Canadian trio claim South Pole record for trans-Antarctic trip

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

MODIS on NASA’s Terra satellite image of a portion of the West Antarctic coastline from about 60 degrees West (left) to about 20 degrees West (right). The image span (left to right) - The Ronne Ice Shelf and Filchner Ice Shelf (the two are separated by Berkner Island, whose outline is barely visible just left of the center of the image), and Coats Land.

A trio of Canadian trekkers said Friday they completed the fastest unaided on-foot trek using the traditional route from Hercules Inlet on the Ronne Ice Shelf to the South Pole in a record time of 33 days, 23 hours and 30 minutes. Ottawa ultra-runner Ray Zahab, age 39, adventure journalist and architect Kevin Vallely, age 44, of Lynn Valley, North Vancouver and North Pole expeditionist Richard Weber, age 49, said they completed the 700-mile (1,130-kilometer) journey, at 10,000 feet altitude, finally arriving early Wednesday morning.

They endured a white-out but survived on a 7,000-calorie-a-day diet of pemmican, Gatorade drink powder, outdated salami, deep-fried bacon, cheese and butter. "If you took a cloud, wrapped it around your head and then duct-taped it, that's what a white-out is like," Mr Zahab, explained. The trio also suffered altitude sickness, vertigo, massive, painful blisters, and temperatures as low as minus 40. Zahab had to pull 170-lb (77-kg) sleds of equipment, traveling on foot and on snowshoes while the other two men skied.

According to ExplorersWeb.com's founder, Tom Sjogren, the trio erased the previous record of 39 days, 7 hours and 49 minutes, which was set by American Todd Carmichael, the first American to cross Antarctica to the South Pole alone, on foot and with no assistance. He arrived at The Pole on December 21, 2008. "They have definitely broken the record," said Sjogren. Guinness World Records spokesman, Damian Field, in London, however, said that "Guinness monitors a category for fastest unsupported trek to the South Pole, but it has no record currently listed."

Prior to Carmichael, the record was held by Briton Hannah McKeand. In the fastest journey to the South Pole (600 nautical mile journey), she completed solo and in just 39 days, 9 hours and 33 minutes. In March 2008 she attempted to reach the North Pole alone and unsupported but had to abandon the trip after falling through the ice and badly damaging her shoulder.

Antarctica. An orthographic projection of NASA's Blue Marble data set.

Ray Zahab is a Canadian ultramarathon runner, personal trainer, and motivational speaker. He lives in Chelsea, Quebec, and is famous for his 4,300-mile (6,920-kilometer) epic run across the Sahara Desert in 2007, which was the subject of a documentary narrated by actor Matt Damon's "Running the Sahara." He heads Impossible2Possible, a nonprofit organization which advocates planet protection. "I started looking at impossible places on the planet in the past year, and I said Antarctica is one of those impossible places, and if we can create an expedition, perhaps we can inspire a bunch of young people to realize they can achieve,' Zahab said.

Richard Weber, M.S.M. (born June 9, 1959 in Edmonton, Alberta) is a world-renowned Canadian Arctic and polar adventurer, from Alcove (near Wakefield). From 1978 to 2006, he participated in, lead and organized more than 45 Arctic expeditions. Richard is the only person to have completed six full North Pole expeditions. He has therefore trekked to the North Pole more than anyone in history.

The trio were waiting out a storm before boarding a flight to Chile for Ottawa. "I'm pretty tired, actually," said Kevin Vallely, calling from Patriot Hills, Antarctica. During the saga, Vallely was solely burdened with carrying the high-tech gear in his sled consisting of video cameras, satellite phones, hand-held computers, different kinds of solar panels, batteries and wires chargers. "Had we not brought all that stuff we probably would have got it done faster because we wouldn't have had to carry all that weight, but then it doesn't matter as much," he explained. Vallely said he also intends to produce a documentary of the expedition.


Sources

Wikipedia Learn more about Antarctica and Ronne Ice Shelf on Wikipedia.
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