Legend-chasing young explorer returns from Antarctic expedition

Henry Evans at the South Pole

Henry Evans at the South Pole - Credit: Archant

BRAVING brutally cold temperatures and suffering hallucinations from the sheer isolation of a vast snow-coated landscape – this is not a story about the perils of traversing the UK’s wintry countryside but an “experience of a lifetime” for a young legend-chasing scientist.

Henry Evans

Henry Evans - Credit: Archant

Antarctic explorer Henry Evans has just returned to his home in Clavering following a two-week trek to the South Pole.

He was part of a two-man expedition launched to honour the 100th anniversary of the ill-fated Terra Nova expedition which claimed the life of famous explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott.

The 23-year-old caught up with reporter Sam Tonkin after flying back to the country on Tuesday evening – joking that he was well-prepared to tackle Britain’s winter wonderland and could have skied back from the airport.

“It was the experience of a lifetime – absolutely mind blowing,” Henry said, before adding that his epic trek had been “a huge success”.

“The two-week expedition was absolutely incredible but definitely tougher than I was expecting. It wasn’t so much the physical side, which I had trained for, but more the mental aspect and thinking about things to occupy my mind while I was skiing.

“I had hallucinations and imagined mice wriggling under my skies – it was very surreal. It is such a remote environment with no animals around, there was just me and my guide,” the former Newport Free Grammar School student explained.

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He said the coldest temperature the pair recorded during the 140-mile (225km) trek was -35°C plus wind chill.

The expedition began on December 23 and Henry reached the South Pole on January 5. It meant he was forced to celebrate Christmas and New Year in the 24-hour sunlight of the Antarctic.

“We wore Santa hats while skiing on Christmas Day and sang lots of Carols – Jingle Bells was a popular one. We also had some Christmas cake and I opened presents and cards from friends and family back home. It was very emotional because it was the first time I had spent Christmas away from my family and they have been such a huge part of this.

“For New Year we raised a glass of hot chocolate and then following the expedition I had a great night celebrating my 23rd birthday in Chile on the way back home.”

Henry held a small memorial service at Captain Scott’s resting place where he read extracts from the explorer’s diary.

Scott and his four-man party died on the ice after running out of food. They were returning from the South Pole in March 1912 after discovering a rival Norwegian team had pipped them to the post in a race to reach it first.

A Plymouth University graduate with a 2:1 in BSc Marine Biology, Henry was selected to take part in the International Scott Centenary Expedition after beating thousands of other entrants in a competition run by The Daily Telegraph.

He will now be doing a series of talks about his experiences – with Friends’ School and Dame Bradbury’s the first port of call.

Snow samples Henry collected for a scientific experiment designed with Plymouth University will also be analysed by the British Antarctic Survey to study the effects of climate change.

And what’s next for the fearless adventurer? He’s hoping to turn his world upside down and head north – tackling the worst the Arctic can throw at him.

“I’m going to go back to my sponsors and show them how successful this has been. The aim will be to head to the North Pole in April 2014/15,” Henry added.

• Henry is keen to hear from any schools who would be interesting in him talking to youngsters about his Antarctic experience.

E-mail henry@magoce.com. More details on Henry’s expedition can be found on his blog by visiting magoce.com