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Tiso Group's CEO Chris Tiso joined Craig Matheson, the expedition's leader, at the airport to wave off the 6 girls and 4 boys who are all aged between 15 and 17 years old. This is the second group of teenagers to benefit from the Polar Academy, a charity set up in 2013 by Mathieson with the aim of inspiring Scotland's youth through exploration.
Selected from St Augustine’s, Liberton, Gracemount, Forrester and Tynecastle High comprehensive schools, the Edinburgh pupils will face temperatures below -20C and need to haul their own 45kg sledges as they play an active role in navigating across sea ice, setting up camp and tracking through remote mountain passes on cross-country skis. Supported by three expert guides and a doctor, they will also conduct scientific field research on ice samples.
47 year-old Mathieson, named in 2013 by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society as Scotland’s first Explorer in Residence, is a veteran of several successful expeditions to both the North and South Poles.
The Bo’ness based explorer said: “The hard training is now over and we’re all ready to go. I set up The Polar Academy to help kids with the same challenges I faced at school. It’s a chance for kids who lack self-confidence and self-belief to understand that life really can get better. You can break the mould but you have got to want to take that first step.
“In the coming days, each pupil will grow further in self-confidence as they journey through truly wild, challenging terrain. They’ll camp and cook under the stars, visit abandoned Inuit villages and pass under countless unnamed peaks within one of the remotest places on earth. It promises to be a positive and life-changing experience for all of them.”
On their return from the expedition, the pupils will relate their personal experiences to peer groups in Edinburgh schools.
Mathieson explained, “Just like the pupils from North Lanarkshire who undertook the first Polar Academy expedition last year, the personal accounts from these Edinburgh pupils will inspire thousands of other kids across Scotland. They will be the living, breathing proof for Scotland’s youth that by taking that first difficult step, dreams really are attainable.”
Julia Sanderson is among those preparing to fly out of Glasgow for the 3-leg outbound journey that will end with a helicopter flight to the edge of the Arctic sea ice. She will celebrate her 17th birthday on the expedition. “After months of really tough physical training, including hauling tyres filled with sand and hiking up to 30km a day, I can’t wait to set foot on Greenland’s sea ice. It would be amazing to see the Northern Lights whilst in the Arctic. It’s going to be hard but really rewarding and we’re all up for the challenge ahead.”
The Polar Academy needs to raise £170,000 for each of its annual expeditions, made possible by the input of a number of individuals and organisations, including Chris Tiso, CEO of the outdoor retail specialist Tiso Group and a founding supporter of the charity. Bergans of Norway, City of Edinburgh Council, Cornhill Building Services and private donors also support the charity.
Chris Tiso, the CEO of Tiso Group, fellow adventurer and Hon President of Scouts Scotland, added: “The teenagers have shown tremendous commitment and grit to undertake the tough physical training required to journey in the arctic. Through The Polar Academy and with the support of their school and parents, these ordinary pupils are already gaining in confidence and are ready to achieve the extraordinary. All at Tiso Group wish them well.”
The expedition will start at Tasiilaq and, weather dependent, take the team to Tiniteqilaaq before returning back to Tasiilaq. The expedition will fly back into Glasgow Airport on 7 April 2016. Mathieson’s hand-picked expert fellow guides include Nigel Williams, Head of Training at SportScotland Glenmore Lodge (by Aviemore), Dr Michael Wild as expedition doctor and Jess Ainslie, an instructor at Glenmore Lodge.
Chloe Hogg (15 – Tynecastle HS), Natasha Hoffmann (15 - Liberton), Ryan Hume (15 - Liberton), Sara Michno (15 - Tynecastle), Iona Somerville (15 - Gracemount), Julia Sanderson (16 - Gracemount), Nathan Stewart (15 – St Augustines), Gregor Whitlie (16 – Forrester HS), Alanna Laing (15 - Forrester), Scott Coomber (16 – Forrester HS) and Samantha Clarke (Teacher - Tynecastle).
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