November 18: The year 2000 was ushered in with much fanfare throughout the world. Hotels in famous tourist spots were booked months in advance; the ones in cities planned glorious events lasting for days and nights.

Though there were doubts whether 2000 was really the start of the new millennium it was quickly shushed as the celebration fever was catchy. People all over went a little crazy wondering what to do at the hour when the clock would announce the arrival of the new year. Some couples even got married at the precise hour to make their celebration of year 2000 memorable.

New Year in South Pole
New Year in South Pole [Illustration by Sudheer Nath]
Now, eight people are planning to celebrate year 2001 in an even more unusual way. This athletic bunch of young adults, aged 20 to 25 years, is on their way to the South Pole, where they plan to usher in year 2001.

The brainchild of Canadian Martyn Williams, one of the foremost expedition leaders in the world, this polar trek, aptly dubbed Pole to Pole 2000, is quite adventurous. Martyn became the first person in the world to lead successful expeditions to the three extremes: the North Pole, South Pole, and Mount Everest. Besides, he is the founder of Adventure Network International, which has been involved with expeditions to the South Pole for the past 10 years.

Eight enthusiasts were selected from seven nations around the world. They underwent exhaustive training in Canada before starting out on April 5, 2000. The team plans to cover the 24,000 miles from Canada to the South Pole by ski, foot, bicycle and kayak besides helping with environmental and social projects along the way!

En route in the last few months, the eight have already worked on different projects: river cleanups, tree planting, assisting non-governmental organisations and other environmental and relief efforts.

The eight have also given seminars in schools and colleges to spread their message. The expedition, however, doesn’t end on December 31, 2000 at the South Pole. Instead it will continue into the year 2001 too! However, part two of the expedition (which will begin on January 1st, 2001) will see the team leave the South Pole to travel through Africa and Europe to reach the North Pole, by May 2002, 17 months later.

The reason why the explorers want to make their celebration of year 2001 special is due to the significance of the year. It is going to usher in the new millennium or 21st century. Many people argue that the new millennium starts with year 2000. But the Gregorian calendar says they are wrong. The Gregorian calendar is the system against which years are counted. A scholar named Dionysius Exiguus established it in the 6th century AD and it is being used ever since.

The system used Roman numerals which does not have the numeral zero. The millennium therefore starts with year 1 and there is no year zero (0). The year before 1 AD was therefore, 1 BC. By this reasoning, January 1, of year 1 is defined to be the start of the 1st century and the first millennium. Because a millennium is 1000 years, the first millennium ends with year 1000. And now, the third one starts in year 2001.

But these technicalities did not bother the revellers out to have a good time on January 1, 2000. They’ve had one frenzied bout of celebrations this year and they intend to have another frenzied bout this year too! Unlike the team of eight, they have no meaningful plan of action lined up to usher in the millennium. Just some wild partying to do.