A FORMER Royal Marine from Buckland Monachorum is embarking on a challenging solo trek across Antarctica in preparation for becoming the first man to cross the continent unsupported.

Barry (Baz) Gray was a Royal Marine regimental sergeant major and is now a professional explorer, so is no stranger to hard work.

Baz started out on this mammoth journey of more than 700 miles through extreme temperatures and a hostile environment on November 30 from Hercules Inlet to reach the South Pole.

But this journey is just a ‘warm up’ for Baz as phase two of Challenge Antarctica will see him attempt to be the first man to cross the entire Antarctic continent from coast to coast, unsupported and unassisted.

As the Times went to press, Baz had battled brutal weather conditions to cover 388 miles — he now has 354 miles left to go.

Soft snow, zero visibility, strong winds and sastrugi (sharp irregular grooves or ridges formed on a snow surface) have played havoc for Baz, all while pulling his 85kg sled but he is pushing on and displaying ‘Royal’ resilience and determination to reach the South Pole in under 40 days.

For 25 years Baz has been living, learning, teaching and surviving in some of the most remote places on the planet as part of his service as a Royal Marine and is putting everything he knows into this thrilling challenge. Baz spent a year in Antarctica as the cold weather expert to the Royal Navy’s HMS Endurance, responsible for training and equipping the 120-strong crew. He was also a pivotal member of the 2013 Shackleton Epic expedition, authentically recreating the 800-mile ocean crossing of Ernest Shackleton from Elephant Island to South Georgia and scaling the mountains to reach the safety of Stromness Harbour.

Challenge Antarctica is part of satellite communications project SATcase’s R3 challenge initiative centred around professional explorers achieving their goals in a remote areas without reliable phone coverage.

‘There is something very special about being somewhere extremely remote, where very few people have been before,’ said Baz, an employee of SATcase.

‘No maps, guidebooks or previous notes makes the adventure so real, generates excitement and can be a constant thrill as well as extremely daunting.

‘During this expedition I will be entering some of the most remote and dangerous terrain so having the most advanced technology to assist me is vital.

‘SATcase is an exciting new product — I am excited to be the first person to demonstrate its abilities in the harshest of environments.

‘This really is the most gruelling and unforgiving terrain and will be a true test of human endurance as well as for technology.

‘Safety and performance are of the utmost importance therefore it is essential I have only the very best and most advanced and innovative equipment at my disposal.’

Part of Baz’s motivation for Challenge Antarctica is to fundraise and raise awareness of The Royal Marines Charity.

Trevor Parker of SATcase said: ‘As a former Royal Marine Commando myself we are delighted to support The Royal Marines Charity and through Baz’s challenge raise awareness of the excellent work they do to support serving Royal Marines Commandos, veterans and importantly their families with a variety of mental and physical challenges. This is a charity very close to our hearts at SATcase and we are strong believers that once a Royal Marine Commando, always a Royal Marine Commando.

‘Challenge Antarctica is also a unique testing ground for our new product, SATcase. We are delighted that Baz is testing out our final production unit and we have been receiving regular voice call updates from Baz live from Antarctica.’

Track Baz’s progress at www.satcase.com/challenge-antarctica or follow on social media @satcase