Sun, Aug 28, 2011 - Page 4 News List

British crew rows to magnetic North

‘EXHILARATED’:The team of six began their expedition from Resolute Bay in Canada on July 29, traveling more than 700km to arrive at their Arctic destination on Friday

AFP, LONDON

From left to right, British crew members Mark Delstanche, Billy Gammon, Jock Wishart, Rob Sleep, David Mans and Mark Beaumont pose behind their row boat at the magnetic North Pole, off Canada’s Ellef Ringnes Island, on Friday.

Photo: AFP / OLD PULTENEY ROW TO THE POLE / HO

A six-man British crew celebrated on Friday after becoming the first to row to the magnetic North Pole, completing the 725km journey from northern Canada in just under four weeks.

Crew leader Jock Wishart undertook the expedition to highlight climate change in the Arctic region. Such a journey only became possible in recent years, as a result of an increase in the amount of ice melting in the summer.

The crew encountered polar bears and collided with icebergs as they voyaged through the Arctic waters of northern Canada.

They reached the 1996 magnetic North Pole at 12:30am GMT on Friday.

“It is an enormous achievement, and a privilege for our team to have been part of what is one of the world’s last great firsts,” Wishart said.

“We’re all delighted, all very, very shattered. Everybody’s extremely exhilarated, everybody’s extremely happy and we’ve accomplished a truly great polar first and an ocean row which will go down in the record books,” he added.

The group set out from Resolute Bay on July 29 in a specially designed boat-cum-sledge the Old Pulteney, which has runners on its underside so that it can be hauled over the ice.

They slept in shifts between rowing stints and were fuelled by 7,000 calories per day in dry rations.

The crew saw several polar bears on their journey, one of which came within 1.5m.

The magnetic North Pole constantly changes position but the 1996 location was the first time it had been accurately plotted and the position has become an established objective for Arctic expeditions.

On the final 80km leg, the crew rowed most of the way, but then had to haul their 1.3 tonne boat over 3km of ice rubble in a nine-hour slog.

“There’s been times when we’ve been trying to find our way through moving ice floes in fog and we’re a long, long way from help,” said Wishart, from Dumfries in Scotland. “Now I’m looking forward to a nice pint and a glass of malt whisky when I get home.”

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