People

Published: Tuesday January 28, 2014 MYT 2:00:00 PM
Updated: Monday April 14, 2014 MYT 9:39:02 PM

Polar Express: Teen explorer goes to Antarctica to help save the planet

Parker Liautaud is only 19 but he’s already been to the North and South Pole – not for glory but for global warming awareness.

By the age of 19, Parker Liautaud – polar adventurer and environmental campaigner – had undertaken three expeditions to the North Pole and became the youngest man to ski to the South Pole.

On Christmas Eve last year, the California teen and his expedition partner Doug Stoup completed the Willis Resilience Expedition, a 565km unsupported trek from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole, in record time.

Liautaud and Stoup broke the previous record held by Norwegian explorers Ottar Haldorsen and Jacob Meland by almost four days when they reached the South Pole on December 24 after 18 days, four hours and 43 minutes.

Liautaud says he did it all to draw people’s attention to climate change. On the return trip, he bored into the hostile terrain and took 2 metre samples that he hopes will help scientists answer questions about global warming.

Researchers at GNS Science, a New Zealand research institute, are analysing the samples for changes in composition that could shed light on the pace of climate change in the region.

“What we wanted to do was to harness an engaging story that people could be a part of from a region that was being significantly hit by climate change,” says Liautaud, who had hiked to the Arctic three times before.

It wasn’t easy for the teen explorer who ignored a chest infection, swollen ankle and the frostbite eating at his fingers and toes to finish the trek. With visions of hotel beds and burrito restaurants dancing in his head, the Yale geology student persisted.

Every morning he and his teammate, veteran explorer Stoup, hosted a live webcast on the expedition’s website that brought climate experts and sceptics together for discussions on everything from food security to changes in the ozone layer.

“The problem with communicating climate science is that it is very complex and statistical and not something that can be experienced on a personal level,” says Liautaud.

He hopes the expedition informs and convinces the general population about the real dangers of climate change.

“There isn’t an awareness of the fact that there is a consensus in the scientific community” about the existence of global warming, he says. “People are not only divided on it, they are not talking about it. We have a long way to go.”. – Reuters  

Tags / Keywords: People, Environment, Youth, Lifestyle, Parker Liautaud, Willis Resilience Expedition, Antarctica, South Pole, North Pole, climate change, global warming, youngest man

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