily basis.
How does it feel to be involved in this project?
I feel incredibly lucky to be a member of the expedition and very proud of what the team have already achieved. It’s great to think that so many opportunities have arisen as a result of this; from regularly speaking on BBC Radio to meeting chief scout Bear Grylls to experiencing the environmental chamber at the University of Brighton.
Is the project all hard work or have there been some funny moments along the way?
Lots! The first one that comes to mind is the first time I ever went on snow with a pair of skis in October 2014. We went to the Snowdome in Milton Keynes. Naturally I wanted to look like I knew what I was doing so took the lift all the way to the top but I wasn’t able to control my speed on the way down so was pretty terrified. I didn’t fall over though, but I did learn my lesson! The funniest thing was that the rest of the guys in the team thought I looked really good coming down!
Ollie and the team are looking for corporate sponsors. Find out more by visiting their website www.hsx.org.uk/antarctica.