Explorer twins

Hugo and Ross Turner are a set of adventurous and enthusiastic twins, who embarked on a trek through Greenland, Hugo using modern gear, and Ross using similar kit to that used by the explorer Shackleton in the early 1900’s. However, the trek was not just an extreme form of fun, as they were also monitored by our Department to assess the effect of extreme conditions on the body. They attended a twin visit to the Department both before and after the expedition, so that our scientists could compare the effect of the expedition on their measurements. Analysing their data will allow us to ascertain how their bodies responded to the drastic change of environment. As Hugo and Ross are identical twins any changes that we see would be as a result of the environment that they were exposed to.

In Hugo’s and Ross’ words this was an experience full of excitement, fun and above all, cold. Although initially their trek was planned to last around 20 days, the twins had to end it after eight days on advice from their doctor as Hugo hurt his knee quite badly, and continuing could have endangered both their lives. They both reported feeling devastated about this outcome, and even tried to rest for three days to see if Hugo’s knee would improve on its own, but despite this, they were forced to start an arduous three day journey back, leaving behind the ice cap along with their dream of reaching their final destination as planned.


On meeting Hugo and Ross, the first thing that strikes you is their boundless enthusiasm, sunny attitude and willingness to test themselves and their environment beyond what most of us would find acceptable. Both twins were rightly very proud to have reached the half way mark and agreed that the worse aspect of the expedition, apart from the accident, was the raging cold, -250C without wind, on a good day. “It was difficult to escape and get away from the pervasive effect of the cold, which made it a challenge to maintain the motivation to keep going,” Hugo said. Amazingly Hugo described how having the modern gear did not provide adequate insulation under these extreme circumstances, and he experienced huge fluctuations of temperature, being very cold one minute and very hot the next. Ross, however, reported that the Shackleton clothing was surprisingly adequate, in particular the wool gloves which insulated his hands from the cold perfectly.

Their day to day timetable whilst on the expedition was waking up at 3am and performing tests to measure their glucose levels, two hours to boil water, and then trekking, trekking and more trekking with small five minute breaks every hour for rest and a snack. Because of the enormity of the task ahead of them, the main thought occupying their heads was trying to get to the next camp. Hugo told us that during the first few days whilst they could still see the mountains and civilisation behind them in the distance, they wondered, “Why are we doing this?” These doubtful moments, in conjunction with the reality of the arctic cold, were offset by the wonder of being able to sit down on the third night, at the top of the very sharp crevasses they had left behind, under a beautiful sunset.

During their trek both twins had only each other for company with 24 hour access to a doctor. The contact with their families was very limited and both twins agreed that this was the best option as contact would have made being away from them much more difficult. Their family is very proud of them but their mother does find her children’s adventurous treks a bit difficult to cope with, and worries constantly about them when they are away on an adventure.

Although both twins had different diets, the old-fashioned diet of Shackelton versus a modern diet, they both reported enjoying their food, in particular the high amounts of fat dripping and large portions sizes (6,000 calories each a day) that they needed to ingest to survive in these extreme conditions. They both reported that it was hard getting used to normal portion sizes on their return. Despite such a high calorific intake, Ross still lost over 6kg in weight during their trek. On completion of the expedition the twins went to McDonalds and asked for everything from the menu! Only Hugo felt tiny pangs of what seemed like slight indigestion.

Overall the twins agreed that they now have a greater admiration for explorers like Shackleton and respect the mental attitude needed to embark and complete these challenges. We asked them what item the other had that they had wanted on the expedition. Ross wanted Hugo’s neoprene balaclava, as the woollen one froze onto his face, and Hugo would have liked the woollen gloves used during Shackleton’s era. After their hardship they both quickly said that they still both want to repeat this adventure, but will make some changes following the lessons learned.. A very important one learnt by holiday makers all over the country) is not to over pack, and even more importantly, knowing where to find strong painkillers!

The twins were interviewed for this blog by Kirsten Ward and Victoria Vazquez

Follow these amazing twins on twitter via #explorertwins