Explorer Louis-Philippe Loncke braves the Tasmanian wilderness
In a world first attempt to traverse Tasmania during Winter, Louis-Philippe Loncke will attempt to conquer the harsh elements while providing data for a cognitive research experiment on decision making under stress in extreme environments.
Just a handful of days into his journey, the Belgian adventurer Louis-Philippe Loncke (41) has embarked on his 16th expedition by attempting to walk and packraft across Tasmania from the town of Penguin to the South Cape of the island. Starting with a backpack of 65 kilograms containing food, gas, winter camping and packraft equipment (a small inflatable boat), Loncke will document the journey by film.
Without packing any extra food, sleeping only in his tent and not avoiding the use of regular vehicle-friendly roads, the journey will follow linked official hiking trails with off-track terrain.
Every 3 days he will conduct a batch of psychological tests to measure several cognitive aspects of his brain. The conditions of the expedition (weather, terrain) will act as a catalyst to accelerate him toward burnout and being alone will allow him to be isolated from any external mental encouragement.
Louis-Philippe knows that carrying a heavy backpack is hard. He claims that while “20-40kg it is heavy, above 40kg it is constant pain, I have to stop every hour the pressure on the shoulders becomes unbearable…below 20kg I feel like flying.” With 40 days-worth of food and gas on his back, Loncke certainly has a tough journey ahead.
The terrain of South-West Tasmania is notorious for its horizontal scrub, dense ancient forest, and harsh plants which make progression incredibly demanding. Loncke will be tackling what Tasmanians refer to as ‘bushbashing’, which is pushing vegetation and small trees to the side as you slowly make headway through the undergrowth.
During Winter, Tasmania receives most of its annual precipitation, meaning Loncke will likely face relentless, heavy snowfall or rain for days. The terrain is muddy, swampy and rivers rise quickly; several gorges have been known to rise several meters in a few short hours.
#Iceland 2010. This @wechsel_tents is model #Pathfinder-Zero-G-Line. The light version of the model. I used it on Everest, Salars, Iceland, Titicaca, Poland and Rio Marañon #expeditions. Now for #TasmaniaWinterTrek they sponsored me with the heavier Pathfinder-Unlimited model. Why do I want heavier? Because it is actually super strong, so strong I feel I can sit on it. And it will protect me against the wet in Tasmania.
Currently weighing in at 83 kilograms Louis-Philippe knows he could lose between 10 and 20 kilograms over the expedition, he has gained 10kg extra mass to try and preemptively balance out inevitable calorie-loss. As he cannot carry enough food to provide him with sufficient calories for the journey, having the calories as fat on him is the best strategy as fat in the body is the lightest form of calorie resource.
“I know I will suffer on this expedition and it is certainly the most difficult I have planned. The probability of reaching the South Cape is very small but adventure is about taking risks. If it was easy, it would have been done before and I can only learn something new if it is difficult. There are a lot of dangers in Tasmania and even at the start with a heavy backpack I could fall and injure myself badly. So I will go as far as I can.”
Despite what you may think, the bodies of water along this route can be risky but they also have their advantages. The most dangerous part of the expeditions is the Gordon Gorge on the upper Gordon river which boasts several large rapids and dangerous obstacles like logs and boulders. To increase speed and “relax” his legs and shoulders, paddling can give provide a much-needed break. Louis-Philippe will wear an expedition drysuit when on the river and lakes to avoid hypothermia should he be unlucky and fall into the water.
Luck certainly favours the prepared, and Loncke appreciates that a meticulous approach to planning is vital, “I have a solution for each problem that I think I will face. Of course, I cannot think of all problems so I will have to be creative then and find proper solution to continue the expedition.”
Science and Research: Decision taking under stress in extreme environment
For the third time he will be the “outdoor lab-rat” of Prof. Cécile Vallet from “La maison des Sciences de l’Homme,” a psychology researcher from the University of Paris. The aim is to measure how different elements like the cold, isolation, hunger, dehydration, sleep deprivation and other factors impact our ‘common thinking skills’ or cognitive thinking. Putting the explorer under heavy and almost constant stress, we will observe the evolution over the expedition and see how it potentially his memory, focus, learning ability, and speech fluency are affected.
In short, the study will help to detect burnout (extreme exhaustion) with the aim of avoidance by prevention, and the selection of stress resistant candidates for very stressful and unknown situations like exploring Mars.
Louis-Philippe will write a small text each day and it will be automatically posted at three online locations:
About Louis-Philippe Loncke
Loncke began doing expeditions in 2006 in Australia and quickly earned the nickname “The Crazy Belgian” by locals as he was attempting long-distance solo and unsupported treks. He was noticed in 2008 when he crossed the Simpson desert as the longest distance passing through the center without following 4WD vehicle tracks.
In Munich February 2017, he received the “European Adventurer of the Year” award for his 2016 crossings of 3 extreme deserts. He lives in Brussels, Belgium and works currently as a consultant in Data Protection (GDPR).
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