Freezing South Pole hike underway

2012-01-19 00:00

GEORGE — A group of South Africans started walking to the South Pole, a theoretical point in Antarctica on Monday in aid of The Unlimited Child, a charity that promotes the pre-school education of children.

They hope to reach the South Pole next Tuesday on January 24.

The adventurers include Dr Peter Berning, a medical doctor from Plettenberg Bay, Nzuzo Mnikathi from KwaZulu-Natal, Iain Buchan and his sons, Barney and Zack, the film producer Sean Wisedale and the expedition leader Dave Pritt.

If the group succeeds, Mnikathi (19) will become the youngest black South African to reach the South Pole, said

Christel Liebenberg, spokesperson for The Unlimited Child, said the group on Sunday flew in a Douglas DC3 cargo plane to 89° South, an ice runway maintained for the large Ilyushin Antarctic service jet.

Their flight from the base camp at the Union-glacier took three hours.

Buchan on Monday described their camp: “There is nothing around us, except snow.”

The team camped where they landed and officially started walking the 111 km to the pole on Monday.

Liebenberg said the temperature was a relatively normal -29°C on Sunday and the sun, which is not setting was standing still on 90°. The team are still acclimatising to the extreme cold. On Monday the temperature dropped to about -35°C with a 16 km/h wind adding to the wind chill factor.

They will initially feel the effects of mountain sickness because of the combined effects of lesser centrifugal force of the earth’s spin that makes air pressures lower at the poles, and their relatively high altitude of about 2500 metres, (Johannesburg is 1740 metres above Durban’s beaches).

Commenting on the vast emptiness of the icy Antarctic desert, Mnikathi on Monday pointed out they were the only living beings there.“There are no animals, we are the only animals here,” he said on his recording and emphasised: “It is VERY cold.”

The group’s trek to the South Pole happens during the centennial anniversary of Captain Robert Scott’s legendery walk to the South Pole on January 17, 1912.

They will hand the British Union Jack to researchers at the Amundsen-Scott Research Station, named after Scott and the legendary Nordic discoverer Roald Amundsen.

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