Explorer to make back-to-back journey to North and South Pole

British adventurer Mark Wood is currently in Punta Arenas, Chile where he is preparing to start an epic journey. If all goes as planned, later this week, Mark will fly to the Antarctic, where he’ll begin a four-month odyssey that will take him to both the North and South Poles back-toback. While he certainly won’t be the first person to visit those two remote places, he does hope to become the first to make consecutive journeys to the opposite ends of the Earth.

Weather permitting, the first stage of the expedition will begin on Wednesday, when Wood will start his solo and unassisted trek to the South Pole. That leg of the journey is expected to take roughly 50 days to complete and will cover approximately 680 miles of ice and snow. Upon arriving at his destination, Wood will be picked up by plane and shuttled back to Chile, where he’ll immediately set off for Canada to start the second stage of the expedition. That will entail crossing another 700 miles of ice, over an estimated 65 day period, culminating with his arrival at the North Pole. If he is successful, he’ll then be plucked from the ice once again, and flown directly to an environmental conference that will focus on the effects of climate change.

In order to reach the two Poles, Wood will travel on skis, dragging a sled behind him. That sled will be weighted down with his gear, food, and other supplies, enabling him to survive for weeks on end, by himself, without any outside assistance. While on the trail, he’ll burn in excess of 8000 calories per day, enduring bitterly cold temperatures, whiteout conditions, and treacherous terrain.
Wood is making this journey to raise awareness of the impact of climate change on our planet and he is asking for support from others to help him achieve his goal. But rather than looking for monetary donations, Mark is instead asking for others to pledge to do some simple environmental actions that will cumulatively amount to a savings 100,000 kilograms of CO2. You can find out more about this program, and pledge your support, on the expedition’s DoNation page.

It will be a tremendous display of strength and endurance if Wood is able to pull this off. Spending 115 nearly-consecutive days in polar environments, alone no less, will take its toll on anyone. Additionally, the changes to our planet have made it increasingly more difficult to travel by foot to the North Pole, so he’ll have to have a bit of luck on his side for that to happen as well. Still, you have to applaud his ambitions and wish him the best along the way.

[Photo courtesy of Mark Wood]

16-year old looks to become youngest to North Pole

16-year old Parker Liautaud has set some rather large goals for himself. While many young men and women his age are concerned with getting good grades and who they’ll be taking to the dance on Saturday night, Parker is busy planning and training for an expedition to the North Pole. His second such expedition in fact.

Liautaud is hoping to become the youngest person to travel to the Pole on foot, and in two weeks time he’ll set out for the arctic to do just that. He and his guide, polar veteran Doug Stoup, will make a “Last Degree” journey from 89º North to the top of the world on skis. In the process, he hopes to raise awareness about the growing impact of global climate change on our environment, while also inspiring other young people to go out and do great things as well.

Parker attempted this same journey last year, but came up just short of his goal thanks to a combination of extremely bad weather, negative drift of the ice, and large sections of open water. Despite their best efforts, Parker and Stoup came up 15 miles shy of the finish line, and had to be airlifted to the North Pole via helicopter to catch their plane ride home. This year they hope to finish what they started in 2010.

While on the journey north, Parker and Stoup will be taking measurements of the amount of snow on the arctic ice. That data will be shared with the University of Alberta upon their return with hopes that it will offer insights into the short and long term impact of climate change on the region.

When he sets out in two weeks you’ll be able to follow Parker’s progress via his website, Facebook page, and Twitter feed. It should be quite an expedition for the young man.

IAATO explains climate change for Antarctic travelers

The International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO) continues to be a great source of information and education for travelers heading south to the frozen continent. Last week we told you about their efforts to keep the sailors aboard private yachts, well informed of the issues involved with navigating the Antarctic waters, helping to make the region even safer for travel. But beyond promoting safe travel in the Southern Ocean, the IAATO’s other chief concern is protecting the environment. To that end they have released a document entitled “Climate Change in Antarctica – Understanding the Facts” which is designed to educate Antarctic travelers about the threats to the environments which they’ll be traveling through.

The document, which was created in collaboration with the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), is a fair and unbiased look at the impact of climate change on Antarctica, which plays a vital role in the circulation of both the atmospheric and ocean currents. Additionally, Antarctica contains 90% of the world’s ice and 70% of its fresh water, which makes it all the more valuable for the long term health of life on Earth.

