THE first ever person from the Isle of Man to have reached the South Pole has returned saying the only thing he missed was his pet dog Alfie.
Adventurous student Joe Kinrade, now in warmer climes, spent six weeks researching his PhD thesis in the Antarctic.
While most people were at home enjoying time with their families and friends over Christmas, Joe, a former pupil of Ramsey Grammar School, was chilling out with penguins and elephant seals while temperatures outside plummeted to -35C.
His research aims to improve the way Global Positioning System (GPS) works by monitoring disturbances to the upper atmosphere caused by storms on the surface of the sun.
During the visit Joe and his team flew between a number of remote and isolated field sites, camping out for weeks at a time.
Joe, who is studying at the University of Bath, said: ‘Before we left the UK we went through intensive physical training; you have to be fit because the high altitude at the South Pole makes the air very thin and you can easily be exhausted just climbing a couple of steps.
‘Jet lag is also a problem for field parties in the Antarctic as there are multiple time zones. Our team was travelling between various field camps on Antarctic Survey Time, to the South Pole which is on New Zealand Time, with a 13-hour difference!’
Preparations also included advanced first aid training as, although the team had radio contact with one doctor, the group would have had to handle any emergencies themselves.
Joe, whose parents live in the Ballalough Estate in Andreas, added: ‘I couldn’t really imagine how bright it was going to be until I got there. I wore goggles with an orange tint to take the glare off the snow whenever I was outside, and had factor 50 suncream on all the time. Even then my skin would feel as though it was burnt at the end of the day because ultra violet light is so strong in the Antarctic.’
There were also some elements of the trip he wasn’t as prepared for.
‘There were a few scary moments on the trip, including a couple of bumpy aeroplane landings on the sea ice and a takeoff in which we had to dig the runway first, but overall it was an experience of a lifetime and I did really enjoy it,’ he said.
‘I was lucky enough to have some free time when I was dropped on an island where few people are allowed to go alone. I tentatively walked among an elephant seal colony. They are absolutely enormous and really smell! I also saw killer whales, adelie and gentoo penguins, fur seals, skua birds and a whole variety of other wildlife during the trip.’
Asked about missing Christmas, he said: ‘We were actually at the South Pole for Christmas which was a fantastic experience. It was my first Christmas away from home so it was a bit surreal not to be with family but we had a really nice day and celebrated with a candle-lit dinner.
‘The windows were blacked out because it is currently summer time in the Antarctic and there is 24-hour daylight, so it was really nice to finally feel it was evening.’
Joe added: ‘Very few people get to go to the Antarctic, and to be so early in my career and given the responsibility of being the project manager within an experienced team of people made the opportunity even more meaningful.
‘I have had a great deal of support from my supervisor Professor Cathryn Mitchell at the University of Bath, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), and the Isle of Man Government for which I am really grateful.’