Two British Explorers Attempt to Hike 2,500 Miles Across the Antarctic

by Matthew Memrick
(Photo by Francois LOCHON/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

Two British explorers have set off on a 2,500-mile Antarctic quest to see how far their bodies cope when pushed to their limits.

NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and Stanford University are tracking former soldier Justin Packshaw and doctor/ex-Army medic Jamie Facer Childs as they attempt to reach the continent’s most isolated spot in 80 days. The duo set out on their trip three weeks ago with the hope of showing researchers that human life could survive in a Mars-like atmosphere.

Six days ago, the duo announced they had traveled 242 miles. The men are posting updates on their trip here.

Three weeks ago, the men flew from Cape Town, South Africa, to Novo. 

Antarctic Explorers Go To Their Limits

The 57-year-old Packshaw has made Antarctic trips before in 2014, 2015, and 2017. He’s even climbed Mount Everest and is the chairman of Juro Experiences, a luxury adventure company.

Before the trip, Packshaw expressed his excitement about traveling to an unexplored place.

“I’m super excited – the day before these things are always fraught because there is so much to do,” Packshaw said. “As soon as we arrive in Antarctica, that’s it. You don’t have access to comms, and you have to make sure you have all the right kit. My partner Jamie and I are as ready as we can be.”

This time, the men are skiing toward the Pole of Inaccessibility. Several men have made the trip.

Once the men make it to the point, the Evening Standard reported they would go 560 miles to the South Pole before taking on an 800-mile stretch to the coast.

Scientists believe future explorers would face these inhospitable conditions and strange, desolate landscapes on the moon and Mars missions.

Explorers Tested Constantly On Antarctic Trip

Packshaw and Childs undergo tests twice a week to document the wear and tear on the men’s bodies. They keep samples of saliva, blood, urine, and fecal matter to monitor their immune systems during the trek.

Smartwatches also measure their vitals, stress levels, and sleep as they move through temperatures of -31 degrees Fahrenheit and wins of 100 mph.

‘It is a proper old-school adventure, long in duration and unsupported,’ Packshaw told the Sunday Times via satellite phone. ‘When Mother Nature flexes her muscles out here, it’s really quite an impressive thing to witness.’” 

Packshaw and Childs have no mechanical assistance on their trip with only wind kites to help them travel by foot and on skies. They both haul 440-pound supplies sleds.

NASA is also testing their eyesight. The agency is involved in psychophysics, which looks at the physical stimuli someone experiences and the sensations they produce. 

Unfamiliar landscapes can disorient individuals, like the 1971 Apollo 14 space mission. On that nine-day mission, several experiments took place, and Commander Alan Shepard hit two golf balls on the moon with a makeshift club he had brought from Earth.