Race to North Pole begins with British pair aiming to raise funds for UN refugee agency

11 April 2007

A 640 kilometre race to the North Pole kicked off this week from the last inhabited outpost in northern Canada, with a pair of British adventurers seeking to raise almost $500,000 for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

A 640 kilometre race to the North Pole kicked off this week from the last inhabited outpost in northern Canada, with a pair of British adventurers seeking to raise almost $500,000 for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Jack Morland, 31, and James Turner, 30, comprise Team Refuge, which is racing to raise money for UNHCR and has so far has raised $50,000.

“We would like to earmark this money for a special trust fund to cover urgent medical evacuations for refugee children,” said Mr. Morland, who has worked for UNHCR over the past seven years in places such as Iraq, Timor-Leste, Sri Lanka and Sudan. He hopes this fund will act as a “quick access fund for field officers to bypass too much paperwork.”

“This is also an opportunity for James and I to use the Polar Race as an excuse to talk to people about the refugee issue,” he added. “We will return to the [United Kingdom] in May to begin a series of talks on the race and refugees at schools, community centres and universities around the country.”

Team Refuge, one of six competing in the race, took the early lead on the first day of the endurance race which entails dragging heavy sleds across icy terrain, enduring minus 40-degree Celsius temperatures and constantly looking out for dangerous polar bears.

What scares Mr. Morland most is not the polar bears, but instead the bitter temperatures.

“The cold is terrifying,” he said. “No sooner have you left the tent than your eyelids freeze together and your bones begin to ache.”

However, Mr. Morland and Mr. Turner, a long-time friend and schoolmaster, have trained extensively for the event in the gym and also went on a two-week trip to the Swedish Arctic.

The team must carry the essentials for survival – including food, medical supplies, communications equipment and urine flasks so they do not have to leave their tents at night to answer a call of nature – in heavy sleds.

Arch Insurance, a European company, has given Team Refuge $80,000 to cover the costs of the race, allowing all funds raised by the pair to be donated directly to UNHCR.

The public will be able to continue donating to Team Refuge for the rest of this year.

The race is expected to take at least four weeks, and the winning team will be awarded the Wedgwood Blue Ice Trophy.

 

♦ Receive daily updates directly in your inbox - Subscribe here to a topic.
♦ Download the UN News app for your iOS or Android devices.