James borrell is a conservation scientist and science communicator, with a particular interest in how species adapt to changing climate.

Trekking across Antarctica (in the field next to my house)

As some of you might have read, I’m lucky enough to be in with a chance of joining the International Scott Centenary Expedition, that will head to Antarctica next year. It all started when I saw a competition in The Telegraph newspaper over christmas and wrote an essay entitled ‘Why Captain Scott is important to me’, which really got me thinking.

I thought the odds of getting this far were pretty slim. So after a few too many mince pies, and whilst I still had a ‘reasonable excuse’ to do something rather silly and totally unnecessary, I geared up and headed out. Over christmas we had a considerable snow fall (for Essex at least), by good fortune, this would provide the perfect setting for a mock South Pole attempt.

Connoisseurs of the polar travel world prefer car tyres as a training tool, but as a lack of these quickly became apparent, I settled for a couple of humble logs and old rope for a harness. A heavy mist descended, adding to the occasion and I rather contentedly trudged across the field in the snow.

I learnt quite a lot in the process:

  • Pulling logs is hard work, and so, I assume, must be pulling tyres or sledges. Hats off to Captain Scott.
  • Friends and family will think you’re a bit silly, which you are.
  • Logs are not designed for sledging and constantly get stuck, which consequently jerks you to a standstill.
  • You, appearing through the mist, dragging logs, is not what a casual dog walker was expecting.
  • Pulling logs is really quite fun, I wish I’d tried it sooner.

Arguably, one of the best bits was retreating back inside to finish off the leftover turkey, a luxury that the majority of polar explorers would not have. In any case, fortunately, I am not the only young chap pulling things in the snow for fun, and thanks to a bit of ‘The Next Challenge inspiration’, on this occasion, I found my excuse.

Next week I will be attending a selection event, hosted by the Royal Navy. As one of ten, undoubtedly very able candidates, hoping to join the expedition, I think it’s best to just be myself and enjoy the experience. Whatever happens, I’m glad that I had the chance to give sledging a try.

If you would like to find out more, the wonderful team at BSES kindly helped put this little press release together, Contact me for more information.