A JERSEYMAN is preparing to follow in the footsteps of one of the most pioneering Arctic explorers and achieve a world first at the same time.
Former Jersey Island Games captain Raoul Surcouf and fellow adventurer Richard Spink are about to attempt the first carbon-neutral crossing of the Greenland ice cap.
They will venture into the frozen unknown pulling 100-kilo sleds and take a route from the east to the west coast of Greenland first completed by Norwegian Fridtjof Nansen in 1888.
Nansen, who later won the Nobel Peace Prize, travelled on skis and completed the 275-mile crossing in 41 days. Raoul (40) and Richard (31) are due to leave Plymouth in April and sail for two weeks up to Nuuk, on the west coast of Greenland, aboard a 40-foot yacht.
From there, they will travel on skis to the east coast. However, unlike Nansen, they will have to walk all the way back again because the boat will be unable to reach them on account of the ice.
The 550-mile trek will take them through some of the most demanding and hostile terrain on the planet.
Crevasses will be a constant danger and they will have to dig deep to find every ounce of strength they possess.
‘It is going to start to feel very real when we get on that boat in April,’ said Raoul. ‘The difficulty will be being static on a boat in the storm waters of the North Atlantic and contemplating our 550-mile journey.’
En route, they will carry out research for Bristol Glaciology Centre and aim to raise money for Teenager Cancer Trust.
The pair first met on an expedition to the magnetic north pole in 2006. They had planned to attempt the Greenland crossing last year, but were unable to raise the funds.
They have now found more sponsorship, and are being supported by Jersey’s Eco-Active campaign, but are still looking for partners and sponsors to help fund a project to keep them in touch with schools to raise awareness about climate change.
They need £10,000 for communications technology are offering the chance for companies to get involved and have their names on the pulks – or sleds – during the expedition. Raoul is no stranger to struggle.
When he was 17, he won a tough battle against cancer. He won a gold medal in judo in the 1991 Island Games and he has already proven his mettle in the frozen beauty of the high Arctic.
‘It will be the first carbon-neutral crossing of the ice cap,’ said Raoul. ‘We are also ethically resourcing the kit, so that it is recycled or second hand.’
They are also taking food which has been sent back or which is close to, or past, its sell-by date.
‘A lot of this stuff would end up being in landfill sites,’ he said. ‘We are going that extra mile to make it as sustainable as possible and we are looking for forward-thinking businesses to join us as partners.’
Raoul and Richard are also making sure that their message about the importance of sustainable living and climate change reaches an audience across Britain. They have been into many schools and are hope to have a live link up to keep pupils abreast of their progress on the ice.
‘Our aim is to make it a deeper learning experience for the children,’ said Richard. ‘It is more than just as text book. Our plan is to make the expedition as interactive as possible by writing blogs and potentially having live link ups, although that would involve much more technology than we have at the moment.’
They are also in talks with a television company called Green TV, which broadcasts to around 250,000 online each week. ‘The response from schools has been fantastic,’ said Raoul. ‘We have had direct contact with 6,000 children across Britain. We have had superb reactions in all sorts of different schools. We have spent anything from an hour to a whole day in schools.’
Last week, Raoul and Richard visited Le Rocquier, De La Salle and First Tower schools. At Le Rocquier, they gave pupils a taste of what lay ahead in Greenland by getting them to drag tyres around the school in teams for a day. After much effort, the students clocked up 96 km.
The school paths were, however, a much less hostile environment than the Arctic, where Richard and Raoul expect to walk and ski around 16 miles a day.
• Anyone who wants to support the challenge can contact Roaul via www.carbonneutralexpeditions.com or by telephone on 07773 656630.
• Picture: From Rue des Prés to Greenland – Richard and Raoul test their clothing in the freezer at Easenmyne at –25ºC. Picture by Jon Guegan (00624672)