Hellish ordeal for polar explorers

Four British women plucked to safety during a polar expedition after spending four days awaiting rescue from a drifting ice pack, last night described their "hellish" ordeal. The team, including the Queen Mother's great niece Rosie Clayton-Sancer, spent the time huddled in a tent in minus 40C temperatures, surrounded by steadily-cracking ice.

As the threat of disappearing into the black water intensified, their fuel supplies began to run out - as a "race against time" rescue operation took place. By the time a plane braved the deteriorating conditions to reach them on Saturday night, they each had just six pieces of chocolate to survive.

The women - Mrs Clayton-Sancer, 37, Andre Chadwick, 32, Sarah Jones, 28 and Juliette May, 33 - were competing in the McVitie's Penguin Polar Relay, and were part of the first all-female expedition to the North Pole.

At base camp last night, Mrs Clayton-Sancer said: "We got caught in this hellish situation - we were stranded, stuck in our tent on driving ice.

"We got into problems because we had finished our allotted time and had found a landing place for the plane but the conditions weren't right for it to come and fetch us."