PECS is a self-management tool that gives clear and concise guidance on how to label, promote and immortalise, accurately categorise and communicate your journey. Although PECS is managed by a committee of polar expedition specialists it does not monitor expeditions, instead relying on the integrity of expeditioners to follow PECS guidelines.
While polar journeys that do not engage with the public or media and do not use language that compares theirs to others are not obliged to abide by the Code of Integrity, they are encouraged to conduct their journey with similar ethics in mind if they choose to.
1. Don’t off-load illicitly
If expeditioners off-load rubbish along the way in order to minimise weight they not only lose Unsupported status but have breached a code of integrity. Dumping of rubbish or unneeded equipment breaches the principles of self-sufficiency and environmental respect that underpin the best expeditions.
Burial of human waste is largely accepted except south of 89ºS.
2. Use of outside help to make operational decisions
Journeys that do not utilise kites or sails should minimise their use of a communication device as a decision-making tool (eg. receiving navigation data and excessive weather reports en route). Doing so does not alter Unsupported status but shows a high level of dependence.
Kiting and sailing journeys often plan routes and make tactical decisions with the help of specialist weather forecasters and meteorologists, much like mountaineering expeditions and sailing ventures. Such use of outside help is considered an essential part of such journeys.
Self-reliance, including restrained use of communications devices, is a fundamental trait of successful polar expeditioners.
3. Minimise contact with friends and family
Persistent calls to family and friends is not regarded as Support but shows a high level of
psychological dependence. While some communication with family or support teams at home may be necessary, thought should be given to the degree to which this psychologically removes you from the place you have worked so hard to be in. Remoteness and isolation are key factors in making polar expeditions a significant achievement.
In addition, a high degree of communication with people at home cultivates dependence on that contact and if such frequency is disrupted by equipment failure, minor delays or other non-critical interruptions, it may cause unnecessary distress or unwarranted intervention to your expedition.
PECS recommends following the scheduled call protocol dictated by your official logistics support (one call with an included weather report per day) and a rational amount of calls and electronic contact to satisfy family and media obligations (one per day).
4. Treat each team member with care and respect
Injury and illness requiring evacuation are a possibility on any journey and an unfortunate consequence is the loss of Unsupported status.
It is unethical for the team to delay medical attention for fear of losing its status and may have legal and financial ramifications.
Accidents and illness happen, accept the consequences and make honourable decisions.
5. Inform your followers promptly of any changes to your PECS status
It is your responsibility to make clear to media that changes in the logistics or style of your expedition might change how it is portrayed and that any proposed claims may now become impossible to meet. Omitting such notification is the same as making a false claim. If an Unsupported journey is blogging daily up until a forced resupply renders it Supported, then it should inform followers of this change in a timely manner.
6. Share the lead or offset your route
If two teams are forced to share the same route (eg. following a tight glacier, logistical constraints) the slower team should where possible avoid following in the tracks of the first. If the lead can’t be shared then the slower team should consider offsetting their route to maintain a sense of wilderness and self-sufficiency.
7. Solo is solo
A soloist may not tack onto another team or soloist and still claim to be solo, he/she should be breaking trail for the majority of the route. Solo means being alone for the full length of the journey. Fleeting encounters are acceptable however they should be no more than swift greetings with no exchange of route information. If a soloist is forced to camp next to another team due to a confined campsite (narrow valley or crevassed area) this should be no longer than one night unless forced to remain due to a blizzard.
8. Don’t follow a road if you are Unsupported.
If an Unsupported team follows the SPoT route for a few kilometres to get some relief from sastrugi, or a disoriented team uses the route as a handrail, Unsupported status will be lost. Any use of an established route except when following explicit instructions from a station/base, is regarded as Support. So too is entering buildings, aircraft and vehicles, or tents other than your own/own team (except when instructed to do so as a condition of logistics support, such as at the South Pole).
The use of GPS way-pointed routes is common but is considered a greater form of dependence than travelling without the use of one.
9. Carbon footprint reduction
Environmental impacts pre- and post-journey are not classified under this scheme however carbon footprint reduction is encouraged for all phases of an expedition including travel to and from the expedition. Any commentary on carbon responsibility can include the ethic of being unmotorised. Environmental impacts during the expedition can be managed by a range of options including: flight sharing, consulting on good practice for human waste, minimising use of disposable batteries, mitigating stove fuel spillages, etc.
10. Leave environmental entities and historical artefacts in situ
State and national parks and historic or abandoned sites exist in many polar regions. The removal of any environmental entity or historical artefact is not only a breach of integrity but may be illegal or contravene your permit. Leave things the way you found them.
It is incumbent on every expeditioner to understand the impacts of their journey on the environment and have full knowledge of permit requirements and/or local laws, including restricted areas such as AMSA’s, approach routes, Inuit sacred sites etc. Do your homework!
11. Know your history
Avoid having claims questioned by thoroughly researching who has gone before you. If attempting a new route or striving to set or break a record be certain that your claim is valid.
12. No place for fiction
Any unmechanised polar journey is difficult and needs no embellishment. Exaggerating the scope and difficulty of your journey or altering distances, durations, speed and temperatures during or after completion are not acceptable.
Professional expeditioners and guides report still-air temperatures and not wind-chill adjusted figures. Temperature and wind should be reported separately and if circumstances dictate the reporting of wind-chill temperature then this should be qualified in the report eg. wind-chill of -64C.
Portraying your journey accurately online, to media and to sponsors - before, during and after - is a sign of integrity.
13. Guided journeys
A guided journey is not considered Supported because the term does not apply to the guide. However the apportioning of planning, skill and risk is often vastly different between client and guide and this must be acknowledged when promoting and immortalising a journey. Clients are beholden to the same code of integrity as non-guided adventurers and guides.
14. Killing wildlife
Indiscriminate killing or harassment of animals during a polar journey is unacceptable and not tolerated by PECS.
All animals in Antarctica are protected. Killing Antarctic wildlife is illegal and may result in prosecution and permits enforce visitor behaviours around wildlife. You must be familiar with the obligations of your permit.
Self-defence killing is widely permitted though you must have good evidence to support this claim.