It was a pleasure to welcome Capt Louis Rudd MBE to the Bacon Theatre stage last week.  The Army Captain and polar adventurer spoke to the whole School about resilience, leadership and his travels across Antarctica.

As a child, Capt Rudd was inspired by stories of polar history, from Captain Scott to Captain Lawrence ‘Titus’ Oates. He joined the Army at 16 and had his first taste of polar exploration a few years later, when he successfully crossed Antarctica along with fellow Officer Henry Worsley. He told the pupils of the sheer vastness of Antarctica, that it is twice the size of Australia, the lowest recorded temperature is -93c and that there are no permanent residents. Bar a few freezing injuries and the loss of a tooth to a frozen Mars bar, the pair crossed together relatively unscathed, spurring Henry on to attempt the journey alone.

Henry returned to Antarctica to attempt the 1000mile challenge completely unsupported. Sadly, 900miles in, he lost his life. On hearing the news, Capt Rudd knew he had to try to finish what his fellow adventurer had started, and last year began his epic tribute trek. He set off with 75 days’ worth of food, weighing around 130kg, and the clothes he set off in were the clothes that he would wear for the entire duration of the expedition. There was no room for luxuries.

After 41 days, Capt Rudd reached the South Pole. It was the first time since setting off that he had had any human contact. However, in accordance with the rules he was to complete the entire journey unsupported and that meant turning down a much needed cup of tea from researchers at the South Pole base, arguably one of the most difficult parts of his journey!  His biggest motivator throughout the crossing was completing the journey in Henry’s memory and after 83 days he did just that, placing a flag with the Worsley family crest (given to him by Henry’s wife) at the very end of his expedition.

Pupils had clearly hugely engaged with Capt Rudd’s story, judging by the huge number of questions at the end, including; “How did you wash?”; “What was the hardest part?”; “How did you go to the toilet?” and “What’s next?”.  He also stayed behind for photos and to show pupils some of the equipment he took with him.  This was an incredibly inspiring talk which came just in time to motivate pupils for a busy, exam filled term.