A former Royal Marine battling Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is about to embark on the third stage of his record attempt to cross the world's five largest islands completely unsupported thanks to Help for Heroes funding.
Louis Nethercott, 28, of Wiltshire, will today begin his trek across Madagascar, travelling east to west following the historical lighthouses scattered across the coastline. He will be relying solely on human power to do so. He is being supported in his world record attempt by military charity, Help for Heroes, who have grant funded £10,000 for the expedition, the likes of which has never been attempted before. Help for Heroes is driven by the belief that those who put their lives on the line for us, deserve a second chance at life for them and their families.
He has already completed a 40-day gruelling trek across 1,395km of unforgiving jungle in Borneo, the first island in his Expedition Five challenge, and has traversed across Papua New Guinea, the second largest island on the planet at approximately 785,753 square kilometres. He is attempting to complete the challenge with his former comrade Anthony Lambert.
Louis, who grew up in Bristol and now lives in Shipton Bellinger, Wiltshire, will continue his challenge in Greenland and Baffin Island in 2018. He recently began a new job at Help for Heroes, helping injured and sick veterans and service personnel regain their purpose and future outside of the Armed Forces.
Louis and Ant will start their crossing in the northeast of Madagascar at the Cap Est lighthouse. They will then trek south, circumventing the Masoala peninsula before contouring the Bay of Antongil. They will go through the central highlands, climb to an elevation of 1,500 metres and continue onto Vilamatsa before navigating a 2,300km squared area of primary rainforest.
“We will carry all of our equipment for the crossing and plan our journey to include water sources and food resupplies along the way,” Louis explained.
“We know we are likely to confront a huge spectrum of unique and challenging environments. This will include massive granite outcrops, desert expanses, extinct volcanoes, alluvial plains and marshes, untouched rainforest and not forgetting the myriad of interesting and dangerous creatures we are likely to find!”
For Louis, this challenge means more than just setting a world record – it is a sign of how far he has come after a deployment to Afghanistan left him living with PTSD. Louis joined the military when he was just 17 and 10-year military career took him all over the globe, including Europe, India, America, Africa, Norway and the Middle and Far East. During his deployment to Afghanistan in 2011 with 42 commando, he was involved in some of the most intense combat on the Herrick 14 campaign and it left a lasting mark.
“When I left the Royal Marines, I wanted a challenge to focus on and I wanted it to be unique,” Louis explained. “The pivotal point in my recovery was Help for Heroes helping me recognise my new direction and a new purpose. With their support, I was empowered to realise that I could still make a positive impact in society.
“We join the marines to push ourselves physically and mentally. When I left, that challenge just disappeared. So I wanted to replace it with something I am passionate about. Expedition Five has given me that drive back and is helping me to unleash the skills I still possess from my military days.
“The first two islands were extremely tough but you get more motivated to complete the mission as time goes on. Seeing parts of the world people have never been to before is incredibly exciting and doing something nobody else has done before gives you that extra push when times get tough. It’s helping me appreciate the simple things in life again; water when you’re thirsty, food when you’re hungry and a bed when you’re tired.”
Explaining one of his main motivations for tackling Expedition Five, Louis said: “It is so important to me to inspire other guys who have battled similar problems to me. I want to show everybody that despite experiencing a setback, life is not over if you don’t want it to be.
“It is about looking the dark days in the eye and saying you’ve come out the other end stronger.”
Louis and Anthony are raising money for Help for Heroes and The Royal Marines Charity. You can donate here.