Former Sharnbrook pupil heads for solo South Pole record attempt

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Tom Warburton

Tom Warburton, a former Sharnbrook Academy pupil, is aiming to become the youngest person to complete a solo 690-mile trek to the South Pole, and will raise £32,000 for charities in the process.

The 20-year old is currently studying international security and terrorism at the University of Nottingham, but his family is still based in Bedfordshire.

He intends to walk/ski from Hercules inlet on the north western coast of Antarctic to the geographic South Pole, a distance of 1100 km.

During the 45-day expedition he will gain over 3,000 metres, travel in nearly -60c degrees temperatures, brave harsh winds, known as katabatics and arrive in the South Pole just in time to see in the new year.

Tom will embark on the challenge in November 2020. Great Ormond Street Hospital, Help for Heroes and Hire a Hero are the chosen charities to benefit from his fundraising.

He has been training hard in Norway to acclimatise to the harsh Antarctic conditions.

The Bedford Independent caught up with Tom to find out what inspired him to undertake the challenge.

“I’ve always had a love of adventure. Too much climbing up trees and running around fields. I was obsessed with the old polar explorers like Amulsden and Scott,” said Tom.

“I was inspired by watching Scott Sears and Matthieu Tordeur attempt their records. They certainly gave me the idea and made me actually decide that I could do it.

“The isolation will certainly be challenging, I’ve never spent 50 days on my own not seeing anyone. That is one thing I can’t really prepare for and certainly one of the hardest things I felt on my training trips in Norway.

So, how will Tom pass the hours of silence? Does he have a playlist?

“Yeah, I’ve only just started to listening to music on my training trips as the cold was messing up my touch screen. I unashamedly quite like cheesy music, a bit of Angels by Robbie Williams or Sweet Caroline…”

“My most useful bits of kit are common sense and probably my spade, it’s got so many uses. To be honest all of my equipment is essential.

“If I lose my tent or if it blows away, its game over. If my stove breaks its game over, if my pulk (Sledge) breaks its game over.

No one could blame for Tom missing his mum the most while he’s away, but we would never have guessed the thing he placed second on his list…

“I’ll probably really miss having a seat or chair – there aren’t any chairs in Antarctica so I’m always crawling on the floor or sitting in snow holes.”

Bedfordshire’s Antarctic Heroes

20-year-old Tom is following in the illustrious footsteps of six Antarctic explorers with Bedfordshire connections, writes local historian & Bedford Tour Guide, David Fowler.

Aspley Cherry-Garrard, born at 15 Lansdowne Road (which has been honoured with a Blue Plaque), was part of Captain Scott’s Terra Firma expedition of 1910, when together with Wilson and Bowers they hauled a sledge 60 miles across the ice to collect unhatched penguin eggs, described in his book as “The Worst Journey in the World”.

Cherry-Garrard helped lay out supplies for Scott’s returning expedition, eventually leading the team that found them frozen dead only 12 miles from those supplies.

George Percy Abbott, also a part of the Terra Firma expedition, was stationed at RAF Henlow when he died in 1923.

Aeneas Mackintosh, attended Bedford Modern School, living in Clarendon Street and then, after his marriage at 43 Beverly Crescent (Blue Plaque), from where he left to command the Ross Sea Party for Shackleton’s 1914 expedition. This was to lay out supply depots along Shackleton’s route, however in 1915, returning in a storm, Mackintosh and his companion perished, probably falling through the ice.

Frank and Ernest Wild lived at Eversholt where their father became Schoolmaster in 1885 (Blue Plaque).

Frank Wild
Frank Wild illustrated by David Litchfield

Frank took part in five Polar Expeditions between 1901 and 1922 with Scott, Shackleton and Mawson, in charge of 21 men when Shackleton left for his successful rescue voyage to Georgia. Ernest Wild was also a member of the Ross Sea Party under Captain Aeneas Mackintosh.

Thomas Wyatt Bagshawe, born in Dunstable, joined the 1920 British Imperial Expedition to Graham Land, Antarctica. Due to lack of funds, only Bagshawe and one other team member landed, deciding to stay for a year to carry out scientific fieldwork into the breeding of penguins and becoming the smallest party ever to overwinter on Antarctica.

You can follow Tom’s progress on his website, his Facebook page and you can contribute to his fundraising efforts here.