Floating Leeds Land Rover circumnavigates globe

A FARMER from West Yorkshire is set to make history after taking on an incredible journey with a twist.

After six years of planning, Steve Burgess is about to embark on an amazing overland trip in a Land Rover – with a short, and pioneering, sea trip in the middle.

The 52-year-old sets off from his farm in Mirfield on January 29 in the purpose-built vehicle, travelling more than 30,000 miles to the southern tip of South America via Russia.

During his 12-month adventure Steve will embark on a perilous and unique feat. He aims to be the first person to cross the Bering Strait – the 56 miles of water that separate East from West between Siberia and Alaska – in a road vehicle. His Land Rover has been specially converted so that it floats.

"We needed to prove we could sail it across the Bering Strait," he said.

"In 2004 we built a prototype and crossed the Irish Sea which is about 25 miles. It just floats across; it has two big air bags and a propeller and it worked perfectly.

"It took us two years to build and get it right then we approached the Russians and it's taken two years of non-stop negotiations to get permission to do this."

The Land Rover can also be fitted with tracks to cross the snow and ice of Siberia.

Steve estimates the journey will cost 250,000. "The cost is so great I have had to raise money in sponsorship. The Bering Strait will be the main thing and the bit I am most looking forward to."

And the idea behind the expedition? "It's boys with their toys," laughs Steve, a beef cattle farmer. "I love travelling and experiencing other cultures and places.

"This started when I was looking at a map and saw that there is only a bit of sea.

But one drawback is that partner Nicky Spinks, 40, is to stay home and look after the farm.

"I'll miss Nicky," said Steve. "She will come to Moscow but she's not going to do the crossing. She was going to come the whole way but I took her to Alaska in January when it was -28 degrees and she said 'Count me out! It's too cold!'

The expedition's route goes through the Netherlands, Germany , Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Russia, The Bering Strait, Alaska, Canada, USA, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina and finally Chile, ending at Cape Horn. For more details go to www.capetocape.org.uk.

Paula Dillon, President of Leeds Chamber Commerce.

New Chamber of Commerce boss Dillon calls for far more women in STEM jobs