Four thrill-seeking Scouts from Hampshire are embarking on the adventure of a lifetime, as they bid to become the first Scout team to ski unassisted from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole, and back, in 2018.

Nigel Atkinson, the Lord-Lieutenant of Hampshire, officially launched the start of this life-changing expedition with a special ceremony at The Langrish House Hotel near Petersfield.

The trepid young explorers – David Holmes-Evans from Poole, Joe Doherty from Andover, Matt Prince from Winchester, and Oliver Robinson from Portsmouth – have also attracted supporters such as Peter Duncan (former Chief Scout and Blue Peter presenter), adventurer James Ketchell, and Dr Mike Stroud, who made the first unsupported crossing in history with Sir Ranulph Fiennes in the early 1990s.

Now with just 18 months of training ahead of them, the Scouts are busily securing the necessary sponsorship for the journey, which will see them endure temperatures as low as -50C and winds speeds of more than 80 miles per hour in perpetual daylight.

The team, aged 23 to 26, will haul 100 kilos of food, fuel and equipment more than 700 miles from the coast of Antarctica at Hercules Inlet (the southern tip of the Ronne Ice Shelf) to the Geographic South Pole for a distance of over 700 miles. Using the prevailing trade winds, the Scouts plan to kite-ski the return journey.

The team has set themselves 60 days to complete their challenge, while raising awareness for the Motor Neurone Disease Association.

Scouting in Hampshire has a surprising expedition history, travelling 39,450 miles to 15 countries and territories alone in 2015 – even reaching the summit of Everest in the past.