Young People to Make Pole-to-Pole Trip to Inspire Civic Action

Next year, with a kind of Eleanor Roosevelt-meets-Marco Polo spirit, a group of 12 young people will set out on a 15,000-mile journey across the globe in what organizers are calling an unprecedented expedition of high adventure and international goodwill.

Beginning at the North Pole on April 1, Pole to Pole 2000 team members will traverse the continents from north to south in three groups, stopping to assist various environmental and social service organizations along the way. Ten months later, participants will meet up at the South Pole to welcome what some consider he true dawn of the new millennium on Jan. 1, 2001.

The Pole to Pole 2000 expedition is an effort both to educate young people about global sustainability and to raise awareness about the importance of citizen action in the next century, says organizer Martyn Williams. Williams, a renowned mountain and river guide who has led expeditions to both poles and Mt. Everest, initiated plans for the trip through the Millennium Leadership Institute in Santa Fe, N.M.

Team expedition members, ranging in age from 18 to 25, will represent Argentina, Canada, France, Israel, Mexico, South Africa, Australia, China, Germany, Italy, North Africa, South Korea, Brazil, England, Japan, Russia, and the United States.

Committed to practical training in leadership skills, Williams will immerse the international group in teamwork activities, leadership skills and public speaking and sustainability issues for four months before departing. ‘Then they’ll go out to practice them,’ said Williams.

Team members will cycle, ski and walk for 7,000 miles of the trip, and physical endurance is an important criterion for selection. Successful candidates, 10 of whom will be selected beginning in September, will go through a rigorous testing period.

The Canadian team member, who has already been chosen, together with 19 other applicants endured four days of hiking through the night in neck-deep swamp water, hauling logs for hours and moving 2,000-pound boulders. At the end of the workout, the group selected the individual they thought would best represent Canada. Williams said similar selection processes would be used in other nations.

The group will divide into three teams at the North Pole. One will travel through the Americas, another through Europe and Africa, and the third through Asia and Australia. Along the way they’ll lend a hand in various projects that Williams says are models of sustainability and humanitarian efforts.

For example, ‘Team Americas’ will travel through Canada, the United States and Central and South America. Their volunteer efforts will include inner-city youth projects in Rio de Janeiro, a gardening project in the Mexico City slums, a river cleanup on the Hudson in New York, and salmon restoration in New Brunswick.

A film crew will travel with the groups, and participants will file dispatches daily on the Internet. They will also invite interested audience members, especially schoolchildren, to write down a personal vow of civic action that expedition members will carry with them.

Journeys of difficulty and endurance have inspired entire societies to courage and action, trip literature notes. ‘No expedition of this magnitude has ever been undertaken. The time has come to prove it can be done.’

Contacts: Martyn Williams, expedition leader, Pole to Pole 2000, British Columbia, Canada, 250-395-1737; web site:

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