Aiming to solve great polar mystery

By Danielle NuttallA PROPERTY developer is taking part in a gruelling challenge to prove explorer Commander Robert Peary reached the North Pole in 38 days.

By Danielle Nuttall

A PROPERTY developer is taking part in a gruelling challenge to prove explorer Commander Robert Peary reached the North Pole in 38 days.

George Wells, 28, is among a team of explorers, led by Tom Avery, aiming to retrace the steps of the 54-year-old American who planted the U.S. flag at the North Pole in 1909.

Over the years, Cdr Peary's achievement has been questioned and the Barclays Capital Ultimate North expedition team aims to solve one of the greatest polar mysteries.

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Mr Wells, from Horringer, and three companions plan to travel in a similar style to Cdr Peary, using the same type of dogs, sledges and weights.

The challenge will not be easy, but Mr Wells is no stranger to the tough conditions they will face – four years ago he was among a team of young mountaineers to reach the summit of two previously-unclimbed mountains in the Bivachny valley in central Asia.

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"I have done nothing Polar before, only mountains. I'm very much looking forward to it. It's one of the last great challenges and very much linked to Robert Peary and the controversy over whether he got there in 1909," he said.

"We feel he did get there in 1909 and are trying to prove that by recreating his methods of travel. We are aiming to do it in 38 days, which is four days less than the nearest expedition to have done it with dogs.

"We are confident of success. It will be difficult to do and a lot of people do not think it can be done, but we are confident."

Mr Avery, 28, from Ticehurst, East Sussex, was a member of a team that was fastest to the South Pole in 2002 and Mr Wells has been a friend of his since they met at Bristol University.

The team has already started training four times a week in the gym for the expedition and will set off on February 26 for final preparation on Baffin Island, northern Canada.

They aim to begin their trek from Resolute Bay, Canada, on March 14 and cross 483 miles of constantly-moving ice in temperatures as low as minus 50C.

Cdr Peary's 1909 trek started with 23 men, 133 dogs and 19 sleds, but that support team had dwindled to just five companions when he reached the Pole.

Controversy raged because a rival U.S. explorer – later proved to be a fraud – claimed he had reached the Pole first.

But some doubts remained about Cdr Peary's claim, even after he was backed by the National Geographic Society and U.S. Congress, because his navigation techniques were unconventional and his speed remarkable.

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