After 18 months of planning, our objective to reach the south pole was accomplished on Wednesday 14th January at 11.59 local time. The final stage of this historic journey culminated in a symbolic walk by myself, ably assisted by Miles Peckham, the Chairman of The Muscular Help Foundation. The walk to the Geographic South Pole was a distance of 310 metres, each metre representing approximately 10,000 people worldwide who suffer from the debilitating muscle wasting disease, Muscular Dystrophy.
After 5 nights of waiting in the deep freeze of Antarctica at 80 degrees South, our base camp at Patriot Hills, our meteological expert Yako confidently announced a window of clear weather. The team departed on board a Twin Otter.
Our flight took us via the stunningly beautiful Thiel Mountains where the aircraft was swiftly refuelled by hand from a cache of avgas. The weather window was holding and conditions near to our drop-off point were considered ‘suitable’ for ‘a’ landing on the ice. With good visibility, the aircraft safely touched down approximately 5 kilometres from the South Pole, avoiding the severe sastrugi previously reported. Sastrugi are sharp undulations in the ice carved out by the biting Antarctic winds.
We unloaded our equipment including a specially modified pulk [otherwise known as a sledge], to enable the team to literally man-haul me across the ice. Despite the temperature being minus 30 degrees Celsius with wind chill factor taking the temperature down to an extremely numbing minus 46 degrees, the team pulled me with immense determination and spirit. The sastrugi mentioned earlier proved to be every bit as menacing as we had previously been warned and as a result, the pulk with me in it tipped over frequently en route, requiring considerable physical effort to right it before being able to move on.
After several hours of arduous endeavour, we finally arrived at the point at which Miles and myself were to commence our symbolic walk. The combination of altitude and fatigue did not deter us from our goal and although it took longer than expected and fully 45 minutes to walk the last 310 metres, the outcome was achieved with resolve.
And thus I am delighted to say that standing here at the South Pole, a tremendous sense of fulfilment prevails … indeed, in the words of Ernest Shackleton “Difficulties are just things to overcome” – pole2pole’s success is the result of considerable teamwork, passion, belief and a strong sense of commitment to ensuring the continued development of The Muscular Help Foundation.
Our mantra as most of you are aware is “use a muscle to save a muscle” … and I now know that there has never been a better time in our short history to better illustrate the real meaning behind these words … in essence, muscles have indeed been used to enable the pole2pole team to reach the South Pole … but now is the beginning of the Foundations journey to ensure that muscles are truly saved by raising those funds to which we have committed
This is Michael McGrath and the pole2pole team feeling on top of the world but reporting from the very bottom of the world!
Our next audio update will be posted on our return to the base camp at Patriot Hills
“Pole2pole is about what people can do, not what people can’t do”