Next stop Greenland in trio's quest to right children's sight

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 July, 2007, 12:00am

Some people will do anything to escape Hong Kong's stinking hot summers, but walking across the frozen landscape of Greenland seems an extreme way of beating the heat.

That's how three intrepid Hong Kong-based adventurers will be spending next month.

The trio are following in the chilly footsteps of 19th-century explorer Fridtjof Nansen to cross Greenland from east to west on foot with as much determination as Nansen, who declared: 'Death or the west coast!' when he made the journey.

They are making last-minute preparations for the arduous expedition this weekend, which they hope will raise money for the eye charity Orbis.

David Jessop, 36, and pals American Brice Minnigh, 37, who has already left town, and fellow Briton Stephen Wright, 39, will cross Greenland unsupported, using skis and hauling their own food and equipment behind them on sleds.

'We're planning to complete the journey in 35 days,' Mr Jessop said, adding they had little choice in the matter as they can only carry enough food between them to last 35 days 'because of weight-efficiency ratio'.

But he admitted they may have to ration their provisions if the frozen cross-country trek takes longer than anticipated. They expect to cover an average of 20km a day.

They leave Hong Kong on Wednesday and will rendezvous in Reykjavik in Iceland on July 30.

They will then travel to Greenland and take a boat from their base camp at Kulusuk, near Tasiilaq, to a tiny Inuit village, Isortoq, at the bottom of the Apuserserpia glacier on the east coast of Greenland on July 31.

After acclimatising for a few days, their trek, which begins on August 3, will take them up and over Greenland's icecap, which covers 85 per cent of the island and reaches 2,500 metres at its highest point.

Temperatures there plummet to minus 20 to minus 30 degrees Celsius.

The trio plan to arrive at a camp called Eqi on the west coast in early September and then sail to the nearest settlement of Ilulissat.

The three team members are no strangers to extreme adventures, having skied across the polar icecap to the North Pole in 2004. To prepare for that trip, they trained by locking themselves in a restaurant's vodka freezer for hours on end.

This time round they haven't done any cold climate training, Mr Jessop said. 'You can't really train for the cold. You've just got to be fit and strong,' he said, adding the weather in Greenland would be a bracing alternative to Hong Kong's sweltering humidity and heat.

The men are raising money for the Bao Tou Eye Hospital in western Inner Mongolia, where Orbis plans to set up a paedriatic eye-care centre and help restore sight to 3,000 children and 5,000 adults at risk of losing their vision.

Long stretch

The three explorers are hoping to cover 20km a day on their skis

The distance they will travel during their 35-day trek across Greenland: 700km