A DRUMKEEN man is among just 28 people from around the world chosen to make an arduous 800 mile trek in sub-zero temperatures to the North Pole next year.
Justin Toner (36) will be the only Irish person on a team which will attempt to become the first expedition in history to reach the ‘Northern Pole of Inaccessibility’, otherwise known as the Arctic Pole.
The ‘Ice Warrior Project’ will be led by one of the world’s most experienced and respected explorers, Jim McNeill. This will be Justin’s first attempt at polar travel and all in temperatures as low as -50c. He has previously trekked in Indonesia, Morocco, Nepal (Everest Base Camp), Saudi Arabia and Tanzania (Mount Kilimanjaro) but this will be his biggest challenge to date.
Defined as the furthest point from land on the Arctic Ocean, and therefore its centre, the Northern Pole of Inaccessibility remains the last truly significant place in the Polar Regions yet to be reached by mankind. It is more than two hundred miles further than the ‘more popular’ Geographic North Pole destination. The whole journey will be near to 800 miles from the northern shores of Canada and will take-in the North Magnetic Pole en route.
A son of William and Ann Toner, the quantity surveyor has returned from the middle east where has been working for a number of years. He is now undergoing the first part of an intensive training programme near Letterkenny to enable him take on at least one of four 20-day legs, pushing across the Arctic Ocean by approximately 200 miles each leg.
Speaking to the Donegal News from his home in sunny Drumkeen this week, however, Justin said he was determined to go the whole 800 miles of the expedition which also has a scientific remit and has NASA as one of its partners.
“I finished up work last May and went travelling. I was looking for something different when I came across this expedition, so I applied for it and was accepted,” he said.
Justin has been taking part in strength and conditioning training with local sports coach, Adam Speer, since November. Next month he will travel to the remote Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, between mainland Norway and the North Pole. There, he will get prepared for long-distance walking and skiing in sub-zero temperatures.
“The expedition will take place over 800 miles in 80 days and we will have to become fully self-sufficient. There are four North Poles, but the one we are going to is the furthest of all from dry land. Along the way, we will also be taking physical ice and air samples as well as counting Polar bears. My parents think I’m a bit mad, but I think it will be really interesting as well as being quite a unique challenge. It will be really mentally and physically challenging, but I will also be contributing to peoples’ understanding of climate change.”
Partners to the expedition include the NASA funded National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC), The Met Office, The Scott Polar Institute, The Norwegian Polar Institute and the Russian Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute.
The expedition will begin in February next year when Justin and the team fly into the Canadian Arctic.
“The opportunity to see some Polar bears, from afar, would be interesting – there isn’t much chance in coming across any of them around Errigal, Muckish or any of our other great Donegal mountains,” he added.
“People, maybe, do not realise that the continued rising ocean temperatures in the Arctic and the deteriorating sea-ice levels are having an impact on us here in Ireland and throughout the entire world. Our future generations will be living with a very different climate and environment if we do not make some serious changes soon.”
His adventure will not come cheap – each of the participants has to raise €27,000 before they go. However, Justin hopes to raise most of this through corporate sponsorship.
If anyone is interested in sponsoring him, they can contact via Twitter @iceWarriorJ, on Facebook (justin.toner73) through his blog website www.justintoner.com
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