RAF Brampton man heads to Antarctica for Scott-inspired mission

A HUNTINGDONSHIRE serviceman has set off on a two-month trek across Antarctica that will see him tackle terrain previously untouched by human footsteps.

Major Julian ’Mitch’ Mitchell, pictured, a Royal Engineer at RAF Brampton, flew out from Heathrow on Tuesday evening (Tuesday) for Chile from where he will sail to the coast of Antarctica, which he should reach by the beginning of January.

The 34-year-old is one of a 24-man team of armed forces personnel who will be exploring the north-west sector of the continent as part of the centenary celebrations commemorating Captain Scott’s doomed mission to the South Pole.

During their stay the team will conduct scientific experiments investigating the effects of global warming on the region, and will also aim to conquer some of the region’s 2,000 unclimbed mountains.

Speaking yesterday ahead of his flight, Major Mitchell said: “I am really excited about being given this opportunity.

“Ever since I was a kid I have wanted to go to Antarctica. I have got very vivid memories of reading books when I was young about Shackleton and Ranulph Fiennes going across Antarctica.

“The main objective of the expedition is to get scientific data. I will be scouting and reconnoitring the routes. The science team will have quite a lot of stuff to carry.

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“I am just looking forward to putting two feet on Antarctica – everything else is a bonus.

“To get to Antarctica for me is a massive achievement.”

Though the team won’t be covering the same route as Scott, Major Mitchell said he felt it was following in his spirit.

“Scott did a lot of science. He had rock samples with him when he passed away – that is how committed to science he was.

“We are trying to remember him for all the good work he did, and not simply for the fact he was second to the pole and then died.”

Major Mitchell first found out about the expedition after answering an advertisement in Soldier Magazine. Following a gruelling assessment, he was picked from 120 candidates to be part of the final British Services Antarctic Expedition 2012 team.

The BSAE 2012 team has spent two years preparing. During their training team members have trekked across Norway, the Swiss Alps and France, developing skills in cross-country skiing, snow holing, pulking (pulling a sledge) and crevasse rescue skills.

In addition, Major Mitchell, who specialises in mapping and imagery, has been working closely with scientists from the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, drawing up navigational maps of the area, which previously did not exist.

Major Mitchell hopes to name one of the previously unclimbed mountains after his regiment – once he has scaled it – though the final say on naming features rests with the Antarctica Place Names Committee.

INFORMATION: To follow the team and find out more go to www.bsae2012.co.uk or www.facebook.com/BSAE2012