Explorer gets Royal seal of approval
AN INTREPID explorer who crossed Antarctica with the help of specially-designed kites has rubbed shoulders with Royalty in his latest adventure.Patrick Woodhead, who hit the headlines in 2004 after reaching the South Pole on skis, was yesterday invited to the home of Prince Charles to enjoy personal congratulations on his record-breaking feat.
AN INTREPID explorer who crossed Antarctica with the help of specially-designed kites has rubbed shoulders with Royalty in his latest adventure.
Patrick Woodhead, who hit the headlines in 2004 after reaching the South Pole on skis, was yesterday invited to the home of Prince Charles to enjoy personal congratulations on his record-breaking feat.
And the 30-year-old, whose adventures have taken him to Morocco, the Alps and Surinam, described his 30-minute audience with the heir to the throne at the Highgrove estate as “fabulous and really inspiring”.
The explorer's team of four became the first to cross the continent from east to west when they completed the 58-day trek in December 2004 and are among less than 100 people to have ever reached the pole.
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And the group's achievement was made even more special yesterday when Mr Woodhead and fellow adventurer Alastair Vere Nicoll, 32, met the Prince, who signed the expedition's sledge flag in a Royal tradition dating back to the times of Ernest Shackleton.
“He was fabulous and really inspiring,” said Mr Woodhead after the meeting. “He was very knowledgeable and interested in the Antarctic wilderness and its environment, which is something we're both passionate about.
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“He told us he had been diving under the ice in the past and was interested to know about how we used kites to power us across the Antarctic.”
During the private meeting, the pair presented Charles with the sledge flag, which they had planted in the ice at the end of their expedition. The Prince signed the blue flag and returned it to the proud explorers.
“It was very special for him to do that,” Mr Woodhead said. “It's a tradition which goes back to the golden age of polar exploring and people like Ernest Shackleton when they were presented with a flag by Royalty, which they would then plant after they had completed the expedition and kind of mark down the territory with it. That tradition kind of died off, so it was fabulous for the Prince to sign it.”
The team, which also included David de Rothschild and Canadian guide Paul Landry, began their journey by skis on November 15 from the foot of the Trans Atlantic mountains.
They had originally intended to follow in the footsteps of Captain Scott but this proved impossible.
However, they set a new world record when they reached the South Pole in just 37 days - despite experiencing some of the harshest conditions seen in the region for 15 years.
With a little help from the kites, dreamt up in a Bury pub by Mr Woodhead, the four explorers took another three weeks to reach the coast and complete the challenge.
Mr Woodhead's experience leading up to the Antarctic expedition covers a range of different sports and training but predominantly he comes from a mountaineering background. His ascents include virgin mountains in Kyrgyzstan, Morocco and the Alps.
He has most recently returned from a trip up the Lucie River in Surinam but now plans to take a relaxing break at home before getting married in September.