A SCHOOL mascot has joined a team of explorers led by Sir Ranulph Fiennes who will endure a six month trek across Antarctica.

Staff and pupils at St Mary's Catholic Primary School, Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, gave a small woollen mouse to the team.

The exploration team will carry the mouse on the Coldest Journey tour, which started today (December 6).

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Headteacher Barbara Reilly-O'Donnell said: “The whole thing began when Durham County Council began to put together an educational pack for schools to use alongside the trek.

“One of the school’s teachers, Debra Hargreaves, was involved with this. The children were interested in the scheme and they wrote stories about the expedition.

“We discovered that one of Captain Robert Scott’s team carried a small mascot penguin on his ill fated trip to the South Pole in 1912.

“So the children wrote to the explorers inviting them to carry a 15cm high woollen copy of the school’s mascot.

“The grandmother of pupil Serenna Kennedy made the woollen mouse which has a Duffel coat and skis.

“We’re absolutely thrilled that they are taking the mouse across the Antarctic. We’re not sure what will happen to the mouse at the end of the journey."

The explorers left London today on the SA Agulhas and will travel across the Antarctic in temperatures of minus 70C during the trek.

Mrs Reilly-O'Donnell, Mrs Hargreaves and pupils Mia Brewster and Nicolas Salmon, both eight, met the explorers in London to hand over the mascot.