Amelia of the Antarctic

Amelia Hempleman-Adams, 16, is more worried about missing Facebook than the dangers of frostbite during her 14-day trek to the South Pole with her father David, the explorer

As one of Britain's best-known adventurers, David Hempleman-Adams has made 30 successful Arctic and Antarctic expeditions, reaching North and South poles a record 14 times.

But this weekend he left Britain for the trek that he admits is causing him more anxiety than any he's ever embarked on. Because this time his 16-year-old daughter Amelia will be accompanying him, and together, they face a 97-mile journey to the South Pole through temperatures that could be as low as minus 60 degrees. If they succeed, Amelia will be the youngest person ever to have reached it on skis.

Taking one of his children on an expedition isn't new for Hempleman-Adams: the 55-year-old has been accompanied by both his older daughters, Alicia, now 22, and Camilla, 19. But Amelia, as he readily admits, is his baby: and while he's used to coping with Arctic hardships, he's all too aware that it will be a complete culture shock for her.

"The thing is that I've done lots of these trips – I'm used to them, I know what to expect, and I know how to get through them," he says. "But for Amelia it's all going to be new and some of it is obviously dangerous.

"The biggest danger will be frostbite: it's entirely possible for your fingers and toes to be damaged beyond repair in as little as three minutes. You have to be constantly wary, and if you suspect you're getting frostbitten you have to do something about it straight away.

"What worries me about Amelia is that she'll keep quiet about a problem when she needs to speak up. There will be 10 of us on the trip, and everyone else is much older than her so we'll all be looking out for her."

Some people, says Hempleman-Adams, will berate him for putting his daughter in danger – not to mention taking her out of school for three weeks. "But I'd say to them, what about the dangers of wrapping your child up in cotton wool, in never giving them the chance to get through a demanding situation? There are dangers in not exposing our children to difficulties too, but we never talk about them."

As for missing lessons, he says the educational aspects of the trek will be worth many hours in the classroom. "But the main thing she's going to learn is perseverance: this will be a gruelling, even a gruesome, experience. We're going to trek from the exact spot where Ernest Shackleton had to turn back in 1909, to the South Pole. It will take around 14 days and they will be very hard, skiing by day and trying to sleep in tents despite the 24-hour sunlight there."

His main advice to Amelia, says Hempleman-Adams, is that the first 10 days will be the worst. "If things aren't working out, we can fly home," he says. "At least Amelia will have tried. The biggest tragedy in life isn't people who've failed, it's people who haven't even tried."

Amelia, meanwhile, admits she's daunted by what's ahead – but says she's determined to do her best. Her biggest anxiety is how she'll cope without Facebook. "Leaving my friends behind, and not being in constant touch with them the way I usually am, will be the hardest part," she says. "We won't have any internet connection, though we do have a satellite phone in case of emergencies."

Her sister Alicia, who trekked across Baffin Island in 2005 on a similar trip, says Amelia doesn't have an inkling yet of what she'll be up against. "That's the thing about a trip like this – you don't know what you'll be coping with until you're out there coping with it, and then you just have to carry on," she says. "You learn so much about yourself at such a young age: things you might not have known for many more years, maybe never.

"I'm at university now, and I'm quite often aware of how much that Baffin Island expedition gave me, in terms of making a lasting difference to who I am and what my life is about."

Hempleman-Adams says Alicia's verdict is spot on: he's convinced that few experiences are as important in adolescence as the chance to tackle such a trip. "I went to an ordinary comprehensive and it was a school trip to the Brecon Beacons when I was 13 that changed my life," he says. "It was wet, cold and some would say horrible – but I glimpsed adventure for the first time. I loved it from that moment.

"It made me realise that when you're up against it you can do more than you realised you could do – and that was a lesson that changed my life."

He and fellow explorer Richard Mitchell founded the Mitchemp Trust in 1992 to give teenagers experiencing difficulties at home or at school the chance to take part in adventure camps. "What we want to do is bring young people out of their comfort zone, to stretch them further than they have been stretched before," says Hempleton-Adams.

"My guiding principle is summed up in a quote from Robert Browning, who said that a man's reach should exceed his grasp. If you show a youngster that there are no glass ceilings, that it's possible to attempt anything you want to attempt, you're teaching them something that will carry them through the rest of their life."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the world's leading suppliers and manuf...

Recruitment Genius: Multiple Apprentices Required

£6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Apprentices are required to join a privat...

Sauce Recruitment: HR Manager

£40000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is an exciting opportunity for a HR...

Ashdown Group: Interim HR Manager - 3 Month FTC - Henley-on-Thames

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established organisation oper...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee