MELBOURNE adventurer Mark George is about to embark on a solo walk to the South Pole. In the famous last words of doomed Antarctic explorer Captain Lawrence Oates, he may be gone some time.
But financial adviser and father of three Mr George is a risk-averse, checks-and-balances type of adventurer. He has ticked every precautionary box to make sure he won't come unstuck like Oates and others who perished during the heroic age of Antarctic exploration a century ago.
"I don't have a death wish," says Mr George, who is in southern Chile, waiting for the weather to improve. Although he'll be on his own, he will be in daily contact with the world. Should he strike trouble or even fail to call in one morning, a private company running Antarctic expeditions will leap to the rescue. "If they don't hear from you, they are going to come out and find you," he says.
He calculates it will take him 40 to 45 days to trek from Hercules Inlet, on the Antarctic coast, to the South Pole, a 1154-kilometre walk that would be faster if it weren't for the 130-kilogram sledge he'll be lugging behind him. The sledge will contain a duplicate of almost every item in case one malfunctions: two Iridium phones, two solar panels to power the phones, two stoves and two GPS trackers. The return leg will be much quicker; he's planning to come home by kite ski.
The public will be able to track his journey through his blog posts on his website, The Adventure Instinct, launched last week. The site is part of his ambitious plan to inspire Australian children to attempt their own extreme expeditions, as a daredevil alternative to getting fat on the couch.
Mr George is part of a global fraternity of modern-day adventurers out to conquer all of the world's highest peaks and polar regions, treating the world's most inhospitable and extreme environments like veritable notches in their belts. He has travelled to the North Pole, climbed Mount Everest, Aconcagua in the Andes, Kilimanjaro in Africa, Vinson Massif in Antarctica, and even measly Mount Kosciuszko in his quest to complete the "seven summits, two poles" checklist. Mount Denali in Alaska, Mount Elbrus in Europe, and the South Pole - for now - remain on his to-do list.
"I get fascinated reading about Mawson, Scott and the like," he says. "It's great reading it, but then actually experiencing it is something different."