A unique Antarctic project exploring ‘inner gold’, nature & wellness.


The POLE OF POSSIBILITY (POP) is a World- First and Guinness World-record breaking journey to the South Pole in which two women explore the value of nature for physical and mental well-being. 

Together Paralympian Karen Darke and Manchester Arena bombing survivor Iona Somerville will unravel the process and mindsets that have helped them to navigate tough mental, emotional and physical challenges. Through their journey, they will demonstrate the power of nature and its critical role in keeping humans and the planet in balance and wellness. 

They will share their journey into the icy Antarctic wilds with film-maker Mike Webster who will record the expedition through a documentary film, and Professor Mike Christie of Aberystwyth University who will use the expedition as a research platform to demonstrate the impacts of climate change on the Antarctic continent and how this has wider impacts to people and nature across the world.

The Team’s vision is to ‘inspire through exploration’. Through this unique expedition, the POLE OF POSSIBILITY Team will demonstrate what is possible when we seek the growth in difficult challenges, and highlight how interactions with nature can keep ourselves and our planet in a state of health & and wellness.

Our mission is to promote inspiration through exploration.

Through Karen and Iona’s personal life journeys, we will encourage people to see the opportunities in adversity, to recognise the value of nature for physical and mental well-being, and to recognise that surprising wellness benefits are possible following some of the life’s toughest events.

At the age of 21, Karen had a life changing rock-climbing accident that left her paralysed from the chest down. Karen’s spirit of adventure and love for nature helped her overcome adversity to become a paralympic gold medallist and to also undertake numerous expeditions including hand-cycling across the Himalayas and to climb one of the World’s biggest rock walls ‘El Capitan’. The POLE OF POSSIBILITY will be Karen’s biggest adventure to date. Her paralysis not only create enormous physical challenges for travelling across the frozen Antarctic plateau, but the extreme cold will also have significant physiological impacts on Karen’s body.

Iona grew up in a broken family in a deprived community, and despite wonderful family around her, she struggled with self-belief, confidence and vision for a positive future. The Polar Academy changed all this for her, with a positive experience of regularly being in the outdoors, physical training with a team and a clear goal. This gave Iona the resilience to mentally overcome the challenges of post-traumatic stress following her front line experience at the Manchester Arena bombing.

Both Karen and Iona have faced significant challenges in their lives, which could have broken them.  However, drawing from the inspiration of exploration they have overcome both physical and mental barriers. The POLE OF POSSIBILITY will push their minds and bodies to the next level to achieve the unachievable

The POLE OF POSSIBILITY will also be a World and Guinness Record:, a World First for a female to sit-ski to the South Pole and a World Record for the furthest distance ever taken to the Pole by sit-ski.


The POLE OF POSSIBILITY will begin in Antarctica at the 79th meridian west, at Union Glacier camp. 79 is the atomic number of GOLD and the team will ski across the Antarctic plateau approximately following the 79th meridian to the South Pole, a reminder of our innate ability to overcome the unexpected and find ‘Inner Gold’ through challenge. The journey will be around 220km covering the last two degrees. Karen being paralysed will go by sit-ski and arm-power, and the others on regular skis: Polar Academy graduate Iona Somerville, Professor Mike Christie of Aberystwyth University and film-maker Mike Webster of Spiral Out Pictures.


Team member and accomplished explorer and researcher Mike Christie is a Professor of Environmental Economics at Aberystwyth University and a chair of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). His research explores how people interact with and value natural resources around the world, from the tropical rain forests of Madagascar to coral reefs in the Caribbean. Whilst Antarctica may be remote and beyond the direct reach of most people, we all have an impact on this fragile continent through our carbon emissions and contributions to climate change. Further, as global temperatures rise and the Antarctic ice melts, sea levels will riserise, and weather patterns will change resulting in devastating impacts on many around the world. Using the Pole of Possibility expedition as a platform for public engagement, Mike will synthesis the latest scientific research on the impacts of climate change on Antarctica to highlight what we as individuals can do to reduce our impacts on the Antarctic continent and demonstrate how action now can significantly reduce impacts on current and future generations. 

During the expedition, Mike will also collect ice samples enroute to the Pole. These samples will be analysed for their microbial content. Microbes can darken the ice sheet surface, which in turn can accelerate summer melt. The data collected will better help scientists understand the impacts of climate change. Read more on our research here.


We are working with ICE / ZTrikes on a polar-cycle: a unique hand-pedalled trike to test possibilities to hand-cycle to the South Pole rather than ski. Read more here.

The team are grateful to existing sponsors particularly SINEQUA, SPRAYWAY and BBRAUN, but are still seeking new partnerships to help with final fundraising. Please get in touch if you are an individual, business or enterprise that is aligned with creating a more sustainable and conscious world, improving wellness, learning, innovation and possibility. Or we are very grateful if you can support our Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign.


INNER GOLD – the resilience, strengths, creative qualities and ability to ‘overcome’ that we all have inside us;

CONNECTION – the power of connecting  the diversity of humans, our passions, innovations and technologies to solve big challenges;

ENVIRONMENTAL & EMOTIONAL WELLNESS: raising awareness of how we can all experience and contribute to greater wellbeing.

If you or your business / enterprise would like to be connected to our project, please get in touch for a conversation on how we can make a partnership mutually beneficial.

The project is working in partnership with charitable / social change organisations THE POLAR ACADEMYQUEST 79, the SPINAL INJURIES ASSOCIATION, and CONNECT UNIVERSE. to the aim of inspiring a more conscious, connected and emotionally healthy world.

The Polar Academy: Participant Iona Somerville is a young ‘graduate’ of the The Polar Academy: an incredible organisation that identifies 14-17 years old secondary school children, crushed by lack of self-esteem and gives them the chance to redefine their physical and mental limits. These ‘invisible’ teenagers are put through a rigorous ten month training programme that helps their confidence and skills soar, before embarking on a wilderness journey. Iona and other young people from the Polar Academy are becoming role models for the next generation.

Learn more about The Polar Academy at & on BBC at