A FORMER Reading Blue Coat School pupil has undertaken one of the most gruelling challenges possible – a trek across Antarctica.
Dr Jamie Facer-Childs, and a team from the British Army Reserves, completed an epic crossing of Antarctica last month to raise £100,000 for ABF The Soldiers’ Charity.
The Spear 17 expedition team – comprising Jamie, Alex Brazier, Chris Brooke, Ollie Stolen, Alun George and Team Leader Lou Rudd – trekked more than 1,100 miles on foot, unsupported, in temperatures dipping down to -50°C, pulling 160kg sleds – or pulks – behind them, across the polar continent, to the geographic South Pole.
They arrived at the Pole on Christmas Day, where they enjoyed a full Christmas dinner and a couple of days’ break, before five of the six (Alun George was unable to continue) set off again on December 30 for the second part of the expedition, over the Titan Dome, down the Shackleton Glacier and onto the Ross Ice Shelf.
In early January, Jamie – who completed his A levels at Blue Coat in 2005 – sent a New Year greeting to the students and staff at the school, which concluded with this special message: “I wanted to call and just wish all the pupils at Blue Coat the best of success for 2017.
“From the youngest to the oldest, whether you’re sitting your A levels and are off to uni, or whether you’re new to the school, or play in a sports team, all the best to you. And remember that the world’s a big place and you have a place in it.
“Discovery comes from curiosity and exploration, so never be afraid to try something new, and see what you end up doing. Work hard, play hard. Push yourselves, do your best and smile to encourage those around you to do their best as well.
“That’s all from me. And best wishes to you all. Happy New Year. Bye bye.”
The message was read out to all the Sonning-based school’s students, and, in reply, they – and the Headmaster Jesse Elzinga – were photographed smiling and waving encouragement to Jamie and the team, and the photographs were added to the Spear 17 expedition’s Facebook page.
On January 20, the team completed the full traverse of Antarctica and became five of only 11 people ever to accomplish this remarkable feat.
In fact, more people have walked on the moon than have traversed Antarctica.
In his final blog of the expedition, Jamie said: “What I will remember most about this expedition is the team that I’ve had the privilege to be with. At every turn and at every moment, there was a smiling face that was more willing to look after you than they were themselves. No matter how tough things got, the selflessness of these guys and their ability to endure, has made this expedition such a success.”
What made the achievement particularly poignant for the team was the fact that they carried it out in honour of retired British Army officer and explorer Lt Col Henry Worsley MBE, who died last year trying to complete the same expedition on his own.
Jamie made history as one of the first frozen-embryo twins in the world – and then again when he and another Reading Blue Coat School Old Blue, James Thysse, became the youngest pairs crew ever to row across the Indian Ocean. One of the oars that were used for that epic crossing, still stands in a corner of the Headmaster’s office as a reminder of one of Jamie’s great achievements. Jamie is now a doctor based at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.
To contribute to the Spear 17 Expedition’s fundraising attempt, go to expedition leader Lou Rudd’s JustGiving page: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/spear17