Antarctica has long served as a barometer for the health of the planet, and as climate change continues to spread, its impact on the continent is undeniable. For instance, temperatures on the Antarctic Peninsula have increased by more 3ºC over the past 50 years, which is nearly ten times the average rate for the rest of the world. Meanwhile, the large ozone hole that made news years ago, has led to a 15% increase in westerly winds, which have helped to insulate the continent, keeping Antarctica’s interior largely unchanged in terms of temperature and snow fall.

What does all of this have to do with travel to Antarctica? Clearly the report demonstrates how fragile the environment is there, and how important it is to protect it – something the IAATO has a vested interest in. The organization works with its members to help limit the impact of travel to the region, and in the process reduce their carbon footprint. The idea is for travelers to visit but have zero impact on the place, ensuring that it remains a healthy and vital destination for future adventure travelers to enjoy as well.

The Antarctic travel season is just now getting underway, and with the global economy remaining sluggish, a number of travel companies are once again offering excellent deals for tours to the region. If you’ve ever had a desire to visit the the place, this may be the best time to go.

[Photo credit: IAATO]

Swimmer to attempt high altitude swim in the Himalaya

British long distance swimmer Lewis Pugh has traveled to Nepal, where he is preparing to make the highest altitude swim ever, as he works to raise awareness of global climate change and the effects it is having on glaciers in the Himalaya. The long time environmental activist will make his historic swim, which has been called the hardest ever by some, in an icy glacial lake in the shadow of Mt. Everest.

Widely considered to be the finest cold water swimmer in the world, Pugh has gone for long distance swims in icy conditions before. In 2007 he became the first person to swim across the North Pole and back in 2005 he went for a 1km dip off of the Antarctic Peninsula. He also swam across the English Channel, as well around the North Cape, the northernmost point in Europe, and Cape Horn at the tip of South America. Pugh is the only person to have taken a long distance swim, meaning 1km or more, in all five of the Earth’s oceans, and he does it just wearing a Speedo, goggles, and swim cap, even in the cold water swims.

Pugh is currently in Gorak Shep, a high mountain village located at 17,000 feet, that is the last stop before Everest Base Camp. He is spending his time acclimatizing and taking a few practice swims in the nearby Lake Pumori, which sits at 17,700 feet, where he’ll attempt the official swim too. That swim will be at least 1km in length as well.

In the most recent updates to his blog, Lewis has commented on his first test swim, calling it the most frightening day of his career. He went for a 300 meter swim, and discovered that he was having a tough time breathing and that his stamina was lacking at such a high altitude. Even on that short swim, he feared for his own life on more than one occasion. For a man who is use to feeling ultra fit, it was a scary situation.

The plan was to make the swim yesterday, but another update indicated that Lewis is suffering from altitude sickness, and has delayed the attempt for now. Forecasts indicate that the weather in the region will take a turn for the worse in a few days time as well, ushering in the monsoon season, and effectively shutting the door on these kinds of activities. Stay tuned to see if Lewis can complete his swim before that happens.

Nepal’s cabinet to meet at Everest base camp

Later this week, Nepali Prime Minister Madhav Kumar, along with 26 members of his government, will travel to base camp on Mount Everest, where they’ll hold a cabinet meeting to raise awareness of global climate change and the effects it is having on the mountain. Warming temperatures in the Himalaya are causing glaciers to recede at an alarming rate, as rivers and streams dry up across the region.

On Thursday, Dec. 3rd, the cabinet will fly to Lukla, a small town located at 9383 feet, where they’ll spend the night before boarding a helicopter on Friday that will take them up to base camp at 17,585 feet in elevation. While there, they will survey the direct impact of the dwindling water supply in the Khumbu Valley, where villagers are already having to trek several hours each day to collect the water they’ll need for their day-to-day living.

Recently a similarly high profile cabinet meeting was held in the Maldives, where the president of that island nation, along with 11 cabinet members, held a meeting underwater while wearing scuba gear. Both of these events take place as the U.N. prepares to convene a special conference that is expected to be attended by 190 nations, who will be discussing a plan to replace the Kyoto Protocols by 2012.

The glaciers of the Himalaya are the second largest concentration of frozen freshwater on the planet behind the polar ice caps. The normal melting process of those glaciers feeds some of the longest rivers in the world, including the Ganges in India and Yangtze in China. As those glaciers recede, and the latest estimates have some melting at a rate of 70 meters per year, we can expect long term, and wide reaching consequences throughout Asia and beyond.