Where are the polar icecaps and what are they like?

The Arctic is at the extreme north of the globe and covers the areas north of 60degrees North (although a number of other definitions exist). It covers islands and parts of landmasses such as Russia, Canada, Greenland and Scandinavia. At its centre is the North Pole (90degrees North) which sits in the middle of the Arctic Ocean, a constantly mobile skin of frozen sea-ice. The most significant permanent icecap in the Arctic is the Greenlandic icecap which contains nearly a third of the world's freshwater.

The Antarctic is at the extreme south of the globe and covers the areas south of 60degrees South (again this definition varies). It covers some southern islands but mainly the permanent icecap-covered landmass of Antarctica. This is the largest icecap on Earth and experiences the coldest temperatures. The South Pole (90degrees South) is positioned within this icecap, fairly centrally but not perfectly in the middle.

Arctic - think polar bears and seals. Antarctic - think penguins and seals!


How did you get into polar expeditions as a profession?

Whilst at school, from the age of around fifteen, I became immersed in endurance and ultra-distance sports - specifically running, kayaking and skiing. As I made the transition to university, my horizons extended and I searched for the ultimate form of endurance travel and for me, polar travel was it. I proceeded to spend the next few years learning the skills, reading about those who would become my predecessors and gaining credibility as a professional expedition leader.


When did you start travelling in the polar regions?

My first expedition in the Arctic was a training expedition to the eastern Greenlandic icecap in 2007. I was aged 21. From my teenage years, I had been building up experience in more accessible areas such as the Alps and Scottish Highlands.


You're twenty-five years old. Aren't you very young to be a polar expedition leader?

It's certainly true that historically and even through to the present day, major expeditions in the polar regions have been the preserve of those in their thirties and forties. I am therefore most certainly not from the classic mould. At the moment, most younger travellers with the means to access the polar icecaps tend to follow high-adrenaline sports or novelty-stunts. This is where I diverge and identify more with the classic expedition leaders of the past and present day.

It's my intention to re-cement highly demanding and technical polar expeditions with signifiant geographic ambitions into public consciousness.


How do you protect yourself against polar bears?

Polar bears are only a threat when we travel through areas where they hunt, such as the fjords of Greenland. In the event that a curious or hungry bear was to approach my team or camp, we would use deterrents such as loud noises and flares. In the unlikely and unfortunate event that a bear was to attack, we carry a weapon for protection.


How does your nutrition change from expedition to expedition?

Every time I venture out onto the ice with a new incentive and new team, the physical requirements are different. Along with my own background knowledge of nutrition and biology, I work with modern experts to ensure that I have the very best food and drink to keep me fuelled and healthy. Since I travel unsupported, weight is a critical factor when choosing my diet along with keeping a constant stream of useful nutrients flowing in.

By prioritising the vital areas and cutting back on less necessary components, we can reach an optimum balance. The key is to keep up a steady energy level rather than eating a lot and then going without. For a very long expedition such as the 113 day 2008 expedition, the key was sustainability and avoiding excessive weight loss and muscle wastage. For the 2011 Greenland speed crossing, sheer quantity of high-quality energy is paramount, combined with protein to keep our tortured muscles in condition.


As a photographer as well as an expedition leader, what equipment do you use?

Despite the inevitable weight, I use professional SLR equipment in the Arctic as the images are worth a great deal to me and so quality is important. This involves a combination of Canon 1D and 5D bodies and L-series lenses such as the 17-40mmL. Modern batteries perform excellently - I've had a week of use out of one and they can be solar recharged.