Berkeley MBA Students Plan Pioneering Polar Expedition


Trekking up to 600 miles across Antarctica while pulling a 100-pound sled is a grueling endurance test for any adventurer, but for Alan Lock, MBA 11, there's an extra challenge: Lock has lost much of his vision to a degenerative eye condition, and hopes to become the first visually impaired person to cross Antarctica from the coast all the way to the South Pole.

Lock has organized a five-man team called Polar Vision, which also includes Berkeley MBA student Andrew Jensen, MBA 11, for an expedition that will tap not only their physical resources but the leadership and management skills they are gaining at Haas. In addition to the technical planning, their goal is to raise $500,000 plus awareness for two charities: Sightsavers, which strives to end preventable blindness in the developing world, and Guide Dogs for the Blind.

"It’s really in all our DNA to challenge ourselves, particularly through physical and mental tests," says Lock of his team. "More than this, however, is the common bond between us to support each other in achieving a common dream we've had since childhood, and in doing so help a cause that is important to me."

The team includes another MBA student, Richard Smith from Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business; former British Army Captain Andrew Cooney, who became the youngest person to reach the South Pole at age 23; and outdoor adventurer and IMD MBA graduate Garrick Hileman.

Most recently, Lock, Hileman, and Cooney attended Sightsavers International’s 60th anniversary on June 23 at Buckingham Palace in London, where they met Princess Alexandra, the Honourable Lady Ogilvy, and told her about their expedition.

“The Polar Vision team is taking on a huge challenge for a very worthwhile cause," Princess Alexandra, president of Sightsavers, said at the event. "I wish them every success in their endeavor, and I believe this expedition will be an inspiration to blind and partially sighted people around the world.”

Lock's diagnosis of macular degeneration, an incurable eye disease, forced an early end to his career as a British Royal Navy officer and made it impossible for him to drive or read unaltered text. It didn't stop him from raising $80,000 with a row across the Atlantic Ocean that set a Guinness World Record, or from pursuing an MBA.

At Haas he met Jensen, a U.S. Army veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and endurance athlete. Jensen likens the organizational effort for the expedition to running a small company.

"Every day we're refining our marketing plan, we are contacting potential corporate sponsors and giving sales pitches," Jensen said. "We're broadcasting the values of two nonprofit organizations and integrating them into our pitches for funds, and we're planning an extremely demanding 600-mile trek through some of the harshest terrain in the world."

To be successful, the group must raise about $470,000 to cover their costs –including the satellite tracking system that will be their lifeline during the unsupported trek — plus that much again for the charities. They plan to depart in the Antarctic in the winter 2011. The expedition is expected to take about two months of walking across the ice, with temperatures as low as -44 degrees Fahrenheit, to reach the pole.

Polar Vision is seeking corporate sponsorship for value-added partnerships, including opportunities to be involved in the team, having a corporate flag planted at the pole, or product testing in the harshest environment on earth. The team is also in talks with several film makers about a potential documentary.

Meanwhile, a Haas alumnus, Morton Beebe, BS 55, is also heading to the South Pole in October as part of a National Science Foundation Artists and Writers Grant. Beebe, a professional photographer, will visit the foundation's Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station and will look at what the region is like now compared to when he first traveled there in the U.S. Army in 1957. He and a team of three others plan to produce short video clips about what it they discover. For more information, visit http://www.jerney.org/antarctica/.

For more information on Lock's Polar Vision expedition, visit http://www.polar-vision.org/.

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