The Team

Project Lead – Karen Darke MBE: Paralympic gold-medallist, Guiness Record holder & adventurer  

Karen could be described as a modern-day ‘Alchemist’, her life committed to exploring that is possible when the right mindset, commitment and good people come together. An adventurer, athlete, speaker and author, Karen’s purpose is about inspiring and impacting, about turning challenge into opportunity. A life-changing accident led Karen to becoming paralysed from the chest-down. She found new ways to access the wilderness and outdoors, and has since hand-cycled across the world’s biggest mountain ranges and alongside some of the longest rivers, sit-skied across the Greenland icecap and climbed the iconic rock-face of El Capitan. A decade of Paralympic handcycling took Karen to a gold medal in the Rio 2016 Paralympic Gams.  It was the 79th medal for Britain, and led to Karen creating Quest 79. The project has Karen cycling 7 continents in 9 iconic rides, raising £79K for Spinal Injuries and encouraging people to step out of their comfort zones and discover passion, purpose or ability: their ‘inner gold’. The Pole of Possibility will be the last of these ‘Quests’.

Expedition Lead – Dixie Dansercoer: Polar guide & founder of Polar Circles

Dixie Dansercoer is a Flemish polar explorer having been to the poles on more than 40 occasions, for personal or guided expeditions, photo and film productions. His impressive list of achievements has earned him the title of Master Guide in the International Polar Guides Association. Dixie Dansercoer is one of only four people to have crossed the complete Arctic Ocean and the Antarctic continent. Dixie not only brings his experience, but his motivational nature and ‘lets make this possible’ nature are aligned with the values of the project.

In 2012, together with Sam Deltour, Dansercoer broke the world record for the longest non-motorised expedition in Antarctica. On skis, and assisted by a kite, the pair travelled at least 5013km. Read more about Dixie here. Author of 16 books about polar expeditions and the parallels with corporate life. His most recent are Polar Exploration – A practical handbook for North and South Pole expeditions, (2012) Surpassing Sastrugi, (2014)  and Empowering Outperformance, (2017).

Youth Engagement Lead – Iona Somerville: Polar Academy graduate & role model Iona Somerville is 19 years old and a recently qualified Sports Therapist. Iona’s journey started when she was just 14 years old and was selected by The Polar Academy, to train and to take part in an Arctic Expedition to Greenland, completed in April 2016. Iona and the rest of the team have since gone on to inspire their peers, talking to thousands of other young people about their experience: demonstrating what is possible when a goal is set and a team come together, despite previous lack of self-worth or belief. Iona’s confidence has since taken a knock through trauma she experienced when part of the crowd at the Ariana Grande concert and bombing in Manchester. Iona is a determined young role model who would love to go on to inspire others with her personal story of developing confidence and overcoming trauma.

Filming – Mike Webster: Award-winning filmmaker 

Mike is a filmmaker, cameraman and director specialising in the outdoor world. With travels and expeditions in Amazon and the Americas, across Europe and into Africa and Asia under his belt, his award winning films have been screened around the world, whether on the Banff Mountain Film Festival World tour, film festivals, or shooting for broadcast (BBC, ITV, SKY).

However, it always comes down to the most important thing – concept and story. This expedition will yield a Feature Length Documentary on the expedition, exploring the one-of-a-kind expedition, the unique group involved, combined with Karen’s incredible story, and what has brought her to this point. Always looking to better his previous work, this is a unique opportunity to “Go Big”; An incredible story of tragedy and glory, an opportunity to study both human health and planetary health, mixed with exploring un-tread territory, in a landscape like no other on earth.

Simon Darke: Corporate Partnership

Simon is Karen’s brother, and has over the many decades since Karen was paralysed, joined her on various ‘exploits’ from cycle adventures to the Paralympic Games. Also a sportsman with a penchant for adventure, he balances being a father of three with running a busy construction company and training for swim-run, ironman and other stretching challenges. His family have been fully immersed in Quest 79 fundraising events, including a family cycle ride of 79 miles and Karen’s nephew Archie joining the cycle journey across Europe. Together they have raised a significant sum for the charity, The Spinal Injuries Association. Simon brings his people skills, positive attitude, and problem-solving skills to the team, and is helping coordinate corporate partnerships for the team to journey in Antarctica.