Amelia makes it to the South Pole
After a record-breaking Antarctic trek, 16-year-old Amelia Hempleman-Adams (and her dad) checked in with Joanna Moorhead
It was the moment Amelia Hempleman-Adams, 16, had looked forward to for many months: the moment she became the youngest person to reach the South Pole on skis.
"It was simply amazing," she said, speaking from the Antarctic by satellite phone. "It was such a relief. I was more tired than I've ever been. The journey was exhausting, even though the weather was mostly kind to us.
"But there are still those moments when you think: are we really going to get there? And the moment when you actually do is quite awesome."
Amelia, who is studying for A-levels at Prior Park College in Bath, reached the South Pole on Friday after spending 17 nights on the ice with her father, the explorer David Hempleman-Adams. He's been on countless expeditions in his time but, as he expected before he set out, this turned out to be his toughest yet because he had the youngest of his three daughters to look after as well as himself.
"I wanted her to return to the UK with all her fingers and toes, and frostbite can take hold in minutes," he said. "But she was brilliant. She was better than some of the adults on the team at looking after herself. She held her own. She pulled her own sledge. I think the worst thing for her was having to share a tent with me and not being able to sleep because of my snoring!"
At the start of each day of the expedition, Hempleman-Adams said, he would get out a picture of his hero, Ernest Shackleton, and salute it. The team was following a route from the point where Shackleton had to turn back in 1909 during one of his South Pole expeditions. "I think Shackleton was looking after us, because on the whole the weather was excellent."
But, Amelia said, there were occasional glitches. "At one point we had a whiteout, and that was quite scary. You can't see anything; you just have to put your head down and follow the sledge in front of you."
She said the most extraordinary part of the trip had been the sense of isolation in the Antarctic landscape. "You can't imagine being in such a lonely place until you're actually there. It's just you and the team and the elements, for as far as you can see. I've never been anywhere like that before."
One of the scariest moments, she said, was when the small plane flying them in for the start of the expedition had to make at least 12 attempts to land on the ice. "We had to keep going up and round again, and it was horrible. I was feeling really sick," she said. "It was very bumpy, and not nice at all. But we got down in the end."
Another difficulty was sleeping. "My dad's snoring was bad enough, but there was also the fact that it's 24-hour daylight there, so the sun is beaming in through the tent all night long." She said the experience had brought her closer to her father. "One of the best bits was finding out what happens to Dad when he goes on expeditions, because through my life he's been on so many of them, and this is the first time I've actually been able to go with him."
The thing she missed most, she said, was her friends. "My friends are really important to me, like most teenagers, and I've missed not being able to talk to them all the time. But so many of them have sent wonderful messages via our website, and they really helped to keep me going.
"What I'm most looking forward to about being back home is a really, really hot shower. That and a family meal at home with my mum and my sisters. Eating dried food for a fortnight wasn't brilliant.
"But the best thing about the whole trip was that we made it – and it's something I'm going to remember for the rest of my life."
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