Scott centenary expedition: Henry Evans' final preparations

With less than a month to go, an "incredibly excited, but apprehensive" university graduate is making final preparations for a polar expedition.

Henry Evans, who completed his marine biology degree at Plymouth University this summer, was selected last year for the International Scott Centenary Expedition (ISCE) to trek to the South Pole in memory of Capt Robert Falcon Scott.

The 22-year-old and his polar guide Geoff Somers will trek a similar distance as the rescue party that went out in search of Scott and his companions.

Scott, who was born and educated in Plymouth, made it to the pole in January 1912 with Edward Wilson, Henry Bowers, Lawrence Oates and Edgar Evans - only to find a Norwegian flag planted by a rival team led by Roald Amundsen.

On their return, the British Terra Nova Expedition team ran out of food and all five perished.

Image caption None of Capt Scott's 1912 expedition team survived

Setting out from two degrees south of the pole, Henry, from Saffron Walden in Essex, will recreate the final 140-mile (225km) trek to the South Pole.

"The distance is similar to the distance the search party covered to find the bodies of Scott, Bowers and Wilson," Henry said.

Edgar Evans and Lawrence (Titus) Oates, whose health had deteriorated quickly on the return trek, had both died earlier.

The ISCE expedition was originally meant to include a team of six, but funding problems reduced that to two.

"I kept my place because I won a competition by the Daily Telegraph," Henry said.

"I'm incredibly excited, but there's also a certain apprehension because now it's just me and Geoff. I do feel a huge responsibility."

As well as studying for his final university exams this year - gaining a 2:1 degree in marine biology - Henry has had to maintain a punishing regime to ensure he is physically fit.

He has just returned from five days training in the Lake District.

He said: "It rained every day, so it was pretty horrid, but physically I'm stronger now.

"What's harder to prepare for is the mental aspect - being able to let your mind drift off into a different world to cope with the monotony of plodding through the snow, while still retaining safety awareness."

As part of his assessment for the Daily Telegraph competition, Henry also spent time training in Norway and had to undergo Royal Navy officer training and psychometric testing.

Scientific snow samples

He has raised £7,000 towards his trip by competing in two half marathons in Plymouth and Torbay, dressed in a penguin costume.

During the expedition, Henry will carry out a scientific project he designed in partnership with Plymouth University, collecting snow samples five times a day.

The samples will be analysed by the British Antarctic Survey to determine the change in the stable isotopes of water (which are related to temperature) to look at temperature differences and compare them with weather patterns.

Henry will also be carrying letters from a competition set up by Falcon Scott - Capt Scott's grandson - to "inspire" people to enjoy the natural world as his grandfather did.

"I'll be posting the winning letters from the post office at the Scott Amundsen South Pole base," Henry said.

Image caption Henry raised £7,000 competing in the Plymouth and Torbay half marathons

Over the next month, Henry will continue with his training as he puts together his equipment, which includes layers of clothing, and military-style food rations.

To mark Capt Scott's legacy, Henry will take some of the rations the Terra Nova team had on their ill-fated return - which consisted of pemmican (ground meat mixed with fat) and biscuits.

He said: "Nutritionally it wasn't right and I'll have it so much easier with the army boil-in-the-bag packs."

To keep up his strength, Henry will need to consume about 7,000 calories a day.

The trek will take between 14 and 20 days to complete, with temperatures at a mind and body numbing -35 to -40C.

'Hilarious clothing'

"Although it's summer in Antarctic, I think it's fair to say that's very, very cold," Henry said.

He is hoping to prepare for the cold and test his equipment at a cold chamber testing facility at Millbrook in Bedfordshire - recently used by Exmoor polar explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes.

He said: "I'm told the best way to try to stay warm is layers, so I'll be wearing a pair of thin socks, covered by a plastic bag - which stops the sweat but makes your feet really smell - then a pair of thick socks and boots.

"Next is long Johns, then a pair of jogging bottoms followed by windproof, waterproof trousers.

"On top will be a thermal insulated T-shirt, micro fleece, middle fleece, thick fleece then again a windproof, waterproof jacket.

"You have to buy clothes that are too big for you, so they don't restrict your movement, but they are bulky. I tried them on this morning in my room - it was hilarious."

As the start of the expedition looms nearer, Henry said his family's pride in his achievement has changed a little.

"They were thrilled when I won the competition, but I think the 'proudness' has turned into them being rather scared," he said.

"I'll not only be away for Christmas, but also for my 23rd birthday on 11 January, so I'll probably take a Santa hat and a small cake."

He will be in regular contact with his sister via a satellite phone to dictate a daily blog for the Daily Telegraph and his own website Magnificent Ocean which he says aims to inspire children about the "weird and wonderful" aspects of science to get them interested in the subject.

On 10 December Henry and Geoff will fly to Union Glacier camp in Antarctica, where they will remain for a few days, checking kit and acclimatising before being flown to two degrees south of the pole to begin the trek.

Once there, he and Geoff will hold a small ceremony for Scott and the Terra Nova team.

"I've been preparing for a long time and now it's nearly here I can't wait," Henry said.

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