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Readers note: This is an excerpt from the Trailblazers: Australia’s 50 Greatest Explorers exhibition, developed in 2015. This content was written as a brief biography on why this person was included in the exhibition.

These two young Aussie adventurers were the first to kayak unsupported from Australia to New Zealand, and then completed the first unsupported walk to the South Pole and back.

James John ‘Cas’ Castrission (born 14 March 1982) and Justin Roderick ‘Jonesy’ Jones (born 20 June 1983) met as teenagers at Knox Grammar School in Sydney. They both loved the outdoors, joined the cadets and after leaving school went on bushwalking and kayaking expeditions together.


The first to walk unsupported to the South Pole and back.

Image: Castrission and Jones
© Justin Jones and James Castrission

In 2001–02, they became the first to paddle the full length of the Murray River – 2560 kilometres. After mountaineering expeditions in New Zealand and America, they paddled 350 kilometres across Bass Strait in a double kayak in 2006.

This led to their major expedition in 2007–08 – an unsupported paddle from Forster, on the New South Wales north coast, to New Plymouth, New Zealand. For 62 days they lived in their double kayak, battered by 10-metre waves and 50-knot winds as they completed the 3318-kilometre trip. When the pump that provided their fresh water broke, they didn’t give up, but manually pumped salt water through a desalinator for three hours a day.

In 2012, Cas and Jonesy set out on an attempt to ski, unsupported, from the Antarctic coast to the South Pole and back. Several had attempted this feat before, but no one had completed the 2275-kilometre journey. Pulling loads that started at 160 kilograms, they skied through temperatures down to –40 °C and lost 55 kilograms of bodyweight between them, but became the youngest team to reach the South Pole.

They made it back to the coast in a total of 89 days. Solo Norwegian adventurer Aleksander Gamme was completing a similar expedition at the same time. Although the two groups were theoretically rivals and despite the fact that he was several days ahead of Cas and Jonesy, Gamme graciously waited for them a few kilometres from the coast so they could complete the epic journey, and go into the record books, together.

Adventures haven’t stopped for these two, and in 2013 they completed the first on-foot crossing of the largest blackwater swamp in North America – Okefenokee Swamp, straddling the border between Georgia and Florida – sleeping in hammocks above the swamp and encountering bears, snakes and alligators.

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