Chief Fire Officer for Devon and Somerset attempts Arctic Pole expedition for world record
The expedition's goal is to reach the Northern Pole of Inaccessibility, at the Arctic Pole.
The expedition is being lead by explorer Jim McNeill who resigned his fire and rescue operations for the Royal Household, to engage in "professional exploring" back in 2006 but has clocked up over 25 years of polar exploration. The trip represents the last 'true first' in polar expeditionary terms. Defined as the furthest point from land on the Arctic Ocean and therefore its centre, the Northern Pole of Inaccessibility remains the last truly significant place in the Polar Regions, yet to be reached by mankind. It is over two hundred miles further than the Geographic North Pole and one of four recognised north poles.
Lee will be joining 27 other highly dedicated and committed novices who will first take part in a comprehensive and intensive training programme to take on one of four 200 mile legs, pushing the route across the Arctic Ocean.
Along the route "crucial datasets" will be gathered to benchmark the condition of the ocean for the NASA funded National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) scientists, led by Walt Meier. These deliver the reality of climate change and make the whole expedition worthwhile and purposeful.
To train for the challenge, Lee is currently improving cardiovascular fitness and so is spending a lot of time in the gym and on the road running. He has been pulling tyres and carrying weights in his Bergen on Dartmoor to improve his strength and stamina. He is building up his leg muscle by cycling whilst using the rower to build upper body strength and, despite his children being still a bit too young to understand the significance of Daddy's challenge, he has even taken to pull Jemima (5) and Barnaby (3) behind him in the tyres whilst they shout, "faster faster!"
Jim is set to complete Core Skills Training (ropes, arctic medical training and expedition planning) in XX for 12 days. He will then progress to the arctic training which will take a further 25 days and the expedition leg is yet another gruelling 25 days.
When asked why he really wanted to put himself through all the training and embark on a trip in which the consequences are unknown, Lee said: "I've always been inspired by leaders such as Shackleton, Scott and more recently Sir Ranulph Fiennes (Ice Warrior's Patron), and when professional explorer Jim McNeill mentioned the possibility of being part of the team attempting the last significant World First in polar expeditioning, I knew I had found the challenge of a lifetime. As well as the immense personal challenges involved, I'm doing this as part of a team undertaking meaningful and valuable scientific research as well as exploring new frontiers. Perhaps most importantly though, I aim to raise a huge sum of money for The Fire Fighters Charity, so if you would like to support me or just think I'm mad, please visit my just giving webpage http://www.justgiving.com/Howell/".
To raise further funds, Lee also has several 'patches' on his kit for those who make significant donation to The Fire Fighters Charity. He has also written a children's book about a polar bear, which he hopes will raise some more money for the Charity. He has chosen this Charity because he has always been impressed with the work that it carries out through its three rehabilitation and therapy centres across the UK. He feels very lucky that he has not been injured whilst on duty, although he recognises that he is responsible for 2300 members of staff - any of which may need the services of the Charity at some stage in the future.
The Devon and Somerset Chief Fire Officer also attributes his desire to undertake this tough challenge on a possible mid-life crisis and said: "It was either a sports car, an adventure or an affair; however my wife Fiona soon put the kibosh on the latter; so it was then that I began researching an Arctic challenge and stumbled across Jim's Ice Warrior website!
After taking part in a selection weekend in Wales, he was even more convinced that this was exactly the challenge he was looking for and, although both a little nervous and excited, Lee said that this is not necessarily a bad thing. "It makes you focus and commit to the task in hand. I have learned that if you work and train hard, have the right skills, attitude and leadership, most things are achievable."
His wife Fiona thinks he is mad but is also incredibly supportive. "She knows that I'm driven and has always been right behind me in all that I have done."
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