19 Jan 2009

Shackleton team descendants reach the South Pole

5:45 pm on 19 January 2009

Three descendants of legendary Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton reached the South Pole on Sunday, 100 years after the original expedition.

The three men trekked on foot across Antarctica. The original attempt, a century earlier, ended when the Anglo-Irish pioneer was forced to turn back 97 nautical miles (180km) from the pole, setting a new furthest south record in the process.

Henry Worsley, 47, Will Gow, 35, and Henry Adams, 34, arrived at the South Pole at 0900 GMT on Sunday.

Expedition leader Henry Worsley, an army officer, is a descendant of Frank Worsley, Shackleton's skipper on the Endurance, the ship used in a following Polar expedition in 1914.

"The past 65 days have been physically gruelling and mentally exhausting, but this moment makes it all very, very worthwhile," he told AFP via satellite phone.

"Ever since I was a child, completing this journey has been my lifetime ambition.

"To stand here, with Shackleton's own compass, which never made it to this point all those years ago, is a humbling experience."

The Nimrod Expedition of 1908-1909, the first of Shackleton's ill-fated attempts to reach the South Pole, got further south than anyone had ever been before. The descendants followed the same route.

Only two previous expeditions have succeeded in reaching the pole along this route: Captain Robert Scott's in 1912 and Robert Swan's in 1986.

On 9 January, exactly one century on, the trio reached the same spot where Shackleton's team were forced to turn back in dreadful conditions and with limited food.

Rather than the ponies and dogs of Shackleton's era, the modern crew has state-of-the-art equipment and navigational aids.

Three other other members of their expedition - Shackleton team descendants David Cornell, 38, Tim Fright, 25, as well as Andrew Ledger, 23 - flew out to the 97-nautical-mile point on 9 January to complete the final leg. They were expected to reach the South Pole by late Monday.