The 17-day journey was completed using the same methods and kit as used by Scott. Heavy wooden sledges lashed together with flax, gut and leather carried their reindeer-skin sleeping bags and canvas tent. Skis were made of birch and hickory and they steered by traditional theodolite and sextant navigation. In their kit, the team made an unusual sights and Simon reported on their arrival:
We were greeted by two Swedish scientists from the American Amundsen-Scott base who skied enthusiastically up to us and radioed back to the South Pole calling out: “The Brits are here!”.
We marched on, chatting to the first signs of human life we had seen for 17 days – it was wonderful. As we approached the Pole, scientists, technicians and workers from the Scientific Centre poured out, all with cameras to take photos of a sight which hasn’t been seen since Captain Scott and his team approached the Pole on 17th January 1912. For me, the approach to the Pole, having hauled almost 200 miles across the most inhospitable land in the world, was full of emotion – hard to summarise but my goggles filled up with emotion and I couldn’t see.
Simon’s team mates were friends James Daly, Ed Farquhar and Roger Weatherby. They were accompanied by polar guide Geoff Somers. Unfortunately the million pound target was missed – but just under £900,000 was raised; a remarkable achievement. Upon their return, the team gave a series of lectures around the country including the Royal Georgraphical Society in London.
Captain Robert Falcon Scott set sail for the Antartic in 1910 with the aim of being the first person to reach the South Pole, and to plant the British flag on Earth’s last great wilderness. The expedition developed into a “Race to the Pole” with Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, who had a head start. After delays, Scott and his team reached the Pole on January 17, 1912 (see picture below) – but found they had been beaten by the Norwegian. On the journey back, Scott and his team succumbed to starvation and extreme cold.
Simon’s primary motivation for the Polar journey was to raise money from the charity Tommy’s. His youngest son was born more than three months early and suffers from cerebral palsy. Whilst his son was under treatment in intensive care, Simon was struck by how many premature babies die and wanted to raise money for research into the causes of premature births and their prevention. Simon also had a keen interest in Scott. He was bought up believing Scott was a hero – but in recent years some books and commentary suggested ineptitude and even a lack of bravery in Scott. Simon felt this was unfair and probably inaccurate.
This has not been Simon’s only adventure. In 2003 he rowed a boat across the Irish Sea, also to raise money for Tommy’s, and has ridden a bicycle across the Stony Desert in Australia. He plans to lead an expedition to the North Pole in 2009.
Simon is involved with the Walking With The Wounded Arctic Expedition 2011.