IT HAS been reached by foot and on sledges dragged by dogs – and now a team has unveiled plans to become the first to row to the North Pole.
Scottish explorer Jock Wishart, pictured, is intent on leading a five-strong crew through some of the harshest conditions on Earth as they navigate 450 miles of Arctic waters on a route only now accessible due to global warming.
The Old Pulteney Row, as the expedition has been called, will be the first polar expedition to involve rowing since Ernest Shackleton and his men took to their boats to save their lives during the legendary Trans-Antarctic Expedition in 1916.
The challenge will take place in July and August next year and is being promoted as of global significance, being both a pioneering maritime adventure and an environmental expedition.
The planned 450-mile route across the Arctic starts in Resolute Bay in Canada.
Timing is key to the expedition's success, as the final section of the journey is navigable for only a few weeks of the year before the area refreezes.
Organisers say it has only recently become possible to consider a bid, due to the increase in seasonal ice melt and the deterioration of the Arctic landscape.
Cameras will follow Wishart's preparations for the row, which is expected to last between four and six weeks, to when his team will face dramatic ice-bound coastlines and shifting sea-ice barriers on their voyage.
They will also have to haul the boat overland to complete the gruelling journey.
Wishart, who is a descendant of the Bard, Robert Burns, will row for hours at a time with his crew in challenging weather and subzero temperatures, with little opportunity for rest or shelter.
"A few years ago a good rowing friend joked that a row to the pole would be the ultimate challenge for someone like me, who is passionate about both polar exploration and boating," he said yesterday.
"It's therefore incredible for me, after three years of planning, to be unveiling this expedition."
He added that it would be "the greatest challenge of my life".
Born in Dumfries, Wishart is one of the UK's leading adventurers and explorers, with a successful background in polar exploration, rowing and extreme navigational feats.
He led a team that established 15 new world speed records for powered circumnavigation and captained a crew that broke the London to Paris rowing record in 1999.
Wishart has a lifelong interest in polar exploration, and in 1992 he was part of the first team to walk unsupported to the Geomagnetic North Pole.
The expedition is being sponsored by Old Pulteney whisky, a brand with a maritime heritage and history of supporting sailing and seafaring adventure.
The whisky is distilled at Wick at the most northerly distillery on the UK mainland.
Yesterday, senior brand manager Margaret Mary Clarke said: "Old Pulteney is extremely proud to be a partner in this great adventure, and to be working with Jock, who is an inspiration for all of us who are passionate about maritime adventure.
"We will be supporting Jock and his crew throughout the process, and look forward to being part of this exciting project as it unfolds over the coming months."