One of Cambridgeshire's oddest traditions gets under way this morning...
Former Marine Sets Off On Arctic Challenge
A former Royal Marine from Portsmouth sets off on a huge trek across the Arctic today (10/12/12), without the help of a support team.
26 year old Alex Hibbert is likely to face temperatures as low as -50C plus encounters with polar bears.
He'll do it via an unexplored route and without mechanical means or back up.
''Crevasse areas, very high winds and steep areas that you can get through are things you can plan for and overcome - polar bears are the big unknown,'' Mr Hibbert, 26, said as he completed his final preparations at London's Royal Geographical Society.
We are moving in to a large area of ice near the edge of the water where they are known to hunt.
We are going in to an area where they like to congregate - obviously we will have to take precautions to make sure that we avoid as many of them as we can or to take care of the situation without escalating it.''
He sets off on December 10 in the first of a two-part expedition in the High Arctic, to lay depots of supplies in bear proof caches. If the weather conditions are not too severe, he could make an attempt to reach the Pole, although this is unlikely.
He will lead fellow explorer Justin Miles, 39, of Cambridgeshire, across nearly 900 miles of open ice.
Using only torches to light their way, they will haul 900lb (408kg) sledges from the remote Inuit village of Qaanaaq up the Nares Strait - a narrow channel between Canada's Ellesmere Island and Greenland that is known for fierce currents, polar bears and volatile ice conditions.
Dave, a three year-old Greenland sledge dog, is also set to be a fellow member of the team. Known as a `wise dog', he will sit outside the tent while they are sleeping and his job will largely be to bark at bears.
Mr Hibbert said: ''The biggest danger is when we are in the tent at the end of the day because when we are in the sleeping bags we will look like seals which bears quite like. We will also have a trip wire around the tent.' '
Mr Hibbert and Mr Miles hope to be able to retrace their steps around this time next year and complete their unsupported attempt to reach the North Pole, picking up their supplies en route.
From the top of the Nares Strait, facing the vast Arctic Ocean, there is only darkness and ice between them and the North Pole.
Portsmouth-born Mr Hibbert, who now lives in London, said: ''I like competition, ambition and being physically fit. I train hard and approach my efforts with focus and discipline, just as if I were an Olympic athlete. The only difference is that my events involve a greater risk to life.''
He previously completed a record-breaking 1,374 mile (2,2221km), 113-day unsupported Arctic expedition in 2008.
Mr Hibbert, who was in the Royal Marines from 2008 to 2009, is looking forward to the new challenge. It has taken more than a year of planning, will cost a minimum of £55,000 and he has had to get £10 million of insurance in place which only covers him on medical so he can be rescued.
Kit for the expedition is about 10% of the total cost. It includes 860 AA lithium batteries to keep his torches and mobile phone topped up so that he can tweet from the ice.
He will also be pioneering the use of lightweight satellite wifi and tablets on the trip.
Mr Hibbert said: ''If I get hurt then I will be bankrupt because a rescue in a such a remote place could cost £2-5 million.
The main plan is to be the first team to reach the North Pole unsupported. There is a lot of exploration in this trip which is exciting for me.
We are travelling in the dark. We are travelling unsupported.
What I have essentially done is combined all the difficult parts of polar expedition. I think that is my competitive streak. I am competing against myself and there are a few other people who are spectacularly good.
It is also about setting a standard. I am saying to myself 'this has not been done before, why is that and can it be done?'''
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