I feel greatly relieved now that the expedition has set out for Antarctica. Since Mike Stroud suggested the idea to me five years ago, I have been working on it full-time and, like all the volunteers I have recruited onto the Team, unpaid.
My original aim, and Mike's, was simply to cross the Antarctic Continent on skis during the polar winter and using food/fuel depots parachuted the previous summer.
In order to tick off the Foreign Office Polar Desk requirements in relation to safety, without which I would not receive the vital FCO Permit, we had to change to vehicle support. I therefore had to obtain sponsorship with two Caterpillar 25-ton snow modified vehicles and a polar ship. Also, since I know nothing about polar ships or heavy snow vehicles, I would have to recruit experts prepared to work weeks, months and years unpaid. Should I find such folk I would delegate all relevant planning and organization to them whilst I concentrated on fund-raising and equipment sponsorship matters.
Anton Bowring, my friend and co-expeditioner of 35 years, became my Co-Leader and the boss of all marine matters. Brian Newham, a long-time BAS Base Leader, became vehicle boss or Traverse Master in charge of all matters pertaining to the crossing attempt itself, Spencer Smirl from Canada and Richmond Dykes from Ireland in charge of all technical problems (both work for Finning, our Caterpillar sponsor). They will be ably supported by another ex-BAS field expert, Ian Prickett, and our doctor, Rob Lambert (selected by Mike Stroud out of a number of volunteers) also has thorough BAS experience behind him.
With all the FCO-invoked marine and vehicle matters in the hands of these great volunteers, whom I have been extremely fortunate to recruit, together with a great team of volunteer organisers, fund-raisers and sponsor liaison staff based in the UK (names as in our main website), I can now concentrate on trying to get fit for Mike's original aim for the entire project, to ski with support some 4,000 kilometres in winter conditions.
Thanks to all our team members on the expedition ship, on the Ice Team and in the UK and all our great sponsors, we do stand a reasonable chance of success in achieving the 1st winter crossing of the great frozen continent despite the many unknown factors that lie ahead of us over the next 14 months.
Those responsible for our ancillary aims (Charity, Science and Education) will also keep our website/blogs well informed as to our progress on these fronts.