On Friday 23rd April, the Shackleton Society had the pleasure of hosting Henry Evans, a young polar explorer who has just returned from the Scott Centenary Expedition to the South Pole in January. His route into exploration was unusual, having earned his place on the expedition through a competition run by the Daily Telegraph. The competition involved those shortlisted completing part of the Royal Navy selection process, before the final four, including Henry, were flown to Norway for a final test on snow and ice. Henry stressed that he did not have much prior experience, but that throughout he simply tried to be himself. He then went on to talk about the expedition itself, walking the last two degrees to the South Pole- a distance of 225km- with his polar guide Geoff Somers, pulling their sledges behind them. This was a re-creation of the trip which a search party had had to make to find Captain Scott’s body in 1912. Henry explained how the emptiness and desolation seemed completely alien to him, and that his mind began to invent things to ‘fill in the gaps’ in the landscape. At one point, he became convinced that there were mice living under his skis. He also brought along much of the equipment that he used on the trip to illustrate how he was able to continue walking in the extreme environment of Antarctica. Henry was also studying Marine Biology at Plymouth University at the time, so he also undertook fieldwork on the expedition, taking snow samples and recording the weather every 3 miles, or 2 hours walking time, which the British Antarctic Survey were able to analyse to improve their knowledge of the ice cap. This was one of Henry’s hardest tasks as it meant exposing his hands to the Antarctic cold, which then took 15 minutes to warm up again. Finally, Henry talked about how fundraising was one of the most difficult aspects of the expedition, despite the large amount of media attention it received. He had to be creative to raise money, and completed two half marathons in a penguin suit, which he also brought with him to wear at the pole. This helped to inspire children to support him, and they could follow his progress using a daily blog on the Telegraph website.
Tom Rawlinson (AW)