Behind the Scenes… Organising a Polar Expedition

The ‘gliding swan’ image that makes everything run smoothly, or appear so, involves a fair amount of preparation wherever you go in the world!
By Svante Strand and Helen Turton – expedition managers and guides

Newland Expeditions

RESEARCH – where, when, how, why, with whom…focus on the finish from the start, so you know what you want to achieve. There is so much information available via the internet, local guides, previous expedition reports, contacts from around the world nowadays. Be aware that it might be more of a case of sifting out the relevant and accurate information from the ‘fictional stories’ written by some people purely from their own personal viewpoint.

TESTING – test your routines, equipment, food, clothing, backup/emergency systems…and if possible, how the team will react/work together when the ‘going gets really tough’ as inevitably it will at some point(s) along the journey!

SPREADSHEETS – lists and checklists actually make it everything easier to not miss something! If you’re not a methodical person, this could save you endless time, and help you to get into routines. Life is often comparatively ‘simple’ when on expedition, with far fewer choices than we are used to making in our daily lives – it comes down to much more about life’s necessities – food, home, health and wellbeing.

FUEL – Work out amounts required according to predicted temperature, food type, whether you are melting snow for your water supply…and allow a little extra for heating. Learn from other’s mishaps – quite a few expeditions end because of fuel mixing in with food/clothing, due to lack of routines and poor storage of fuel.

FOOD – Carefully calculate that you have enough but not far too much…food is heavy. As a guideline, we aim to fit the kCals required (which can vary from 5000-7000kCal per day according to the temperature/duration/intensity of activity) into 1kg. Focus on the important balance of protein (essential for good recovery), fat and carbs. A few food treats along the way are a good incentive if it’s a long trip.

EQUIPMENT – Adapt beforehand, improvise and be able to make repairs ‘in the field’ with items having multi-uses…and most importantly, take care and treat your equipment with respect, so it will look after you and do the job. There often isn’t an outdoor/resupply shop just at the point where you need one most in the middle of an icecap or the polar ocean. Whilst equipment is essential, it is very definitely only part of the whole story – see below ‘skills training’.

SKILLS TRAINING – Learn from those who have the skills and experience relative to where you want to go…it will save an awful lot of time and effort from potentially ‘getting it wrong’ or help you to avoid the pitfalls before getting it right.

LOGISTICS – some trips require several years of planning and preparation. That’s just how it is! Allow sufficient time for everything…and assume that even though you are acutely aware of your own tight timelines, you may be dealing with minimal or comparatively ‘primitive’ logistics systems (eg. Local agent works only minimal hours through the winter each year, small helicopters, boat sails once a month, limited local food and water). Some destinations require permit applications – protocols for approval that involve several stages of consultation before the expedition can go ahead.

TEAMWORK – start from the assumption that people will often react very differently when ‘out of their comfort zone’, completely fatigued, hungry, cold, hot, far from family and friends etc. Most importantly, there may be little else to focus on other than team dynamics during 24 hours of snow…whatever the view, day after day after day. We’re all human – give each other a bit of own time and space each day, support each other, and think how you treat/respect others in a way you would like the same for yourself.

When fund raising, training, testing, blogging all seems like an uphill struggle…remember why this expedition is so important to YOU personally. No one is forcing you to take up the challenge…but make sure to have fun and be happy along the way!

# polar #southpole northpole #greenland #newland #svantestrand #helenturton #behindthescenes #organisingapolarexpedition

Previous in the link below: Pythom interview with Mostafa Salameh (trained by Newland for South Pole 2015-16 ski expedition)