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The Polar Vision team during their training with Matty McNair (left) in Iqaluit, Baffin Island, Canada. Richard Smith (middle), Alan Lock (second from right).
courtesy Polar Vision
Polar training in Iqaluit.
courtesy Polar Vision

Alan Lock: As far as the mind can reach - blind man for the pole

Posted: Sep 20, 2011 02:20 pm EDT
(Newsdesk, Story updated: Sep 22, 2011 08:48 am EDT) In 2003, 24-years old Alan Lock began to rapidly lose his vision. Instead of crawling into a corner, the young UC Berkeley grad and Royal Navy Officer has already lived a lifetime. Next, he aims to be the first blind person to ski from the Coast to the South Pole.

The quest was first attempted in 2000 by Miles Hilton-Barber. Miles was eventually airlifted from Antarctica but continued his sight-impaired adventures, one of the most notable involving the blind Brit driving a racing car with his loyal personal assistant reading the map in the passenger seat.

As for Alan Lock, since 2003 he completed 10 marathons including the 151 mile Marathon Des Sables in the Sahara Desert. He has been to a number of mountains including Everest (the peak's blind ascent in 2001 by Erik Weihenmayer was documented in the movie "Farther Than the Eye can See") and in 2008 Alan became the first visually impaired person to row across the Atlantic Ocean.

Now Lock plans to continue where Miles Hilton-Barber left off.

At the end of November Alan Lock (UK), Richard Smith (UK), Andrew Jensen (USA), Garrick Hileman (USA), and Sean Swarner (USA), will set off from the Ronne-Filchner Ice Shelf. [Ed note, Story updated Sep 22, 2011 08:48 am EDT: Richard Smith notified ExplorersWeb, they are now only three team members as Garrick Hileman and Sean Swarner unfortunately wont be joining the team on the ice any more, but they remain active supporters of the expedition.]

Alan suffers from Macular Degeneration, he has lost much of his central vision and only some blurred peripheral vision remains, which continues to deteriorate, Richard Smith told ExplorersWeb about Alans condition.

One of Alan's biggest challenges will be the sunlight as sufferers from Macular Degeneration typically are very sensitive to bright light and of course 24 hours of reflected sunshine will mean he will have to have very effective goggles! Richard said.

Alan will ski on his own in the middle of the pack, he can follow others pretty effectively and was a good skier before losing his sight so his technique is good, Smith added.

In the remarkable "A blind man's adventure," story published at ExplorersWeb in July, following a life changing canoe trip down the Yukon River blind Imtiaz Moosa explained on the subject:

"What inspires and encourages humans is consciousness of ones power," Moosa said. "In summary, this trip reminded me of what I could do, and not what I was incapable of doing."

Polar Vision - Training Video from Polar Vision on Vimeo.



The team will receive resupplies on route to the South Pole and will be guided by ANI guide Hannah McKeand (UK). The route is 840 km in a straight line.

Alan Lock is a former Royal Navy Officer. In late 2003 Alan began to suffer from Macular Degeneration which rapidly destroyed much of his vision and cost him his military career. Despite this, Alan has completed 10 marathons including the 151 mile Marathon Des Sables in the Sahara Desert. In 2008, Alan set a Guinness World Record and raised over $80,000 for charity when he became the first visually impaired person to row across the Atlantic Ocean.

Read more about the team members on their website in the links section.

The team is raising funds and awareness for two charities, Sightsavers International and Guide Dogs for the Blind.


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