It’s a decade this year since “Scotland’s greatest living explorer”, Craig Mathieson, hauled his 200lb sledge 730 miles across Antarctica to the South Pole.
On Tuesday, October 28, in Galashiels, The Royal Scottish Geographical Society’s (RSGS) Explorer in Residence will talk about achieving his lifelong ambition – a further North Pole expedition and setting up the Polar Academy for children.
The tax accountant endured temperatures of below -60c, hunger and injury – as well as his partner dropping out with hypothermia and frostbite – over the 58-day Antarctic adventure.
It was the first Scottish expedition to reach the South Pole. He says on his website: “For me, the greatest expedition on earth is to ski to the South Pole and ever since I was a small boy that was my dream. A few years ago that dream came true and I haven’t looked back since. I believe everyone has their own ‘South Pole’ and whatever it may be, I can show you how I managed to achieve it.”
Craig is one of RSGS’s Inspiring People, the title of a series of talks the society runs over winter.
As well as talking about the South Pole journey, he will recount his North Pole expedition of 2006 – when he trained and took a 16-year-old boy with him – and about The Polar Academy he subsequently set up for schoolchildren.
He said: “The Polar Academy training is about the silent kids in the education system, not the kids who excel and not the kids who cause a fuss but the ones that get forgotten in the middle. They never get into any great trouble and they usually leave school at 16 or 17 and do exactly what their parents have done.
“The Polar Academy creates role models who can in turn encourage and inspire their peers”.
Craig will also talk about the selection process for the academy which teaches youngsters navigation, shelter building, polar bear security and basic medical knowledge. Craig has been quoted as saying: “My philosophy is that any goal is achievable; as long as you have the correct attitude.”
The dad-of-three was born in Johnstone and raised in Buchlyvie, Stirlingshire, and educated at Balfron High School. He first worked in the military, then HM Customs & Excise as an inspector and anti-fraud officer before moving into accountancy.
In 2001, Craig took part in an expedition to the summit of unclimbed peaks in Greenland (when one was named Mount Mathieson). In 2009 he led the Northern Lights sea kayaking expedition on Greenland’s east coast. He was appointed special adviser on polar training to HM Forces Polar in 2012 and last year he set up his Polar Academy charity.
Earlier this year, national paper The Herald reported him as having faith in the quiet children because he knows how it is to be them.
He told the paper: “I just didn’t fit in at school at all. I just stared out the window for four years. I was absolutely one of these kids, but I was a feral child as well. I would go camping by myself at weekends.”
A RSGS spokesperson said: “Craig’s past talks, where he covers both his own expeditions and The Polar Academy, have provoked high emotion from audiences who recognise the opportunity for social change that exploration can bring.”
Craig’s talk at the Heriot-Watt University campus starts at 7.30pm.