Published on 25 Dec 2011 Sections ,

Soldiers race to the South Pole over Christmas

As two British teams recreate Scott and Amundsen’s legendary race to the South Pole, Channel 4 News records a special Christmas message from them.

Two British teams are recreating Scott and Amundsen's legendary race to the South Pole. Channel 4 News speaks to them for a special Christmas message.

A group of serving British soldiers are trekking across the Antarctic ice, following in the footsteps of explorers Captain Robert Falcon Scott and Norwegian Roald Amundsen as they duelled to reach the South Pole first 100 years ago.

It is the first time anyone has attempted to re-enact the race since the original expedition.

The soldiers have split into two teams – the Scott team and the Amundsen team – and are attempting to complete the most authentic ever modern day recreation of the race. In doing so they hope to raise £500,000 for the Royal British Legion.

Both teams set off 53 days ago and have trekked over 400 nautical miles each so far. They are aiming to reach the South Pole in mid January after 70 days of trekking, but could be delayed by the weather.

This evening we’re having a tot of whisky and a cigar to celebrate Christmas day. – S.Sgt. Vic Vicary, Scott team

Lieutenant Colonel Henry Worsley leads the Amundsen team which is currently infront.

Worsley’s team have a shorter distance to travel then the Scott team but have to cross more difficult terrain. It is believed they are the first team to cross the Axel-Heiberg Glacier unsupported since Amundsen’s original expedition.

By contrast, and following Captain Scott’s original plan, the Scott team have to travel over a 150 nautical miles extra, but their route takes them on much flatter terrain and around the Beardmore Glacier.

The Scott team is led by Warrant Officer (Second Class) Mark Langridge, who provided the original inspiration behind the expedition. Both Langridge and Worsley are no strangers to Antarctica and have both previously trekked successfully to the South Pole.

Both teams carry a satellite phone and were able to leave a special Christmas message for Channel 4 News.

Warrant Officer (Second Class) Lou Rudd of the Amundsen Team explains how they will celebrate the day: “Christmas Day is no change for us, we got out there and got some miles in towards the pole.

“This evening we’re having a tot of whisky and a cigar to celebrate Christmas day.”

Historically, the race ended in tragedy after Captain Scott (right) and his team perished on their return journey. They reached the South Pole on the 17 Jan 1912 only to discover to their disappointment that Amundsen had beaten them to it and planted the Norwegian flag first.

Scott’s entire team died on their return journey, only 11 miles from their next food and fuel depot. Their bodies were found by a rescue team eight months later and buried under a cairn of ice and snow.

When Langridge’s team passed the spot where Scott’s team was found, they described it as a moment of “incredible poignancy.”

Captain Scott equipped for his last journey to the South Pole (Getty)

Before they departed Worsley paid tribute to both Scott, Amundsen and all the men they led: “The tragic loss of Scott’s party on the return journey is seared in the nation’s memory as an enduring narrative of duty and sacrifice.

“We are not only attempting this slow and brutal challenge in the honour of Captain Scott and Amundsen, but also as a tribute to the men and women of the Armed Forces who have served and continue to serve Britain in duty and often, sacrifice.”

Captain Scott and Amundsen both kept diaries of their expeditions, and both modern day teams are taking those diaries across the ice with them. Indeed they frequently read the entries as they come to the very spot where they were written.

On Day 33, 5 Dec Lt Col Worsley was so moved by the Amundsen’s account he filed his own (audio) entry to the expedition’s website:

“It is as if Amundsen, his four friends and resting dogs, are camped around us.

“Despite the slow, aching struggle this journey is, it’s worth every stand and strain of sinews, every bead of sweat, to stop where they stopped, see what they saw, read what they wrote and to follow where they pioneered.”

The expedition is raising funds to go towards the Royal British Legion’s commitment to fund the Battle Back Centre and four Personnel Recovery Centres for injured service men and women.

Both projects are aimed at helping wounded service personnel regain their fitness or retrain in skills that will help them in civilian life.

For more information on the race, including daily updates from each of the teams, you can follow them on the official website, or on the official race Google Map below (Google Earth plugin required).

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