The ISCE team are fully committed to getting Scott, the Antarctic and polar science into the classroom, this year and the next, and their aim is to build one of the largest ever on-line and interactive education platforms.
Mike Peake, in the Daily Telegraph, February 12, 2011
Iâ€™m 25 and live in Dorset. After finishing my contract with the Archaeology Team at Dorset County Council â€“ but temporarily continuing as a volunteer - I am again a contestant in the rat-race that is the graduate jobs market. Scott was one of my heroes as a child â€“ the other being Captain Kirk. Kirk has since lost his privileged place, but Captain Scott continues to inspire me. He has taught me that it is a crime to give-up, regardless of what misfortunes come your way. I am eager to promote his legacy and educate the public about a truly inspirational figure.
April 2011 - Following three days of intensive mental and physical testing ten strangers parted company the best of friends. They had been submerged, dangled, physically exhausted to the point of vomiting (in one case!), and thrown around in a high speed R.I.B. Nonetheless, the spirit of Scott prevailed in all of them and they â€˜stuck it out to the last biscuitâ€™. I had thought myself fairly fit, but the Royal Navy demonstrated that man-hauling fitness is a different cut of fish to marathon fitness. The whole experience gave me a greater understanding of my limitations and the limitations of others, showing that with the support of team mates and greater self-belief everyone can take a leap of faith and overcome their own particular chimera.
ISCE DARTMOOR WEEKEND (1 â€“ 3 JULY 2011)
â€œAJâ€™s rule is that youâ€™re never lost, just geographically misplaced.â€ These words of wisdom by ISCE leader Antony Jinman echoed in my head as I blithely tried to make sense of our position on the map. It appeared I was geographically misplacedâ€¦
Equipped with heavy Bergens and an incurable sense of adventure, I and six companions had headed out onto the moors for an ISCE assessment and training weekend with Antony Jinman. Fortunately for me we were not being assessed on our navigational skills but on our ability to go the distance and function well within a team. The aim of the weekend was to cover a distance of 65 km whilst simulating, as much as a sun-blessed Dartmoor would allow, the daily routine of man-hauling in Polar Regions. Accordingly, we split the distance into â€˜legsâ€™ of an hour to an hour-and-a-half, â€˜baggingâ€™ numerous tors along the way. 10 minute rest stops were meticulously invigilated by the â€˜timekeeperâ€™, Ali; and lunch was allotted a mere 15 minutes. As the Australian Explorer Dr. Douglas Mawson, a contemporary of Scott, once said: â€œWe are far from any trades hall, and there will be no union nonsense here. Working hours, with breaks for meals and bad weather, will be from seven in the morning till eleven at night. After that you can sleep.â€ Luckily for us Antony was not such a hard taskmaster and we only had one full â€˜sledgingâ€™ day; the Saturday; a twelve-hour-day which saw us covering about 43 km. The other 22 km were spread over two half-days.
Speed is the key when setting-up camp in Antarctica. The more time you spend â€˜faffingâ€™ (as Antony put it) the colder you get, and the less time you spend in a warm sleeping bag. From the off he was keen to drive home the importance of this message. The first night saw us pitching camp in a forest alongside a river; a spectacularly beautiful setting, intensified by the setting sun playing upon the shadowed outlines of the conifers. The Royal Navy (as well as supplying rations and Bergens) generously provided ponchos to keep the elements at bay, but alas, no mosquito nets. Dartmoorâ€™s midges were in for a treat and were soon enjoying an evening meal with us on the menu. In the absence of a poncho instruction manual and lacking no shortage of creativity, a mishmash of khaki shelters soon sprung-up, and the evening routine began. Fallen branches were gathered for a communal fire, hexi stoves were lit, mess tins were filled with river water for boiling, and, before long, seven hungry hikers were busy â€˜sporkingâ€™ surprisingly palatable Navy rations into their eager mouths. A great buzz of excitement in anticipation of the following day pervaded the camp and the stillness of a sultry July night was broken by the sounds of laughter and the crackling of the fire.
Following a restless night, despite the comfort afforded by my roll mat and the soft pine needle covered ground; we awoke early to begin the process of making breakfast and breaking camp. Water was sterilised for the day ahead, either through boiling or by the addition of chlorine tablets. What with the heat and the strenuous day ahead, this was not expected to last, necessitating the need to replenish our supply en route whenever we came across a convenient river or stream. Consequently, I was to have my first experience of drinking brown water; fortunately for Helena she lost her bottle of â€˜Dartmoor Brownâ€™ and came across a much clearer source in due course.
â€œBuck up! Do your damndest and fight: Itâ€™s the plugging away that will win you the day.â€ I have long been an advocate of mantras and have used my back catalogue of them successfully in the past on other endurance-related exploits. Having finished a book on Mawson prior to the weekend, I used the above refrain, one successfully used by him on his infamous expedition, to keep me putting one foot in front of the other when the gremlin in my head (a relative of the stowaway in Antonyâ€™s Bergen that would steal the occasional item of kit) kept telling me to â€œtake it easy and have a rest.â€ It was interesting to hear how others mastered their thoughts to avoid the slough of Despond. Phil, â€˜the gatekeeperâ€™ (a nickname he acquired by seemingly always being the one to open the gate) was initially a fan of singing songs to himself, albeit some of rather dubious musical merit (examples include Rebecca Black and Vengaboys). However, he soon became a willing convert to Mawsonâ€™s mantra. Antony, on the other hand, told us that when on an Arctic expedition he sometimes envisaged himself on a desert island. In another demonstration of mind-travelling he treated us to his perfect recipe for a Cornish pasty; â€œuse steak, not mince.â€ We were all thinking about the free pizza that awaited us for lunch on Sunday (courtesy of Prezzo) and the bottles of â€˜Spirit of Scottâ€™ beer.
A good source of water is important when choosing a good campsite. Of equal importance is shelter and flat ground. Late Saturday evening found us following the course of a river along a valley floor in search of suitably dry and level terrain. A difficult task when one considers that Dartmoor is effectively a miry undulating tussock-rife landscape. Eventually we happened upon an appropriate spot, complete with luxurious toilet amenities; a scattering of large granite boulders. The evening routine of erecting ponchos and cooking dinner began, this time with the speed and efficiency of a team who were no longer novices. A welcome couple of swigs of whisky from Helenaâ€™s hipflask (typical Scot!) concluded the evening and ushered in a peaceful nightâ€™s sleep.
An early start, only a few paces covered, and I had already managed to find myself sat in the river that had been our life-source. Slipping off a stepping-stone wearing recently changed dry clothing is never the best start to a day, especially when youâ€™ve still got a fair bit of trekking to do. To my surprise, everyone managed to stifle their laughter. A quick kit change and we were soon back on the trail and chipping away at our last few â€˜legsâ€™ of distance. The final tor was to be â€˜Black Torâ€™. Here, ahead of schedule and with the end in sight, spirits were soaring, and whilst Antony tried to arrange an earlier pickup, Phil instructed Rob in the game of â€˜Gibbonâ€™.
I think I speak for all of us when I say the going was tough; blisters burst (Kathryn wins the prize for the most impressive one), bergen straps chafed, and legs ached. Nonetheless, good morale prevailed and not a single word of complaint was to be heard. All-in-all it was a â€˜tor-ificâ€™ few days!