A few things happened just before Christmas that has meant that 2016 is going to be a big year!
In November, totally out of the blue, I received a letter from the Chancellor of The University of Western Australia inviting me to accept an honorary Doctor of Education degree for community service. I was blown away, completely surprised. Of course I accepted and the conferral will be on 8th March. I’ve now got to get my head around making the Occasional Address to the graduands and their families in Winthrop Hall, UWA where I graduated with a Bachelor of Physical Education and Dip Ed such a long time ago.
In the week before Christmas I had two fantastic pieces of news in two days on the sponsorship front thanks to Dimension Data and a private sponsor. It means that I will have enough funding to go ahead with the major preparatory expedition for my Antarctic crossing in Greenland. This allows me to activate my key equipment sponsors to build/make key items that I will need to use in Antarctica.
Steve Christini is now designing a new all-wheel drive fatbike to accommodate maximum tyre width and with a better overall balance for my needs. The first prototype proved that it was an advantage to use a 2×2 bike – it has better grip and I spend less energy staying upright. I was amazed at how efficient it was and how seemlessly it switched into all-wheel drive mode. The bike essentially runs as a normal rear wheel drive until the moment the front or back wheel slips and then the AWD system engages. The main problem was that the rear wheel could only run a 4″ or 10cm wide tyre and in soft snow conditions, maximum flotation is most important. The Christini AWD Mark II will accept a 5.05″ tyre, the widest on the market, but this will require a major engineering feat by Steve Christini…but he’s worked it out!
Mont Australia will be custom-designing my clothing, the main item being the outer shell which needs to allow for me to move freely on the bike while providing the right amount of venting so I can control the airflow. It may seem strange that this is essential in a polar environment, but I will be working so hard and this will cause me to generate significant perspiration. Of course, when I stop, the perspiration will freeze immediately and this would spell trouble. One of the main skills that I need to improve at is controlling my body temperature. Greenland won’t be as cold as Antarctica, but it should make a reasonable testing ground for me to gain the skills I need for down South.
My supporters from EdenBDM, a company that deals in nanotechnology, is developing a new material made from nano-particles of the semi-precious stone, jade. Jade emits FAR infrared radiation that makes you feel warm – jade has been used in Chinese medicine for centuries for its warmth and healing properties. The stone is broken down into nano-sized particles to dramatically increase surface area and effectiveness and then made into a thread. Eden scientists at Deakin University (Melbourne) are currently experimenting with the product and it could be ready for me to trial in Greenland! Of course I could do my polar journeys without the product, but it could make a huge amount of difference to my comfort levels and is likely to have useful applications in the future. How exciting!
I had planned to attempt a full crossing of the Greenland icecap, from Isortoq in the east to Kangerfussuaq in the west, essentially at the line of the Arctic Circle. The supported journey turned out to be twice the cost of my original quote and all advice received from local experts suggested that conditions would be far softer than I will experience in Antarctica. The previous two attempts to cycle across Greenland have been unsuccessful in that only a couple of days on the route were cycleable, the rest was pushing of skiing. I felt that, as the icecap crossing is not the primary goal of Breaking the Cycle South Pole, I could not risk wasting the funds and good will of my hard-earned sponsors. Instead I have decided on what promises to be a more interesting expedition, a 400km route through Jameson Land and Liverpool Land on the north side of Scoresbysund, the world’s longest fjord, situated just north of 70 degrees latitude on in Northeast Greenland. This will be a three week expedition with spectacular scenery and opportunities for cultural engagement in Greenland’s most northerly town, Ittoqqortoormitt.
The route will be flexible, but essentially it will be from Mestersvig, an old Danish military base, across to Liverpool Land where I will make the first north-south traverse by bicycle. We will be working with Paul Walker’s Tangent Expeditions. We are planning this expedition for late April and May.
Images are provided by Tangent Expeditions – A taste of what we expect to travel across in Liverpool Land, Greenland in May 2016, though I will be on a bike of course!
This month I have had the word that my first trip for World Expeditions is definitely ON – we have enough confirmed bookings for World Expeditions to activate the proposed cycle trip from Leh to Manali in the Indian Himalaya. I am really excited that this is going ahead and look forward to travelling with some like-minded adventurous cyclists. We are still hoping that a few more will book. This is a small, high quality trip, fully supported with a maximum of 16 participants.
Provided I can secure enough sponsorship to commit to the final Antarctic journey, a second journey to the Indian Himalaya will be made in September which will serve as altitude training for the journey South.
Some of the good media that has been steadily trickling along since my Breaking the Cycle Australian speaking tour in June last year.
Channel 7 Perth (November)