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Explorer profile: Dr Adrian McCallum, Polar Scientist

Dr Adrian McCallum is a glaciologist and polar scientist. Often found miles out into the ice of the polar regions, Adrian is an expert in advanced and complex expedition planning.

Check out our podcast with Adrian

Dr Adrian McCallum, Polar ScientistPolar scientist and glaciology

Adrian McCallum is a glaciologist and polar scientist, spanning a long career in this field. He holds degrees in Oceanography, Meteorology, Civil Engineering and a PHD from Cambridge in Geotechnical Engineering and Glaciology. This basically means he’s a smart dude with a tonne of experience.


An expedition scientist can be described as someone who undertakes research in remote locations, often totally isolated from civilisation (and rescue). In Adrians case, he specialises in the study of ice, as a glaciologist would, which means he spends his research budgets and most of his time in the polar regions.


Often, when explorers are attempting to accomplish world first challenges, they will recruit the help and support of scientists and institutions to a) make the expedition happen/know if it’s possible and b) to share costs and acquire vital scientific research that is important to the advancement (and in the case of global warming), the survival of humanity.


Back in the early 2000s Adrian played a crucial role in the preparation of Sir Ranulph Fiennes attempt to become the first team to cross the Antarctic continent in winter. A polar expedition almost 5 years in the planning, “The coldest Journey” is possibly the most daring feat of polar endurance the world has seen (so far).


Unfortunately, the expedition failed when the party came across an impassable crevasse field, and Sir Ranulph getting severe frostbite on his hand. But due to the fact the team were fully prepared and self sufficient, they were able to remain in situ in temperatures down to -80C (!!!) and continue with the collection of scientific data, extremely important to the folks back home.


Adrians career started out in the Australian military, where he was studying to become a pilot. But, having failed his pilots qualification he shifted into scientific fields and began his winding career in the military through various disciplines. It wasn’t until he summited Everest in the late 90’s, that everything changed.


Tragically, during his successful expedition to Everest, 3 members of his expedition team where killed in an avalanche, and this is what spurred Adrian to pursue glaciology and the study of the ice and it’s properties. While a tragedy in every sense, this significant event has lead Adrian, if indirectly, to become a significant person in the field of polar exploration and research, and to help ensure the safety and security of many expedition teams in the years that followed.


In this episode of Expedition REAL, Adrian talks to us about his experiences as a professional explorer, professional scientist, and his wonderful perspective on the importance of life.


If you’re interested in becoming a professional explorer, why not check out a few of our articles on the subject?


How to become a professional explorer

What’s it like to be a professional expedition leader?

4 tips for excellent expedition leadership


Check out Adrians profiles for more info!


University of the Sunshine Coast


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