Standing loud and proud in Antarctica with his Rotary banner is intrepid explorer, Baz Gray, who has recently completed an amazing expedition to the South Pole.
The former Royal Marine took 39 days to make the 745-mile solo trek to the South Pole. The expedition was a practice run for a record-attempting solo trip across the whole of Antarctica which is planned for later this year.
The 45-year-old covered an average of 19 miles a day, completely unassisted, while dragging an 85kg sled across the wintry wasteland with temperatures dipping as low as -20c.
Baz, who lives in Buckland Monochorum, Devon, told the BBC that the unusually heavy snow had made the middle section of the trek the toughest period of his life.
He said, “There were very unusual climactic conditions – there’s been a lot of heavy snow. I needed to make over 15 nautical miles per day, and on one day I did two.
“Going through that period was the toughest period of my life mentally, but something always tells me to keep going – it’s that mental resilience”.
The Rotary connection was initially established after Baz spoke at Rotary Plympton’s President’s Night, which was held at Stonehouse Barracks in Plymouth – the spiritual home of the Royal Marines.
Baz, who was a Regimental Sergeant Major of 30 Commando for 26 years, has maintained a close connection with the Devon club as he focused on recreating Ernest Shackleton’s Elephant Island expedition – one of the greatest feats of human endurance and courage of the early 20th century.
Darren Hands, the District Public Image Chair of Rotary in the South West Peninsula saw a great marketing opportunity when Baz announced that he was looking for sponsors.
That prompted the district to agree to be one of the many sponsors of Baz’s expedition which resulted with the district covering the cost of the rations Baz would require to keep his energy up for the trek to the South Pole as Stage One of the challenge – to show his thanks, he took the district’s flag to the South Pole.
Baz, who lost 2.5 stone during the trek, said upon completion of this first phase, “It has been a journey full of every type of emotion and hardship you can imagine.
“I have taken myself to places physically and mentally I never thought possible and have come through it a changed and better man.”
Baz is raising funds for children who have lost parents or live with family members suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Later this year he will prepare to attempt phase two – to successfully cross the entire Antarctic continent from the North side of Berkner Island to the Ross Ice Shelf, solo and without any support, which includes the use of kites and resupply, covering 1,600 miles in around 90 days.