British adventurer Hannah McKeand, 33, made polar history on Thursday when she became the fastest person ever to reach the Geographic South Pole solo and unsupported.
Hannah from Newbury, Berkshire reached the Amundsen-Scott Research Station that marks the Pole, having covered the 1.100 kilometre journey from Hercules Inlet in just 39 days, 9 hours and 33 minutes, shaving nearly two days off the current world record held by another British national, Fiona Thornwill. Setting out on November 19, Hannah spent nearly six weeks travelling across the Antarctic icecap alone and without any form of external assistance or support. She braved minus 35 degree temperatures, thick fog and very demanding ice rubble. Attempting to drag a 100-kg/16-stone sledge for 12 hours a day through such terrain takes immense strength and stamina, a task made all the more difficult by the zero visibility conditions. Upon arriving at the Pole, talking via satellite phone, Hannah said "It's great to have finally reached my destination. It's been an absolute privilege to be in such a pristine and unique part of the planet". "I have kept a very tiny bundle of passport sized photos of my friends and family with me at all times, as well as my grandfather's Royal Flying Corps wings. Both my grandfathers were real heroes - nothing comes close to the things that they saw and did in the wars". "I'd been before to Antarctica and I love the place and wanted to return and spend more time. My purpose was not necessarily to establish a record but it certainly is the cherry of the pie", she said. Two issues that make Hannah's accomplishment all the more significant are that Hannah chose to complete this journey unsupported and by herself. Her decision to complete an unsupported expedition means that she has had to carry everything needed for the full duration of the trip. Dragging such a load uphill to the Pole and confronting the ever-changing Antarctic terrain meant that Hannah burnt as much as 6,000-8,000 calories a day. The decision to complete the journey solo has meant that Hannah had no team mates to provide emotional or physical support during times of hardship. Hannah had Harry Potter and Stephen Fry to spur her on most of the way, as she was listening to music and audio books on her i-Pod player but it broke down before Christmas. She resorted to singing Carols to herself for hours on end instead which she recounted on her website.