Mission accomplished for 65 Degrees North

Congratulations to Peter Bowker, former Lance Corporal in the Queen’s Dragoon Guards, who has successfully completed his challenge to become the world’s first amputee to cross the Greenland ice cap unsupported, raising vital funds for UK charity Help for Heroes along the way.

Throughout the 27-day challenge, Peter, who lost a leg while serving in Afghanistan, and his 65 Degrees North team of three ex-servicemen and a doctor, were able to rely on Inmarsat satcoms for medical and emergency back-up, and to share the adventure in real time via media interviews and with supporters on social media.

Team member Kirk Painting said of the moment they completed the challenge: “Peter turned around and looked completely shell-shocked. There are no words to describe the look on his face. I imagine in that moment he was thinking about when he was airlifted out of Afghanistan and how it had all led to this incredible journey.”

Potential disaster

From the start the challenge was extreme. Temperatures constantly dipped as low as -25°C, with white-outs and snowstorm conditions so severe that at one point the team had to dig their tents out of the snow on an hourly basis.

Just two days in, the team faced potential disaster when Dr Meinir Jones slipped down a crevasse and Peter fell, causing his prosthetic limb to detach. However they were able to stay in close contact with their UK base via Inmarsat’s IsatPhone 2 satellite phone at all times, and speak to Dr Stephen Mellalieu, Psychologist at Swansea University, to reassure him that all was ok.

Trekking 10 hours a day across the ice cap on skis, pulling pulks weighing around 300 lbs (137 kg) inevitably put a strain on Peter’s stump. Throughout the expedition he was in constant agony due to prolonged exposure to the cold, blood blisters and raw broken skin, and was prescribed the strongest medication available to try and manage the pain.

Telemedicine consultations

Despite being at the outer reaches of the Inmarsat-4 satellite coverage area, the team were able to stay in contact using two ultra-portable Explorer 510 BGAN terminals, kindly donated by Cobham SATCOM.

Providing 24/7 access to simultaneous voice and broadband data communications meant that Meinir could conduct telemedicine consultations with medical specialists in the UK regarding any concerns she had about Peter’s amputated limb.

“The great quality equipment provided exceptional reliability in an extreme and testing environment, said team member Richard Morgan.

“It allowed us to get up to date weather forecasts which undoubtedly enhanced our safety and success of the World First Record attempt, and enabled us to communicate with the support team, patrons, supporters and family, which provided great comfort and a sense of security to all.”

To date, 65 Degrees North has raised over £10,000 to date,  and their challenge has been supported by the Endeavour Fund, set up by the Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry to support sporting and adventure challenges undertaken by wounded, injured and sick service personnel or veterans.