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Polar explorer visits the far north of Britain

Scottish polar exploter Craig Mathieson in Lerwick this week - Photo: Hans J Marter/ShetNews

SCOTTISH polar explorer Craig Mathieson was in Shetland on Monday and Tuesday to give a number of motivational talks to local teenagers.

The 45-year-old adventurer was invited by the local branch of accountancy firm A9 Partnership to visit for the firm’s 15th birthday celebrations.

On his first visit to Shetland Mathieson spoke about his life as an explorer at an induction day of Shetland Youth Enterprise as well as to pupils at the Anderson High School.

He also hosted a question and answer session during the accountancy firm’s own reception on Monday night.

Having led the first Scottish expedition to the South Pole in 2004, Mathieson has now founded his own charity to help young adults to achieve their full potential by taking them on a full blown polar expedition.

The Polar Academy takes under its wings youngsters who Mathieson describes as “invisible” to the education system.

These are pupils who are “drifting” through school, leaving at 16 or 17 with very little expectations, as “they believe other people achieve but not them”, Mathieson said.

“The motto of the charity is inspiration through exploration. Basically turns invisible teenagers in Scotland into role models in their communities and to their peers.

“What I find is that these kids have got true determination that is hidden away so deep in them because it is being suppressed from birth.

“Once you give them a chance and give them responsibility that comes out in tons, and they make fantastic leaders and fantastic role models,” he added.

The charity is currently training up 10 teenagers from North Lanarkshire to go on a two-week long expedition next April.

“They are going to an area in Greenland that is very rarely visited and will be skiing past mountains that are not even named yet.

“The important thing however is that these kids’ motivation and self confidence will have grown by the time they come back.

“We then put them back to their schools and into their communities to inspire their peers.

“They will also speak to businesses and at international conferences to get out the message that anyone with the right mindset can achieve.”

The polar explorer said that in all of his expeditions he relied on a mixture of traditional knowledge and modern equipment that works in a freezing cold environment.

When man-hauling a sledge 730 miles to the South Pole ten years ago he did so with gear tried and tested by Roald Amundsen 100 years ago, such as canvass, felt boots and wooden skis.

“We also had high tech stuff; I could actually get the internet when I was high up in the polar plateau and send emails home to let everyone know I was okay.

“When these kids go up to Greenland next year we will be using a mix of knowing what worked well 100 years ago and still works well today, plus bringing in some new technology that I have tried and tested.

“So it is a balance. Not everything that is new is good for that environment.”

Craig Mathieson man-hauling his sledge to the South Pole - Photo: The Polar Academy