Q&A with St George’s International School students

While on the Greenland Ice Cap, Patrick was sent 20 questions from students at St George’s International School of Luxembourg via satellite phone. Here are all his answers to their fantastic questions.

Q1 Do you see any effects of climate change over the years you have been travelling in the Arctic?
Eli yr 6
A2 I’ve been going to different parts of the Arctic so it’s hard to tell compared to if I was going back to the same place every year, but there are a lot of scientists doing work to keep track of how things are changing and how fast. It’s an incredibly important job.


Q2 What happens if a polar bear attacks you?
Theo yr 4
A2 Let’s hope you are never come against a hungry polar bear but if you do, you should try to chase them away by making loud noise, releasing flares, shots over their heads to scare them. Shooting the bears is only ever an option when your own life, or those of the people you are with, is in immediate danger.


Q3 At what age did you make your 1st big expedition and where was it?
Kristof yr 4
A3 That was the trip to the North Pole that I did in 2003 when I was 38 years old. It was the trip that made me the first Luxembourger to the North Pole. Holding up the Luxembourg flag when I got there was an exciting moment!


Q4 How do you store food without it rotting?
Giulia yr 4
A4 A lot of preparation goes into sorting and packing our food before we leave. We take a lot of dry foods with us and pack meals into packets, so we don’t have to rummage through and make things messy whenever we settle down for a meal. The fresh food we do take, like salami and cheese, we do take with us stays fresh because it remains frozen on our pulk – the sled we pull behind us – until we bring it inside the tent. On this Greenland expedition we had a situation where our fuel (for our fire) started leaking but luckily, we had packed so well that it didn’t contaminate our food.


Q5 Where did you learn to snow kite?
Leonardo yr 4
A5 My kiting skiing journey started in Norway. I’ve been to Finse and Haugastol, where I was training with Carl Alvey who joined me for my Greenland expedition.


Q6 What animals do you see on polar expeditions?
Giulio yr 5
It depends on where you go but I’ve seen birds, even on the icecap, walrus, wales and foxes, but no polar bear yet. On this expedition we bumped into some dogs that were part of the dog-sled team.

Q7 When you were a child, was there a special place you wanted to travel to?
Eddie yr 5
Mount Everest. It’s the highest mountain above sea-level and a long-term dream for so many of us mountaineers, but in recent years it has become more dangerous mostly due to overcrowding.


Q8 What would you do if you were caught in a storm?
Dominic yr 5
Most important thing is safety. We must sit out storms in the tent, which is usually protected by walls of snow that we have dug up and built for shelter.


Q9 What was the hardest expedition you have done so far?
Matteo yr 5
This one because the wind has been so unpredictable. It’s not just the strong and stormy winds that make it difficult for us. Calm weather with little to no winds mean that we cannot use our snow kites at all. On a bad day we may only do about 20km or none at all, but on a good day we can cover distances up to about 230km – that’s almost 3 times the length of Luxembourg!


Q10 Do you ever get scared that you will get hurt?
Fosca yr 6
Yes. That thought is always at the back of my mind but it’s important to keep it back there. It’s sometimes good to be scared because it makes you more of a careful person. Overall, I know that the team and myself have prepared for with our safety and security in mind, and that we be prepared for a rescue situation if it would come to that.


Q11 Do you get paid for exploring?
Giovanni yr 5
No – not yet at least!


Q12 Who is your biggest supporter?
Ayden yr 6
My family always support me no matter what, but when you’re on the ice cap you’re so far away from them, with minimal communication, that you really must be your own supporter. You need to be your own strength.


Q13 How do you get clean water and food? Where do you sleep?
Tsipora yr 4
We get our water by melting snow, we pack all the food we need before leaving, which is a mix of all kinds of things like dry food, biscuits, chocolate and electrolytes. We sleep in a 4-season expedition tent. We use a normal mat and an inflatable mattress. To keep us cosy and protected against the cold, we have sleeping bags that can handle temperature down to -40°C.


Q14 Do you take special food with you?
Kim yr 5
Yes, we take a few treats with us like dried meat and jellybeans.


Q15 How long did it take to get to the North Pole?
Federica yr 5
The distance is about 110km as the crow flies or 140km on rough terrain Last degree 9 days


Q16 How many things are you allowed to take?
Lucy yr 6
We try to keep it as light as possible but there are so many things we need like the food, the tent, our sleeping bags, our gear…the list goes on!


Q17 Which martial arts do you do?
Adam yr 6
Mostly Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and a bit of Krav Maga.


Q18 Have you ever had frostbite?
Robine yr 6
Yes, on the tip of my ring finger on my left hand and on the tip of my nose. Both cases were 1st degree frostbite which means that the skin damage didn’t go deep enough for permanent damage.


Q19 What happens with your career as a doctor when you are exploring?
Anna yr 6
It’s important to make sure that my patients feel taken care of. Any outstanding prescriptions and follow ups will be taken care of before I leave for long term expeditions like this one. I’ve also organised with another doctor that more urgent matters can be treated in my absence.


Q20 What is the coldest temperature you have been in?
Alienor yr 5
It is different from region to region but this trip we have had some very icy cold and harsh winds. Even if we have -20°C to -18°C on a crisp morning, if you combine that with a frosty windchill it can easily feel like -28°C. But the absolute coldest was when I was at the North Pole, where it was -38°C with a small windchill, which made it feel about -42°C to -40°C.




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