Fireman hotfoots it round Arctic

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The Independent Online

A British firefighter will today take the first steps on the most ambitious polar expedition since the golden era of Scott and Shackleton.

Jim McNeill, 45, from Sunninghill in Berkshire, is leading the first attempt to get to four north poles in one season. These include the "Arctic pole", the exact centre of the frozen Arctic Ocean which has never been reached. He will also track depletion of the polar ice-cap and provide international bodies such as Nasa with information that could be vital for the future of the planet.

Mr McNeill, who sets off today from his base camp on Resolute Bay in northern Canada, will try to reach three of the poles - the magnetic, Arctic and geographic - alone and unsupported. Two teams trained and prepared by him will make for the geomagnetic pole, via different routes. The teams, including eight women, start from Resolute Bay in mid-March, and are made up of 18 Arctic novices, including a gardener, a civil servant, a physiotherapist and a teacher.

They were selected from hundreds of applicants for the record-breaking attempt, called The Ice Warrior 4 North Poles Expedition. They will be led by experts from Mr McNeill's "Ice Warrior" group. The non-profit company was set up by Mr McNeill to inform and educate about "the world's wildest climates".

Mr McNeill's solo journey of at least 1,100 miles, will take nearly five months. He is to rendezvous with a Russian icebreaker on 8 July. He said he had been shocked to find nobody had conquered the Arctic Pole. "It's about 200 miles from the geographic North Pole, which is probably why nobody has been there."

To follow the progress of the Ice Warrior expeditions, visit www.ice-warrior.com

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