I find speaking to my brother in Canada pretty surreal at times. The fact that someone who’s the other side of the world can sound like they’re in the room next door is a pretty incredible feat of technology.
But speaking to Mark Wood from mid Antarctica on Wednesday, over 2,000 miles from any civilisation, really took the biscuit.
The Life Size Media Christmas party was set to be a pretty unique and memorable experience in itself, even without a call from the South Pole. They had gone all out on creativity, with both a tropical rainforest (complete with orang-utan Fran) and an Antarctic grotto installed in their cosy Oxford Circus offices. (Perhaps the fact that I had been cajoled into being Santa in the Antarctic grotto was another key factor in the evening being quite so unusual…)
Life Size had also done a spectacular job in getting Mark’s large and sprawling support team together, so there was much excitement as we all finally put faces to names and shared exclamations of awe at Mark’s endeavour.
By 8pm the party was in full swing, the booze was flowing and the mince pies a-chomping. I was beginning to feel more and more comfortable in my cringe-worthy santa dress.
The crowd suddenly fell silent, ‘Jingle Bells’ was muted, and Mark’s voice cautiously sounded from someone’s mobile: “Hello? Mark Wood calling, from the North South Solo expedition, in the middle of a white void…”
Last time I saw Mark was in that very same room, just days before he headed off. He was full of nerves and impatience to get going, fuelled with energy and excitement – I think this photo from the day sums the mood up nicely.
We talked to a pretty different Mark on Wednesday.
Half way through the South Pole leg of the expedition, having seen no signs of life for 24 days, the reality of his endeavour has well and truly struck home. He was clearly finding it tough, lonely, and a serious challenge. Yet his determination and focus has not wavered, and he’s making incredible progress. Broken ski bindings, torn and blistered feet, and a lost iPod are a mere part of the course, and having battled through those hurdles he now seems to be flying, knocking off a good 15 nautical miles each day.
It’s no surprise that suddenly being linked in to a festive room of 40 merrily cheering friends and supporters was bound to make him feel pretty emotional though; it was clear that he was massively moved by it all.
I was moved myself to hear how much the efforts of his sponsors had meant to him. When I told him that he’s had almost 150 sponsorship pledges he was seriously happy, grateful, and, well, at risk of over-using the word, moved.
Before he left, he said that the one thing that would keep him sane was music, and that the one thing he feared was keeping his motivation up. Having lost his iPod on day one, his sanity may be at risk; but at least the knowledge of your sponsorship efforts is definitely helping to keep his motivation high.
So please, if you haven’t done so already, make a pledge for Mark.
Sadly we didn’t manage to record the phone call itself, but you can listen to his recount of it on his blog here.
Photo courtesy of Tania Freimuth.