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Robert Swan, OBE, is the first person to ever walk or ski to both the North and South Poles. He first reached the South Pole in 1984 and the North Pole in 1991. Since his first trip to Antarctica, the continent became his inspiration for his advocacy: the preservation of the frozen continent against climate change.

The expedition is a demonstration of current renewable energy technologies. Using only man-hauled sleds to carry their equipment, the team will use these technologies to assist them on their 600-mile journey through desolate terrain which go as cold as -40° Celsius.

The explorer is set to return to the South Pole this November as part of the South Pole Energy Challenge (SPEC). The challenge’s aim is to demonstrate the limits of renewable energy. This will not be a simple walk under Antarctica’s summer sun – it also demonstrates Swan’s faith in clean energy under the most hostile environment on earth.

Swan’s continues his advocacy with 2014, a company which he founded to help the preservation of Antarctica. He has also the author of “Antarctica 2014: My Quest to Save the Earth’s Last Wilderness,” a book he wrote which echoes all of his bold ideas for the future, along with Gil Reavill.

The SPEC team is made up of Robert’s son, Barney Swan, who is the leader of the expedition; Martin Barnett, the expedition guide; and Kyle O’Donoghue, documentary filmmaker. They will carry with them man-hauled sleds and wind power generators to power their electronic devices. For drinking water, they also have solar panels. For cooking and heating, Shell developed a woodchip-derived biofuel at the Shell Technology Centre in Bangalore, India.

The father and son team are no strangers to the use of renewable energy. Barney Swan grew up away from the grid and knows firsthand the use of such energy in everyday life. The SPEC starts November 15 and will last for 60 days.

A Demonstration of Technology

Map of South Pole

The expedition is a demonstration of current renewable energy technologies. Using only man-hauled sleds to carry their equipment, the team will use these technologies to assist them on their 600-mile journey through desolate terrain which go as cold as -40° Celsius. Besides the cold, other environmental challenges include the high altitudes and mercurial weather conditions. It is not the first polar expedition to solely use man-hauled sleds; however, it is the first to use only renewable energy sources including solar, wind, and advanced biofuels.

The dangers they encounter are real. The team is ski to the South Pole dragging their equipment on their sleds. Frostbite and hypothermia are constant threats. The expedition will stress the human body to its limits, with health dangers including respiratory distress and depressed immune system brought about by environmental stress. This makes the use of renewable energy a challenge and a demonstration of current technology.

According to Robert Swan, there is no silver bullet in solving the challenges brought about by climate change. For him, people must meet the challenge by collaborating with all the stakeholders and active participants, which include businesses, industry and the public sector, to make cleaner energy solutions and a low carbon future. This will entail the use of more renewable energy source, required to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. By testing these technologies in Antarctica, the expedition aims to prove that these pieces of technology are ready for deployment anywhere, and are important in helping the world to transition to renewable energy leading to a low-carbon future.

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