EXPLORER Mark Wood has been on countless missions, but even he admits to feeling scared as he counts down the days to his most dangerous challenge yet.
The Coventry-born explorer has already scaled the heights of Mount Everest and recently skied solo to the North and South Poles over six months to raise awareness of climate change.
Now Mark is hoping to step into the history books by trekking from the Russian arctic coast to the North Pole across fragile Arctic ice in what could be the last mission of its kind by a British team.
Along with two serving soldiers, Paul Vicary and Mark Langridge, the three-man team will set off on its 60-day expedition in mid-February across one of the most unforgiving areas of the planet.
All three men will be putting their lifes on the line but Mark insists it will all be worth it in a bid to raise awareness of the effects of climate change.
He told the Observer: “I’ve done other things before that have been tough, don’t get me wrong, but this is something that when I wake up in the morning I’m scared – I really am.
“My heart is beating faster every day as the expedition approaches. Some people don’t survive in these situations. It will be dark and minus 60 so the first few weeks will be a frozen hell!
“This has always been something I wanted to do. It is probably the toughest expedition on the planet because of the unpredictability of the ice and we don’t know what we’ll face.
“We’re stating this could be the last expedition of its kind in history to go from the coastline. I hope we’re wrong.”
The 600-mile nautical trek will see Mark and his team spend what he describes as ’60 days in a freezer’ to complete the icy challenge, which aims to record and expose the real, first-hand effects of global warming.
Very few have completed the journey and, due to climate change, it is one scientists predict will become impossible by 2058.
“We’re going to be honest and go out with a camera. We want to take students into extreme areas so we’re going to film everything and bring that back.
“A helicopter will take us in and drop us off on the coastline of Russia and it will film us disappearing on ice.
“Then we’ll take the camera on the journey, swimming across the water, cold winds, even polar bears – and there will be a high risk of polar bears.
“If they’re on the ice that far out that means they’re hungry. It’s quite low down the list to be honest but we will be carrying a gun just in case!”
Mark will be using his latest expedition to educate schoolchildren and inspire the next generation of explorers.
He will bring back photographs, video footage to record every step of the expedition and the terrain he faces, and ice samples for study.
“It’s inspiring for me when I go into schools and I tell them what I do,” Mark continued.
“It’s not about me, it’s about them looking at themselves and knowing there are no barriers.
“It’s about being a good person, having a good understanding of who you are and the space around you.
“It’s about understanding our planet and I want students to appreciate what there is by opening their eyes and going through the doorways.
The globally important expedition almost never went ahead due to a lack of sponsorship.
But businessman and director of rugby at Burton Rugby Football Club, from Lichfield, Mark Tweddle, stepped in to the rescue after hearing about the mission during a guest lecture by Mark.
“After hearing about it at such a decisive stage, I simply could not stand by and let it fail to get off the starting block,” said the 38-year-old.
Mark added: “The Important thing for me is the success is measured on the fact we come home alive and tell the story – that’s what explorers have always done.
“We’ve all got one thing in common, we’re all storytellers. You need to tell people the truth in a very real way.
“The key thing is we (the team) get on together really well which is key for something like this.
“And if didn’t think we could complete this we wouldn’t be attempting it.
“We’re all confident and we’re going to give it our best shot. This is the most difficult expedition to do.
“We’ve got 60 days worth of food and we will use that wherever we end up.”
The team will set off on their expedition on February 20. For more information visit northpole16.com or follow their adventure on social media at twitter.com/Jupiter_Mark1 and www.facebook.com/jupitermarketingltd