British crew first to row to magnetic North Pole

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A six-man British crew celebrated Friday after becoming the first to row to the magnetic North Pole, completing the 450-mile (725-kilometre) journey from northern Canada in just under four weeks.

Crew leader Jock Wishart undertook the expedition to highlight climate change in the Arctic region. Such a journey has only become possible in recent years due to an increase in the amount of ice melting in the summer.

The crew encountered polar bears and collided with icebergs as they voyaged through the Arctic waters of northern Canada.

They reached the 1996 magnetic North Pole at 0030 GMT Friday.

"It is an enormous achievement, and a privilege for our team to have been part of what is one of the world's last great firsts," Wishart said.

"We're all delighted, all very, very shattered.

"Everybody's extremely exhilarated, everybody's extremely happy and we've accomplished a truly great polar first and an ocean row which will go down in the record books."

The group set out from Resolute Bay on July 29 in their specially designed boat-cum-sledge the Old Pulteney, which has runners on its underside so that it can be hauled over the ice.

They slept in shifts between rowing stints and were fuelled by 7,000-calorie per day dry rations.

The crew saw several polar bears on their journey, one of which came within five feet (1.5 metres).

The magnetic North Pole constantly changes position but the 1996 location was the first time it had been accurately plotted and the position has become an established objective for Arctic expeditions.

On the final 80-kilometre (50-mile) leg, the crew rowed most of the way but then had to haul their 1.3-tonne boat over three kilometres of ice rubble in a nine-hour slog.

"There's been times when we've been trying to find our way through moving ice floes in fog and we're a long, long way from help," said Wishart, from Dumfries in southwest Scotland.

"Now I'm looking forward to a nice pint and a glass of malt whisky when I get home."

© 2011 AFP

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