With just six weeks to go before departure, final preparations for the Land Rover and The Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) -supported 'Pole of Cold' expedition are well under way. The expedition aims to explore the social, cultural and physical implications of living in the most extreme climates during winter. The team will engage with communities along the route, researching how they have adapted to life in sub-zero temperatures.
Awarded by Land Rover in partnership with the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) and Institute of British Geographers, the Land Rover Bursary consists of up to £30,000 of funding for a trip and the loan of a Land Rover Defender. One of the world's most recognisable and iconic vehicles, the Land Rover Defender is renowned for its all-terrain capabilities and is highly suited to tackling the planet's most challenging conditions.
The Land Rover Defender 110 has had many modifications to the already comprehensive list of standard equipment. Enhancements include uprated suspension, underbody and driveline protection, auxiliary heaters for the engine and occupants, a long range fuel tank and extra equipment and luggage storage.
The three-person team have now completed their training, which included spending time with the Land Rover Defender 110 in the Climatic Development Suite at the Jaguar Land Rover facility in Gaydon, Warwickshire. The Climatic Development Suite is an integral part of the development of all Jaguar Land Rover Product testing, with the capability to go from +55 degrees to -60 degrees Centigrade.
The team travelled to the mountain ranges of Skjalbreidurr in Iceland for an introduction to the Land Rover Defender's renowned all-terrain capabilities and the driving techniques required for the slippery highways, icy tracks, rough roads and challenging conditions they will encounter on their route to Siberia. It was also an opportunity for them to discover how they will all cope with the sub-zero conditions by camping on the Langjökull glacier.
The team - led by experienced British adventurer Felicity Aston - were recipients of the sixth annual Land Rover Bursary. The group will be heading off on a 30,000km endurance drive through exceptionally hostile conditions to Oymyakon - aka the 'Pole of Cold'. Conditions at Oymyakon, the Northern hemisphere's Pole of Cold, will be extreme, regularly hitting -20 deg C and at times as low as -50 deg C. The region earned its title as the 'Pole of Cold' when -67.7 deg C was recorded in February 1933.
"We've had the luxury of time to prepare for the journey and so far all is going well," explained Felicity. "We've set up some exciting contacts along our route and my research about the destinations along the way has only made me more keen to get going!"
Felicity believes the biggest challenge on the 14-week expedition will be for the team to pace themselves. "The 'Pole of Cold' is our ultimate destination and so it will be a big moment when we arrive, but I'm looking forward to so much of what we have planned along the way. As is so often the case, it's the unexpected encounters that are the most memorable."
The expedition's focus will be on exploring the social, cultural and physical implications of winter on communities. The team will track the extreme weather through scientific and creative means, documenting the physical, human and cultural geography as they go.
Through the channels of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), schools and education establishments will be able to use the expedition as part of the National Schools' Curriculum in the subject of Geography in the field of Russia and Cold Environments.
With Felicity as team manager, the group consists of Manu Palomeque, a photographer and film-maker who will be co-ordinating creative output during the trip, and Gisli Jonsson, a highly experienced cold-weather engineer, mechanic and winter driving advisor.
"We've been out to Iceland as a team to do some training, but the next big milestone before departure is collecting the expedition vehicle from the Land Rover assembly line in Solihull. We can't wait to meet our fourth team member!"
The 14-week journey will begin from the Royal Geographical Society (IBG) in London on 20 November 2013. The team will depart the UK from Harwich, catching a ferry to Esbjerg in Denmark and then on to Oslo, Norway. The planned route goes through Finland to St Petersburg, before continuing east through Russia to Ekaterinburg and on to the Trans-Siberian Highway. After skirting Lake Baikal, the Defender will be heading along the infamous 'Road of Bones' to Oymyakon.
The return journey traces a route further south, crossing the Kazakhstan border before heading back into Russia, Finland, Norway, Denmark and eventually returning to Harwich and London on 1 March 2014.
Anyone interested in applying for the 2014 Land Rover Bursary should visit www.rgs.org/LandRoverBursary