Textiles & Apparel / Garment


Dark Ice Project: an unaided exploration to the North Pole

The Woolmark Company has joined adidas Terrex, GORE-TEX and BYBORRE as official partners for the Dark Ice Project, creating a technical kit for three explorers to wear on an unassisted expedition to the North Pole.

The Woolmark Company was yesterday announced as an official technical partner for the Dark Ice Project - an ambitious expedition strategised by three of Britain’s most accomplished polar explorers: Alex Hibbert, George Bullard and James Wheeldon.

More is known about the surface of the moon than the Arctic Ocean in winter, yet it provides a key barometer to the health of our planet. This first-ever winter expedition is about exploring new territory and making new discoveries in environmental science. The ground-breaking research will uncover how microplastics behave in the water, snow and ice of the dark Arctic depths. The three explorers will embark on an unassisted six-month journey starting later this year, aiming to get to the geographical North Pole as the sun begins to rise in March 2021.

The Dark Ice Project draws on the expertise of technical performance leaders The Woolmark Company, adidas Terrex, BYBORRE and GORE-TEX to design and create a kit to meet the athletes’ physiological and environmental needs. The explorers will set off by boat for the first phase, followed by a ski phase of up to 70 days, usually trekking for eight-to-ten hours each day, in extreme cold reaching -40o Celsius and hurricane-force winds. Specific requirements for the garments, such as wind and water resistance, durability, breathability, moisture management and maintaining thermal comfort will be key to the explorers’ success.

Merino wool is the original performance fibre and its technical benefits coupled with its eco-credentials - it is 100% natural, renewable and biodegradable - make it the fibre of choice for the explorers’ kit.

The Woolmark Company and textile innovation studio BYBORRE developed a wool-rich base and mid-layer system from technical Merino yarns from the Südwolle Group, providing next-to-skin comfort, superior breathability and enhanced protection from the elements. By utilising innovative Merino wool yarns and fabrics, the explorers are able to dress lighter, without losing protective benefits such as warmth.

Adidas Terrex developed the outerwear in collaboration with BYBORRE, supported by The Woolmark Company and GORE-TEX. The outerwear includes weather protection technology from GORE-TEX, along with a wool fleece lining in the trousers and jackets for enhanced thermoregulation, to be worn during the ski phase of the expedition.

The kit has currently undergone lab testing as well as two rounds of extreme wear testing to ensure ultimate performance; the first being a series of high-tech environmental chamber tests and the second during a one-month pre-expedition trip in northern Canada. The wool single jersey base-layer developed has successfully outperformed the single jersey base-layer previously worn by the explorers, securing a reduction in total weight of 18%, an increase in thermal resistance of 26%, a 3% increase in breathability and the dry time and drying rate improved by 28% and 61% respectively. The base and mid-layer fabrics have also undergone Woolmark quality assurance testing.

The kit in its current development phase is on display at The Woolmark Company’s stand at ISPO, Hall A2, Stand 326. Subjective feedback provided by the explorers based on their experience will be used to make any necessary changes to the final kit.

adidas Outdoor General Manger Tim Janaway: “We are very excited to be working with The Dark Ice Project explorers and our great partners within the apparel industry. Obviously the conditions that will be experienced will test both the men and their equipment to the full. The Dark Ice Project exemplifies our belief that performance need not be sacrificed for sustainability. The learnings we will take from this work will help us to develop even better performing, more sustainable products for the outdoor consumer.”

BYBORRE Founder/Designer Borre Akkersdijk: “Only by really understanding the scope of this momentous expedition we are able to engineer the perfect kit for the explorers, from the yarn to the final gear.”

Explorer George Bullard: “Our clothing forms an essential part of this project; indeed, it allows us to survive in the harsh winter on the Arctic Ocean. We are delighted to be able to build and create specialised base and mid-layer garments that are not only sustainably sourced but also traceable from Australian farms to the finished products. This ethos aligns seamlessly with ours.”

GORE-TEX Fabrics/Marketing and Communication Manager South Europe Valentina Savi: “The Dark Ice Project represents for us a new challenge. It combines our ambition to guarantee ‘best in class products’ with the intention of supporting scientific research. We always look to new challenges and we feel proud to help this expedition and the explorers’ team.”

The Woolmark Company Managing Director Stuart McCullough: “The Dark Ice Project not only reinforces The Woolmark Company’s commitment to championing innovation at the fibre, processing and garment stage, but also highlights our dedication to promoting best-practice to ensure minimal impact on the environment. We are proud to have partnered with this group of like-minded global leaders in performance and innovation, challenging and inspiring us in new and unique ways.”

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