Polar explorer and adventurer Mark Wood mesmerised Junior School pupils during two captivating talks as he visited the school ahead of his latest expedition.
Mark, who served in the British Army and the Fire and Rescue Service, has been on expeditions that have reached the Magnetic North Pole and the Geomagnetic North Pole and has completed solo expeditions to both the Geographic North and South Poles.
The Coventry native is passionate about educating pupils about the environment and global warming and took the fascinated audience on a journey of his life as an explorer.
He told the boys and girls what being in temperatures of minus 50 degrees felt like, spoke about the physiological effects of being alone in the vast expanses he visits, how he is keen to get people of all ages to understand their environment and what they can do to help and gave us his three tips on surviving on the expeditions he went on: ‘Fuel’ – eat hot food, such as porridge, to warm yourself from the inside out; ‘Clothing’ – dress for your surroundings; and ‘Movement’ – keeping the blood pumping around the body.
Mark offered anecdotes about how he lost his (white) iPod in the snow, showed videos demonstrating the vastness and harsh conditions he faced and spoke about the animals, such as polar bears and penguins, he encountered on his travels.
When talking about his first climb up Mount Everest, Mark told a moving story about how he had a tough decision to make 200 metres from the top. When one of his guides took ill, with the other already abseiling down the world-renowned landmark and his friend’s feet frozen, he had to decide whether to reach the summit himself or head back down the mountain. After asking the pupils what they would do, he revealed that getting everyone home alive was the priority and that he then helped carry the guide down to safety.
Mark encourages everyone to follow four principles: ‘Respect Yourself’, ‘Respect The Environment’, ‘Think Differently’ and ‘Have Fun’. He has been inspired by explorers such as Neil Armstrong, Edmund Hillary, Ernest Henry Shackleton and Robert Falcon Scott, who have all been prepared to push beyond the ordinary. He also made clear that successful expeditions do not happen by chance and he is a keen follower of the Scouts motto ‘Be Prepared’.
His next challenge is ‘Expedition 8848’ which will link three explorers with approximately 1.6 million students around the globe – creating the biggest and most extreme classroom on the planet – as they attempt to summit Mount Everest.
The explorers will use the latest technologies to film and communicate with pupils globally and boys and girls will be taken on a virtual expedition to help them think differently about the world around them.
The ‘Expedition 8848’ team will create unique and inspiring online lesson plans which will include short films created by them and, in addition, a joint venture with astronaut Buzz Aldrin’s education program will inspire students to look beyond Everest.
A UK production company is also working with them on a documentary called ‘Beneath The Ice’ which will look at the truth of modern exploration.
Year One pupil James Woodsmith was particularly excited as Mark’s talk was facilitated by his mother. Speaking about the visit, James said: “I liked listening to Mark, he was interesting and funny. His trips sound exciting and I didn’t know that people could go up that high! He is a brave man and I liked his story about the polar bear peeking its head inside his tent!”