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Friday
Jan272012

Into the Wild Meets: Mark Wood - Walking to the Ends of the Earth for Climate Change

Mark Wood considers himself an ordinary guy, but his current situation is about as far from normal as you can get. Mark has completed part one of his attempt to be the first person in history to ski solo – unsupported and unaided, to both the South Geographic and the North Geographic Pole’s consecutively. This journey will take approximately one hundred and fifty five days, including the transitional period, and in that time, he’ll navigate two thousand Kilometres of Antarctica ice and Arctic sea ice, alone.

Mark is an explorer, educator and speaker, highlighting the importance of climate change to people across the globe. He was even part of the team that guided Top Gear to the Magnetic North pole in the Race to the Poles Special.

Into the Wild got the chance to catch up with him at the half way point to find out why he’s doing it all, who his hero is and most importantly, how he keeps his chocolate from freezing.

Into the Wild: Congratulations on completing part one of the expedition! What made you take on this challenge in the first place?

Mark: Three reasons are driving me to do the North South Solo Expedition: education, the environment, and the personal challenge.

I have a long-standing education project back home in Coventry - this expedition is a great way of engaging those kids with the world around us. I'm also reaching out to the corporate world, encouraging them to look at the environmental credentials of their businesses, with a climate change workshop in Norway once I reach the North Pole. As for the personal challenge, this will be my twenty-sixth expedition, and almost certainly the most daunting!

Into the Wild: Many people would consider you a little crazy, how do you react to that?

Mark: To other people probably yes, but to me, no! When you see the incredible planet for yourself, as I have and the destruction being caused by the human race, people will see that my struggle is a drop in the ocean compared to the struggle the human race is going through now. I know what I’m getting into and have gone into this expedition with my eyes wide open. I want to open everyone’s eyes and bring people together to act now against climate change.
 
Into the Wild: It seems such a fantasy job, how does a person become an explorer?

Mark: Well, it's not so much a job - but more an integral part of who you are. Having worked in the army and then fire and rescue I needed a new challenge! Becoming an explorer meant taking small steps to see how far I could expand my skills. I have a passion for 'exploring', but it's also important to make it meaningful and to try and reach out to as many people as possible. It isn't easy - the North South Solo has taken me 3 years of hard-work, and I've risked a lot - just to make it to the start of the actual expedition!

Into the Wild: What are you hoping to achieve by this?

Mark: Sir Ranulph Fiennes says it's the toughest journey on the planet; it's a world's first attempt, which is pretty epic in itself.

But for me, the expedition is about the connection, the mass communication to students and companies out there. If I can share my journey, showing how the Poles have changed and inspiring others to act, then that's a massive achievement. It'll be the biggest achievement of my life but it will only work if the other projects alongside it are a success too. That's why it's so important people get involved.

Into the Wild: What do you eat out there and how do you stop it from freezing?

Mark: Steak dinners and treacle pudding…just joking! I’ll be eating rehydration food and high calorie energy bars and 24.8 KG of chocolate! In total I’ll be consuming around 262,000 calories. To stop the food freezing I’ll be creating a micro-climate in my jacket as I move, so hopefully my chocolate will remain soft.

Into the Wild: What has been your most valued piece of kit along the way so far?

Mark: A satellite phone! Without this, I'd be completely cut off from the outside world.

Into the Wild: Are you using a sledge to carry your equipment?

Mark: Yes, possibly two. I need them to carry all my food and fuel for the cookers. In the north I’ll strap the pulks (that’s what explorers call them) together to make a raft to cross Arctic open leads; lanes of open water between two sections of ice that have been pulled apart by water currents.

Into the Wild: As a lover of ice and snow, have you ever wanted to do an expedition in extreme heat?

Mark: Never say never - but I definitely cope better in the cold!
 
Into the Wild: Having travelled all around the world, what has been your most memorable experience/destination?

Mark: A memorable destination is always about the people you're with or who are involved in what you're doing. Climbing Island Peak in the Himalayas was one of the most memorable experiences I've had - just because of the people I was with at the time.

Into the Wild: What is the best way to motivate people to act on climate change?

Mark: Hopefully we haven't gone past the point of no return. Technology is developing so dramatically these days, so maybe things can be flipped around in the future.

We need to stop arguing and keep communicating: communication is a key. When I talk to students about climate change they don't bat an eyelid because it's an acceptance of how they've been brought up. People who are my age, (I'll be 45 next month,) we are still in a learning process. Some people my age run big corporate companies, and they have a real opportunity to make the change, but it's the kids of today who will be left with tomorrow's world, so they need to act too.

Into the Wild: What are you asking people to do to support your mission?

Mark: I'm using the online sponsorship platform The DoNation, asking people to support me not with cash but environmental action. It's the perfect complement to my expedition, and a real motivator to know that when I'm out on the ice alone, people at home will be doing their part too. Combating climate change is the greatest challenge of our generation, and only by acting together can we hope to succeed.

Into the Wild: Finally, who is your hero (past or present)?

Mark: I’m going to answer that with two things: someone I admire and people who inspire me.

The person I admire is “the second man”. What I mean by that is the person behind “the face.” So for Sir Ranulph Fiennes, there’s Mike Stoud who went with him. Ranulph Fiennes gets all the glory and Mike Stoud is the second man. In the Scott and Shackleton expeditions there’s a guy called Tom Crean who was an Irish explorer, a real work horse, a real animal of a man who just got on with it!

People who inspire: I can’t think of any singular person who inspires. This may sound corny but hopefully today I’ve inspired you, and you can inspire others to get involved too.

Mark has completed phase one of the expedition and now goes onto the second leg; the long journey to the North Pole. Follow his progress on www.markwoodexplorer.com

Interviewed by Gemma Percy

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