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Arctic explorer is happy to be back

Posted Sat 30th May 2009 at 10:00

Intrepid explorer Steve Wright is happy to be back in Alderney despite being forced to terminate a 335-mile charity trek across Greenland.

Mr Wright, 42, returned to the Channel Islands a week ago after being stranded on Greenland's ice sheet for five days with work colleague Simon Elmont, from Sark.

The pair was just five days into a three-week journey across the world's largest island when an ankle ligament injury forced Mr Elmont to give up.

Mr Wright, who was undertaking his third Arctic expedition, hasn't ruled out returning to Greenland for a second stab at crossing one of the world's most treacherous terrains.

He said: "It's too early to say whether I'll go back at the moment. However, it doesn't sit comfortably not achieving something. In the back of my mind it will irritate me but it's a project I started with Simon, so I've got to see what happens with him."

Father of four Mr Wright said his partner tried his best to recover from injury.

"Simon's injury came on over about a day and a half," said Mr Wright. "We tried different things to help his ankle improve but in my mind I was prepared for the trip being called off.

"There comes a point when you have to stop, otherwise you're just going to get further away from help.

"It was probably harder for Simon because he felt guilty about stopping my trip. I accepted it, as it's one of the hazards of going on expeditions like this. You put yourself in a position where the odds are quite heavily stacked against you. About 12 teams set off from the east coast of Greenland at the same time as we did and ten are back so far. It's a huge failure rate."

Mr Wright, who considered joining a different team of explorers in order to carry on towards Sisimiut, on Greenland's west coast, said his partner's injury struck just as he was getting fitter.

"I had a few niggles and pains in the first few days but I felt as if I was coming into fitness. As we gained altitude the ice was getting firmer so trekking was becoming easier.

"We'd met up with a team doing the same thing as us and initially I thought I might be able to join them. However, it got to the point where they were too far in front for me to catch up."

Despite returning several weeks earlier than planned, Mr Wright is happy to be back in his Vert Cotil home with wife Erica and children Finlay, 12, Milo, nine and Calli and Asta, both seven.

"It's fantastic to come back and see all the trees and blossom. Seeing my new potatoes coming along was also fabulous and meeting the family again was obviously superb."

Mr Wright and Mr Elmont, who both work for Cable and Wireless, began training for the expedition a year ago. They decided to involve schoolchildren in the Bailiwick with the trip by talking to them about the effects of climate change in Greenland and how rising sea levels may wipe out parts of the Channel Islands.

The pair attracted sponsorship from Sure and Guernsey Gas for their expedition and have raised almost 2,000 for the Motor Neurone Disease Association.

Mr Wright explained what he had discovered about the effects of climate change in Greenland.

"Within hours of landing in Greenland we were told that this year is a ?global warming year'. The locals said it was very different to what they'd known in the last 20 years. People in Tasillaq told us it was the first year in living memory that they hadn't managed to get the dogs out on to the sea ice.

"We also had dinner with a family in Isortoq who said they were able to see mountains they'd never seen before because of the changing conditions. They also told us that polar bears are being forced to scavenge from residents in the towns due to not being able to hunt for seals."

Mr Wright went on to say how climate change could affect Alderney in years to come.

"A seven metre sea rise would be fairly catastrophic in Alderney. It would wipe out all of the harbour area and Le Banquage and have a huge impact on the coastline and infrastructure. The worrying thing is that experts are forecasting this could happen within generations, rather than thousands of years."

Mr Wright is already planning to revisit more than a thousand schoolchildren across the Bailiwick to talk about the expedition.

He went on to outline his abiding memories of Greenland.

"We managed quite a lot of helicopter trips and all of them were stunning. It was amazing to fly over the sea ice ? the turquoise of the iceberg was staggeringly beautiful. Also, flying in the mountains was quite an experience.

"The Arctic is such an amazing place and somewhere you need to go in order to appreciate it. It's a really precious place and I'd hate to see it disappear. It's hard to imagine that it might be lost one day."

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