WMOR South Pole Expedition

WMOR Architects Director Jon Beswick

On 17th January 1912 Captain Robert Scott and his team successfully reached the South Pole. Despite losing the race to be the first to the Pole to Norwegian Roald Amundsen, it was the tragedy of Scott’s expedition that captured the hearts and minds of the world and is still remembered today.

Captain Robert Falcon Scott led the doomed Terra Nova Expedition 1910–13 where a party of five reached the South Pole on 17 January. On the return journey, all perished from a combination of exhaustion, starvation and extreme cold. Scott became an iconic British hero, due to his personal bravery and stoicism, and the expedition’s fate was attributed to misfortune.

100 years later, I, together with my colleagues James Balfour and Neil Laughton, will be attempting the same feat. Led by experienced adventurer Neil, we will depart the UK on New Year’s Day and upon arrival in Antarctica will pull our own sleds packed with provisions, and ski the last 100 miles – aiming to reach the Geographical South Pole on 17th January 2012.

If we successfully arrive at the Pole we aim to play a commemorative (and sure to be competitive) cricket match between the British and the Norwegians in honour of the remarkable series of events 100 years prior.

James read Captain Scott’s diaries during his summit of Mount Everest in 2008 and vowed to attempt the South Pole on the 100-year anniversary in 2012. Upon his return he approached his old climbing partner Neil and soon plans were being set in motion.

Having been old school colleagues, James and I became reacquainted ten years later. James had been busy climbing some of the highest mountains in the world and had noticed my exploits in 2009 – a failed attempt to circumnavigate Africa by land.

In March 2011 James and I ran from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea in a team of six covering a distance of 241km – in just over 18 hours. In the following weeks I navigated from the race to Iraq in a bid to climb Iraq’s highest mountain and in doing so obtaining the first winter summit of Cheekah Dar. Soon after these set of events James and Neil asked me to join the team.

Skiing the to the South Pole is a demanding exploit and involves around 8-hours a day of strenuous physical activity for about a week at altitude and in very low temperatures. The altitude combined with the cold dry air and dry snow with little glide makes it a challenging expedition that is often underestimated. Currently, we plan on covering around 8 or 9 nautical miles (14.8 or 16.6 km) a day. The energy and fitness requirements of the expedition go beyond sled hauling and include everything from setting up and striking camp each day, to keeping warm and adapting to the climatic conditions of Antarctica.

I believe we create our own transient stories; mine is about seizing every opportunity, every challenge and every moment that I encounter on an ever-unraveling narrative. The direction fluctuates, the ending is completely undetermined but I will never find out unless I keep reaching.

“Some will tell you that you are mad and nearly all will say ‘what is the use’ for we are a nation of shopkeepers… And so you will sled nearly alone, but those with whom you sled will not be shopkeepers.”

 Apsley Cherry-Garrard

 The Team

 Neil Laughton:

“An experienced adventurer and expedition leader. Neil has led teams to the summits of the highest mountains on each of the 7 continents including Mount Everest, 12 first ascents in arctic Greenland, the Geographic North Pole and an unsupported journey across South Georgia in Antarctica”

James Balfour:

“The South Pole challenge creator, James thought of the idea when reading Captain Scott’s book and climbing Mount Everest at the age of 24. Has successful summited some of the highest mountains in both the Arctic and Antarctic and 4 of the highest summits of the 7 continents of the world. James is CEO of the fastest growing health chain in C and E Europe and raised £100k to rebuild schools in Africa”

Jon Beswick:

“A RIBA Chartered Architect, founder of Well Done Medium or Rare Ltd and an expert on vernacular architecture, Jon currently designs bespoke houses around the world. Combining adventure with architecture he visits and documents indigenous tribes their architecture. Jon completed the 1st winter summit of highest peak in Iraq and in 2009 drove unsupported from London to Cape Town down the west coast of Africa, covering 33,000 km and crossing 33 countries. Jon once attempted to drive a school bus to India, has motor biked solo across Himalayas and also crossed Great Thar desert on a camel.

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