News archive 2008
Student's South Pole adventure02 Jan 2008, PR 01/08
Medic Lynsey Gawn is embarking on a unique and formidable expedition to the South Pole planned by polar explorer (and record breaker) Fiona Thornewill and led by her husband Mike Thornewill - the third British person ever to walk to both the North and South Pole.
Responding to a television appeal for participants, and being just one of three selected, Lynsey is the second youngest British person to ski to the pole.
Second year King's College London medical student Lynsey left the UK on 29 December and hopes to be at the South Pole by 1 February where she will stake her flag which is printed with the King's logo. In order to be as part of this nine-strong team she had to raise £24,000, £4,000 of which has been given by the College's alumni.
'I am taking part because I love a challenge. Pushing myself mentally and physically to my limits, as this will, gives me a huge buzz. To have been given this chance is so exciting, who wouldn't do it,' Lynsey comments.
She explains how she came to be selected for the trip: 'In November 2006 the polar explorer Fiona Thornewill was on GMTV, and invited a novice to join their polar team the following year. I wrote in saying I would love to take part, and following a selection process, was chosen to go. I then had to find £24,000 in six months, get all my kit together and try and get fit.'
Lysney had to convince the organisers Mike and Fiona Thornewill from the many people who responded to the GMTV appeal to select her. They eventually chose three people.
Describing her determination and dedication to raise the money and complete the challenge, she says: 'I told Mike and Fiona that I loved personal challenges, and how I thrived on being out of my comfort zone. When I was at school I never did very well, and had very little confidence in my academic or sporting ability. But when I was 17 I moved schools and had teachers who told me that I could do whatever I wanted if I applied myself. That really motivated me. Life is so short, we have to live it to the full!'
Lynsey flew to Punta Arenas - the southern most tip of Chile - on 29 December where she packed up her sledge with food reserves before boarding a military flight to Patriot Hills (base camp in Antarctic) where she will stay for a few days to acclimatise. From there, she will get a twin otter flight to latitude 88'23 South, and cross country ski with sledge in tow 112 miles, ascending to the polar plateau at 10,000 feet.
This year is international polar year and it is 100 years since Shackleton attempted to walk to the South Pole. At latitude 88'23S he turned back, never making it to the pole.
'We start our journey where he finished his, and as such the expedition is aptly called "Shackleton's Unfinished Journey". The wind will always be against us, providing a remorseless minus 50 degree wind chill!' she notes.
In order to take part in the expedition, Lynsey had to work on her fitness levels. 'I have discovered a new love of running which has helped improve my cardiovascular fitness. I need to be mentally fit as well and stamina is key. I have been dragging four car tyres attached to a harness around my waist up and down Long Lane, near London Bridge five times a week for 45 minutes at a time. This is the most embarrassing thing I've ever done, but I've got to know the locals very well as a result!'
To raise the £24,000 needed to go to Antarctica, Lynsey secured £14,000 in sponsorship and raised the rest by going to schools and involving the children. 'It was great fun seeing them raise money in imaginative ways. I didn't write any letters, because I knew it would be a waste of time. I also contributed some of my own money..
During the trip the team's latitude and progress can be followed, see: www.polarchallenge.org
Notes to editors
Lynsey is a second year medical student at King's College London. She also took her foundation year (FCNS) at King's. Lynsey has been very involved in RAG week (The medical school’s designated week for 'raising and giving' to charities. In 2007 Lynsey raised money for local london hospitals, and she was nominated ‘top ragger’ making over £3,000 in total for charities like the starfish appeal which helps children with liver disease.
Before that, she studied for a degree in psychology at the University of York. She will celebrate her 24th birthday while in Antarctica. When she was at York she went to rural Romania to work with street children and provide first aid in the gypsy community. She has now been there three times.
Principal’s Discretionary Fund
Lynsey was awarded a grant of £4,000 through the generous support of King's College London alumni, who each year, make unrestricted gifts in support of the College's mission to provide our students with a world class learning experience. The Principal’s Discretionary Fund allocates unrestricted gifts to the College to areas where the need is greatest throughout the academic year. Alumni support of the fund allows unexpected opportunities to be grasped and helps students to undertake exciting projects and challenges.
King's College London
King's College London is one of the top 25 universities in the world (Times Higher 2007) and the fourth oldest in England. A research-led university based in the heart of London, King's has 19,300 students from more than 130 countries, and 5,000 employees. King's has an outstanding reputation for providing world-class teaching and cutting-edge research. The College is in the top group of UK universities for research earnings and has an annual income of approximately £400 million. An investment of £500 million has been made in the redevelopment of its estate.
King's has a particularly distinguished reputation in the humanities, law, social sciences, the health sciences, natural sciences and engineering, and has played a major role in many of the advances that have shaped modern life, such as the discovery of the structure of DNA. It is the largest centre for the education of healthcare professionals in Europe and is home to five Medical Research Council Centres – more than any other university.
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