A Glenrothes man is preparing to make the journey of a lifetime as part of a team of naval adventurers following in the footsteps of Sir Ernest Shackleton.
Specialist naval diver, Able Seaman Kris Cunningham, is one of 11 service personnel from the Royal Navy and Royal Marines undertaking a six-week expedition to the Antarctic and South Georgia, a century after Shackleton’s extraordinary recovery from the Weddell Sea.
The aim of Exercise Antarctic Endurance (AE16) is to inspire a new generation of sailors and marines to seek adventure, but it will also provide the navy and Ministry of Defence with research into team dynamics and leadership.
The 29-year-old is used to danger, as he works in arguably one of the most challenging jobs in the Senior Service; often working deep underwater in pitch-black conditions trying to dispose of World War Two ordnance.
He explained: “I have a very varied job as a diver, finding myself working as part of the NATO submarine rescue team but also helping to dispose of, or remove, ordnance washed up or handed in.
“By taking part in this expedition, I’m hoping to experience a great sense of adventure and continue learning. The whole build-up has been a great experience and I one-day plan to lead an expedition myself.”
Kris joined the Royal Navy eight years ago after attending Auchmuty High School, where he excelled in sports.]
His sporting achievements continued when he joined the navy, having completed a 120-mile run in four days and then taking part in a 24-hour underwater cycle to break the world record and raise over £7000 for charity.
Kris, who now works at the Northern Diving Group, has been married to his childhood sweetheart Holli for 12 years.
He added: “Without my understanding wife, who puts up with endless horrendous banter, I would be lost in this world, as she is the person who brings me down to earth after many of my adventures.
“I have no experience in the Antarctic or Arctic but my team mates do. I have huge respect for where we are headed, having a long-standing interest in the region and the great explorers that made their name on the ice.”
The team, which is made up of qualified and experienced sailors and mountaineers, sets out in mid-January.
Its journey will begin and end in the Falklands, having travelled through the Weddell Sea, landed on the east coast of the Antarctic Peninsula and Elephant Island, before sending a team overland from King Haakon Bay to Stromness in South Georgia – the same route travelled by Shackleton 100 years ago.
Along with research into team dynamics and leadership, data will also be collected on climate, environment and hydrography on behalf of British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge and Plymouth universities and the UK Hydrographic Office.