Lawyers Ready for Trek to the Pole

LINDSAY LAFRAUGH
04/06/2009

Thunder Bay lawyer Dave Shannon was busy Sunday preparing for a trip of a lifetime.
Shannon, along with fellow Thunder Bay lawyer, Chris Watkins – or Team Independence as they‘re calling themselves – leave Tuesday for the North Pole and he said he is starting to get antsy.

“I‘m at the point where I really just want to take off now,” he said over the phone Sunday afternoon.

Shannon, a quadriplegic, and Watkins, who has problems with chronic pain and arthritis, hope their journey will send a message to people around the world, especially to those living with disabilities.

“It is personal, but the added bonus is that we can raise awareness,” Shannon said.
Awareness “that anyone can get past their personal barriers,” he added.

The pair spent the weekend seeing friends and family, packing and mentally preparing for the trek.

Shannon said that as the trip nears, he is starting to think more about the extreme cold he is about to experience.
After flying to an island just north of Norway on Tuesday, the pair will travel along the ice and snow to the pole, which they hope to reach by April 12.

The last time he checked, he said, it was -60 C along their route.

Packed in their bags is the best arctic gear they could find.

“We know that if the weather gets too harsh, we are going to have to just get in the tent and get in our sleeping bags,” Shannon said.
He said because of his spinal cord injury he has to be extra conscious about losing his core body temperature.

“As soon as I start to feel the first signs of hypothermia, we‘ve got to shut ‘er down . . . and get out of the weather,” he said.

Perhaps the most important thing they have to remember to pack is a specially designed sled which his wheelchair (minus the wheels) will be clamped into. Shannon will use modified ski poles to move the sled, which Watkins, who is an experienced mountain climber, will tow during the trip.

“It is a real simple design,” Shannon said.

He admitted that the thought of negotiating the sled over large areas of ice has become a bit more frightening as the trip gets closer.
“If I fall through the ice I am toast,” he said.

What eases his mind is knowing that guides will accompany them during the trip and will be checking for cracks in the ice and watching for polar bears.

Knowing that he will be able to see everything around him for most of the trip, thanks to anywhere from 22-24 hours of sunlight per day, helps too.

Once they reach the pole, Shannon said, he is going to plant a wheelchair accessible parking sign and flags in the ground. They are bringing flags representing
Canada, Italy, Ireland, Ontario, the United Nations and, of course, Thunder Bay.

The city, Shannon said, pulled through to help him accomplish a dream.

“It is pretty exciting that something like this can be co-ordinated and engineered out of Thunder Bay,” he said.

A fundraiser is to be planned upon their return which will raise funds for a bursary for disabled students who are going to college or university.

To read Shannon‘s and Watkins‘ bios, and to find out more about their trip to the North Pole, go to www.teamindependence.ca.

Reproduced from http://www.chroniclejournal.com/top_story.php?id=177168