Guest speaker – Hannah McKeand, renown Polar Explorer
In 2004 Hannah joined a British expedition to explore the isolated Wakan Corridor in the northeast of Afghanistan in search of the source of the River Oxus. The strip is walled by the Hindu Kush in Pakistan to the south, the Pamirs in Tajikistan to the north and the Karakorams in China to the east. The upper regions of this mountain valley can only be reached on foot by crossing several 15,000ft passes and has rarely been visited by westerners. Part of the research was to take DNA samples of the nomadic tribe people there to establish their genetic links to Alexander the Great and his army.
Later that year Hannah turned to a cold desert in an epic 56 day expedition skiing the 730 miles and 10 degrees from the coast of Antarctica to the geographic South Pole. Crossing the vast and monotonous expanse of one of the harshest environments in the world the team of five battled with physical and mental exhaustion, frostbite, injury, hunger and some of the lowest temperatures on earth.Far from taking it easy after her Antarctic adventure, in September 2005 Hannah set sail from Liverpool as a Watchleader aboard Glasgow Clipper in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race. She raced with the fleet from Liverpool to Cascais in Portugal, Salvador in Brazil, Durban, Fremantle and Singapore. Half way through the next leg to China the boats were diverted to The Philippines with major keel issues and the race was delayed for two months for a rebuild.
While the boats were being rebuilt Hannah and her partner David Pryce returned to his home in Australia and bought the 20m aluminium expedition schooner The Blizzard.
They formed their high latitude sailing company Blizzard Expeditions and eventually did not return to the Clipper Race. In November/December 2006 Hannah returned to Antarctica and once again skied from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole, but this time solo and unsupported. She set a new world record for the journey of 39 days 9 hours and 33 minutes. In October 2007 Hannah and David embarked on their first full season with The Blizzard sailing from Australia across to Chile and from there around Cape Horn and down to Antarctica, then back to Australia via the Falklands, The Kergulens and the South Magnetic Pole, thus completing a full circumnavigation of Antarctica in a season.
In February 2008 Hannah set out solo from Ward Hunt Island in the North of Canada in a first attempt at soloing to the North Pole. Just over two weeks in she had a dramatic fall into the ice and seriously injured her shoulder and back and was forced to retire. She is now once again fully fit and in training for her next attempt.