In January 2012, Alan Lock will set the world record as the first visually impaired person to travel from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole. Andrew Jensen and I will accompany Alan on this expedition which will be, quite literally, to the end of the Earth. This 45-day expedition plans to cover 580 miles on skis pulling our gear behind us in sleds. We call the expedition Polar Vision.
The aims of Polar Vision are two-fold: first, we are raising money for two wonderful charities; Guide Dogs for the Blind and Sightsavers International. Secondly, we are telling Alan’s inspiring story. In late 2003 Alan began to suffer from Macular Degeneration, which rapidly destroyed much of his vision and cost him his military career. Despite this, Alan has done things like running the 151 mile Marathon Des Sables and he set a Guinness World record in 2008 when he became the first visually impaired person to row across the Atlantic Ocean.
Most people find this story truly incredible and inspiring, but for the visually impaired, Alan’s story shows what can be possible. But as I said, we’re going the end of the Earth. So telling the story could have been a struggle. Iridium has solved this problem for us.
We’re delighted to be working with Iridium. Our team has had really positive experiences with Iridium equipment, either through the military background of the other two expedition team members or from Alan’s row across the Atlantic during which he also relied on Iridium.
Thanks to Iridium we have our much needed “safety net.” We can make our scheduled calls back to our operational base and assure them of our well-being, but if something did go wrong, the emergency button on the Iridium Extreme model will get the message and location back to help us out. We’re also using the GPS tracking on the phone to update our location to our website at www.polar-vision.org. This will certainly re-assure my parents if they see us making good progress!
With the Iridium handsets we’re able to connect to the people to whom we want to tell our story. That includes our media partners that are following the team and also a number of schools and non-profits that we are working with that have a keen interest in what Alan is achieving. Some examples of these include the Perkins School for the Blind and the Carroll Center for the Blind, which provides adaptiveness training for the visually impaired, and Art Beyond Sight, promoting access to the arts amongst the visually impaired. We have a number of calls with these groups planned and we hope that hearing Alan talk about his experiences whilst on the frozen continent in Antarctica will be really special.
Of course, Iridium is also helping us keep in contact with our family over the holiday period, which keeps us sane.