Team QinetiQ conquer the South Pole
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23 Jan 2009
British novices Cracknell, Fogle and Coats pipped to the Pole by Norwegian experts
Team QinetiQ reached the South Pole late yesterday, after racing 464 miles in temperatures as low as -40 degrees, against five other international teams. They completed the Amundsen Omega 3 South Pole Race, in second place behind a Norwegian team, in 18 days, 5 hours and 30 minutes.
During the challenge, Team QinetiQ – James Cracknell, Ben Fogle and Bristol-based hospital doctor Ed Coats, faced constant challenges including biting winds, bitterly cold temperatures and crevasse fields. Covering up to 43 miles a day and climbing up to 9,300ft, the team pulled 70 kg pulk-sleds for 16 hours every day, pitched tents and cooked in such extreme conditions on little more than four hours sleep a day.
Speaking from the Pole Ben Fogle said: "You forget how dangerous Antarctica can be. I got away with it better than others but it finds little weaknesses. Sitting now in a tent by the South Pole we can barely keep our eyes open, but I feel incredibly contented."
As history repeated itself, Team QinetiQ arrived in second place to Missing Link – two Norwegian polar experts who arrived ahead of the British team by just 20 hours. After planting their flag at the pole, Team Missing Link thanked Team QinetiQ for making the race so competitive. This was the first race to the South Pole since Scott and Amundsen’s historic race nearly 100 years ago, when Roald Amundsen arrived at the Pole in December 1911 and Robert Scott on January 17, 1912.
James Cracknell said: "For most of the race we had no idea where we were in relation to the Norwegians. Then we saw their tracks and realised they were ahead. They had a lot of history to uphold."
Team QinetiQ, who had no polar experience before they set out from the UK in December, worked with QinetiQ Human Performance experts to fully prepare for the race, both physically and mentally. This included a 48 hour Antarctic training assessment at -40 degrees in the QinetiQ environmental climate chamber, fitness assessments, nutritional and sleep advice and psychological support on working as a team.
Shane Slater, Sales and Marketing Director for QinetiQ said: "This is a great achievement for a team who have never set foot in Antarctica before. Reaching the South Pole after racing across the largest ice cap in the world, in such extreme conditions is outstanding. Congratulations to the Team and to the experts here at QinetiQ who not only ensured the team completed the race safely, but actually helped them to be in contention to win it."
Team QinetiQ is raising money for the children’s charity Sparks www.sparks.org.uk. Their journey is being filmed for a documentary, ‘On Thin Ice’ which will be broadcast in Spring/Summer 2009 on BBC 2.