Baz Gray completes solo ski to South Pole in 39 days, finishing on 6th January at 7pm GMT.
He is the first person to conduct the most extreme field test of an innovative new satellite communication device which has a unique ruggedised design that is set to revolutionise the adventure market.
30th January 2019 – Former Royal Marine Commando and a member of the Royal Marine Masonic Lodge based in Plymouth, Regimental Sergeant Major Baz Gray has successfully completed a solo, unassisted and unsupported trek to the South Pole, joining an elite group of adventurers to have completed the gruelling 715-mile journey across Antarctica. During his expedition Baz has also become the first person to conduct the most extreme field test of an exciting new satellite communications device that has been designed specifically for tough environments like Antarctica, using advanced technology to transform Baz’s iPhone into a ruggedised satellite phone and SOS device.
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The ruggedised design is an industry first and SATcase has been specifically designed to operate in extreme climates such as Antarctica. Baz’s field test paves the way for future expeditions and adventurers to utilise this ground-breaking device that operates in the harshest environment; is waterproof and will function at temperatures between -20 and +55 degrees Celsius and provides a critical life-saving SOS function.
Baz Gray, from Buckland Monachorum in Devon, who is aged 45, began his journey on 29th November from the starting point at Hercules Inlet to the South Pole. He has traversed across Antarctica on skis through heavy snow conditions, battling strong winds, zero visibility and sastrugi (waves like frozen snow). Entitled Challenge Antarctica, Baz’s endeavours are part of the SATcase R3 Challenge which in an initiative created to celebrate professional explorers who push the limits of physical, mental and technological capabilities to achieve success and demonstrate that they are resilient, reliable and ruggedised – qualities Baz has displayed in abundance during this exciting challenge.
Baz reached the South Pole on 6th January at 7pm GMT, after a 39 day and 715-mile journey. His only company was a teddy bear called DD, given to him by his daughter Mia and voice calls and texts he made back home via his SATcase satellite phone which enabled Baz to keep in touch with his family and friends, and importantly send well wishes back home on Christmas Day.
Baz Gray said:
“This has been a really tough challenge and it has really tested my mental and physical resilience. I think it has been my mental strength that has really pulled me through which has been built up from years of preparation and experience, drawn from 25 years spent in the Royal Marines Commandos. All my training and preparations have paid off and I would like to thank everyone who has helped me, without your help this expedition wouldn’t have happened. Thank you also to everyone who has donated to The Royal Marines Charity, an incredible charity that is very close to my heart that supports marines, veterans and their families to overcome challenges including life changing injury, life limiting illness, mental disability, transition to civilian life and even poverty.
“Antarctica is a truly beautiful and extreme environment with some of the harshest weather conditions. The route climbed gradually to more than 9300 ft (2800 m) and the days were filled with 24-hour daylight and an intense solitude and tranquillity that can be found almost nowhere else on Earth.”
Baz Gray was inspired to undertake the challenge to raise awareness for former colleagues and all the brave men and women in the armed forces. He is also a trustee of the charity The Baton and carried a Baton on his pulk throughout the challenge that represents the national conscience. The Baton carries a message of gratitude from those who wish to support the brave men and women of our armed forces who have and do risk their lives so that we may live with freedom of choice, peace and safety. In the darkest days of harsh weather conditions and extreme fatigue it was looking at The Baton that drove Baz on to continue.
Baz’s life long hero and the man who also inspired his efforts more than any other is Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton. He is a very close friend of his Granddaughter Alexandra who he chose to be the Patron for Challenge Antarctica.
For 25 years Baz has been living, learning, teaching, and surviving in some of the most remote places on the planet as part of his service as a Royal Marine Commando. During this time he spent a year in Antarctica as the cold weather expert to the Royal Navy’s HMS Endurance. Responsible for training and equipping the 120-strong crew. He was also a pivotal member of the 2013 Shackleton Epic expedition, re-creating authentically the 800-mile ocean crossing of Ernest Shackleton from Elephant Island to South Georgia and scaling the mountains to reach the safety of Stromness Harbour.
It is estimated that Baz consumed 6,500 calories each day and burnt off about 10,000 during this challenge. Baz pulled all his equipment on his pulk which weighed 88kg across over 715 miles of snow and ice with temperatures down to -20C. Every day he consumed packets of freeze-dried food. He celebrated Christmas Day and New Year by calling his wife Claire and daughter Mia and friends using his SATcase satellite phone.
The kit that Baz used during Challenge Antarctica played a crucial role especially during the harsh conditions and it is a first for an expedition of this magnitude to conduct the final field test of a satellite communication device in such an extreme environment.
“It is the kit that keeps you alive when the serious Antarctic weather wants to hit you with all she has got, and I certainly experienced some very rough conditions with white outs and howling blizzards. It’s not just about having the right kit though, it’s also ensuring you know how to use it and as mentioned having the mental strength to continue. I tested every item to ensure I was happy and have been delighted to test out a new piece of kit for SATcase which became my trusted piece of equipment that I used every day to communicate with ALE (Antarctic Logistics Expeditions) and my family back home via data and voice calls. This is an innovative new communication device which is ruggedised so can withstand extreme weather conditions. The ruggedised nature of the device is what makes it unique because it can be dropped and even immersed in water and will still work.”
A proven elite endurance athlete, Baz’s current expedition is phase one and he has another expedition planned later this year as phase two is planned for November 2019 where he will attempt to cross the entire Antarctic continent from coast to coast (sea to sea) including the two permanent ice shelves. This will cover 1600 miles over 90 days.
Trevor Parker, also a former Royal Marines Commando and Director at SATcase where Baz works said:
“This is a fantastic achievement and we are all very proud of Baz. The weather conditions were really tough, but he battled on. He never gave in to the relentless Antarctica weather and showed his true ‘Royal’ grit and he is the embodiment of the SATcase team ethos of being resilient, reliable and ruggedised.
“Antarctica has been the ultimate testing ground for SATcase and it has been designed to perform in extreme conditions like this, hence why we chose Antarctica and Baz to test it out. If it works here it will work anywhere. Our extensive research highlighted to us that clear voice communication and reliability are a high priority for users of satellite communication handsets throughout the world and our voice calls with Baz Gray during his Challenge Antarctica were crystal clear. SATcase has been specifically built as a lifeline for people operating in remote locations and harsh environments, its components are all high specification; delivering the best results thanks to improved technology. The practical applications of SATcase are impressive because there is no need to carry multiple units because the device operates via an App on your smartphone which allows multiple uses.”
“As a former Royal Marine Commando, myself we are delighted to support The Royal Marines Charity and through Baz’s challenge raise awareness of the excellent work they do to support serving Royal Marines Commandos, veterans and importantly their families with a variety of mental and physical challenges. This is a charity we feel very strongly about supporting and we are firm believers that once a Royal Marine Commando, always a Royal Marine Commando.”