Inverclyde whisky distillery helps polar explorers use renewable energy melters on trek

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A NEW whisky distillery is helping a father and son with their bid to become the first people to trek to the South Pole only using renewable energy.

Explorer Robert Swan, 61, was the first man to walk unaided to both the north and south poles in the 1980s, and for his final major expedition he is teaming up with son Barney, 23, for the zero carbon South Pole Energy Challenge.

The explorers are preparing to set off from their base on Union Glacier in Antarctica and the hi-tech equipment they will be carrying includes solar snow melters which have been designed and built in Scotland at the Ardgowan Distillery.

Bosses at the distillery in Inverkip, 30 miles west of Glasgow, have also given them two small hip flasks of 20-year-old single malt – one of which the pair will use for a special Hogmanay toast.

The other hip flask will accompany the explorers all the way to the South Pole before being brought back to Scotland, where Ardgowan will use it as a key part of a special commemorative bottling.

Mr Swan Snr, who was born in Durham, explained they were taking on the 600-mile trek to prove renewable technology could work successfully even in the harshest of climates.

He said: “By putting these clean energies to the test in Antarctica, the Earth’s harshest wilderness, Barney and I want to prove that they can be developed for use anywhere and, therefore, play a crucial part in helping the planet transition to a low carbon future.”

Ardgowan Distillery chief executive Martin McAdam told how they had become involved in the project because of their “strong background in low carbon innovation”.

He added: “Robert came to us with a clear challenge – to design and build an effective solar snow melter which would be reliable enough to survive the rigours of an eight-week expedition.

“Getting enough fresh water to drink is a constant challenge in the Antarctic and usually this is done by melting snow and ice with kerosene, which of course burns a lot of carbon.

“Our team designed a very simple and robust melter comprising a matt black stainless-steel flask encased in super-strong clear Lexan plastic, with inert argon gas as an insulating layer in between.

“They’re designed to be strapped on top of Barney and Robert’s sledges so they can capture the maximum heat of the sun as they trek along to provide a continual supply of drinking water.”

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Mr McAdam continued: “We sent a couple of prototypes to the team which they tested during their trial run in the Antarctic last year, and the feedback was so positive we were asked to provide five for the expedition.

“If this very simple technology works well in the coming months it could have wider uses – for example in mountaineering.”

He added: “We did also manage to send two small flasks of a very special 20-year-old single malt which was taken straight from a single cask here in Scotland.

“The team have promised to have a dram from one flask on Hogmanay and to take the other all the way to the South Pole.

“We then plan to bring it back to Scotland to form part of an exclusive commemorative bottling.”