April 9, 2010— -- Fifteen-year-old Parker Liautaud and 44-year old David Newman are racing to be the first to check in at the North Pole via popular location-based service Foursquare.
Liautaud and Newman are leveraging recent hype around the platform to drive attention to pressing environmental issues in the Arctic region. Foursquare, in turn, has created a special Last Degree Badge (see above) for the mission, which is expected to conclude over the weekend.
Parker Liautaud was the first to announce his expedition, which began on April 3. Liautaud is a California native and a student at Eton College, an elite boarding school in the UK.
If he succeeds in his mission, he will not only be the first to unlock the Last Degree Badge, he will also be one of the youngest people to ever ski to the Last Degree of the North Pole — period. General Electric is sponsoring Parker's expedition as part of the company's ecomagination initiative.
Liautaud has used several social media channels to get the word out about his journey. He has set up a Facebook Page, The Last Degree, where fans can sign a virtual petition, guess Liautaud's arrival time at the North Pole and submit video pledges to reduce carbon footprint. Liautaud is also posting updates to his Twitter account, YouTube channel and Flickr photostream.
His competitor, David Newman, is CEO of the largest motorcycle insurance company in the United Kingdom, Carole Nash. He has tethered a smartphone to a satellite phone to make sure he'll be able to check in to Foursquare when he reaches the North Pole.
Like Liataud, Newman has also set up a website, Flickr photostream and Twitter account to keep followers abreast of his whereabouts.
Unlike Liataud, however, Nash is walking to the Last Degree, rather than skiing. Newman is self-sponsored and is raising money on behalf of Riders for Health, a charity that provides motorcycle transportation for health workers in Africa, and a brain injury treatment center.
But who will be the first to complete the 60-mile trek from Stormy Barneo to the North Pole?
It's hard to say. Liataud, who is expected to arrive either tomorrow or the day after, tweeted at about 10 a.m. EST: "We've been drifting backwards at a ridiculous pace. At this stage we don't know if we're going to be able to get there."
Four hours earlier, Newman tweeted that he had just arrived in Stormy Barneo.