posted on January 21, 2007 06:58
The Russians had first reached the center of Antarctica – the Pole of Inaccessibility – in 1958 during the Geophysical Year. They built a hut to house their research activities during their stay, and mounted a life-size bust of Lenin atop the hut as a memorial. They used mechanized snow crawlers to get there, but even with that help, it turned out to be a Herculean task.
UK explorers Henry Cookson, 31, from West Kensington in London, Rory Sweet, 39, from South Cerney, and Rupert Longsdon 34, from Coates, both in Gloucestershire, accompanied by Canadian guide Paul Landry used only skis and kites to travel 1,093 miles to the Pole of Inaccessibility. The team used kites to pull themselves on skis across the polar ice, towing their equipment and food laden banana sleds behind them. Consequently, when there was no wind, they stayed in one place.
"We had three or four days without a breath of wind,” Cookson said. “Our bodies seemed to relax. When we started again, the pain was mind-numbing."
"We saw this black dot on the horizon. It got larger, then we saw this silhouette of the statue,” Cookson explained. “It was so surreal after traveling across 1,750km of flat Antarctic plateau."
The UK Team, which calls itself N2i, completed this challenge to raise money for The Calvert Trust, that provides adventure opportunities for disabled people. They expect to return to the UK on 7 February
While waiting for pickup by air, the team will dig below the Lenin statue to the hut below. Cookson explained that, “In the base there is said to be a golden book, which we will sign if we can get to it."
Looking to the future, Longsdon intends to spend some time with his new bride, Sweet is hoping to break the hot air balloon altitude record, and Cookson just wants to get home safely and in one piece. “Then I'll see what else is tempting,” he said. “There are some fantastic possibilities."