The New Zealand Thermal Heart Antarctic Expedition of Jamie Fitzgerald (26) and Kevin Biggar (36) achieved on Tuesday their goal of trekking 1.100 kilometers unsupported to the South Pole. They are the first all NZ expedition to reach the South Pole for 50 years.
The Thermal Heart campaign patron Sir Edmund Hillary said of their achievement that it was obvious Jamie and Kevin suffered in the conditions, "But they got to the pole and good on them." "Our planning for this expedition started over two years ago and for the past 12-months we have totally devoted ourselves to ensuring that we would be equal to this task" said Fitzgerald, speaking from Antarctica on his Bearcom satellite phone. "To operate successfully in such an extreme environment as Antarctica requires a combination of meticulous preparation, mental and physical fitness and a measure of good fortune with weather and surface conditions" added Biggar. "We set ourselves a number of goals for this expedition and the one that was up there in lights for us was to walk unsupported to the geographic South Pole. One goal I didn't set was to lose 23kg. I'm very skinny." "To finally get there is a feeling I have difficulty in describing. To say the least we are exhausted but exhilarated with our arrival at the Pole." Fitzgerald added, "I'm overwhelmed, and I know it's a cliche but words can't explain the feeling, I reckon we have earned every bit of our success." Two factors make this even more impressive. Firstly, the unseasonably poor ice conditions, forcing Kevin and Jamie to haul their 160kg sleds through soft snow, and secondly, an injury to Fitzgerald who has walked the last 600km with torn hamstrings. The biggest challenge however has been the 'sastrugi' or ice waves that have formed on the route during the Antarctic winter. The expedition encountered sastrugi variously described as "big as a small house" or the "size of cars". More commonly they were one to two meters in height and haphazardly scattered across the terrain causing the trekkers to try to pick their way through the waves while maintaining their own balance and that of their heavily-laden sleds. The conditions were made that much more difficult on those days where the weather caused a complete whiteout. "We have crossed the Atlantic under our own steam" said Kevin, referring to the pair's success in winning of the 2003 Atlantic Rowing Race from the Canary Islands to Barbados in record time, "and now to walk to the South Pole is another achievement to celebrate with all our supporters and New Zealand
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