19-year-old Parker Liautaud becomes youngest man to ski to the South Pole

Student achieves goal of setting new record for fastest-ever unsupported walk from edge of Antarctica to South Pole

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The Independent Online

A 19-year-old has become to the youngest man to ski to the South Pole arriving there on Christmas Eve and setting a new speed record at the same time.

Parker Liautaud spent Christmas Day at the South Pole after arriving on Christmas Eve at the head of the Willis Resilience Expedition, achieving the goal of setting a new record for the fastest-ever unsupported walk from the edge of Antarctica to the South Pole.

Mr Liautaud, a student at Yale University, has a very different approach to many other Polar explorers as when he set out on 6 December he aimed to collect nearly 2,500 scientific samples and has joined forces with academic institutions to study climate change.

The unsupported speed record started on the Ross Ice Shelf from where Mr Parker and his teammate Doug Stoup covered 314 miles to the bottom of the world pulling sleds weighing in excess of 80kg over ice and snow, across the trans-Antarctic mountain range, through blizzards and mist in temperatures as low as minus 50 degrees Celsius

“It's an incredible honour to stand at the South Pole after a successful expedition,” said Mr Parker in statement from the South Pole. “Over the past several weeks I have learned a lot and am very thankful for the support of the team around me that made this expedition possible. I now hope to work with our scientific partners in the next phase of the research from this expedition and continue to contribute to reigniting the dialogue on climate change.”

Speaking to The Independent via satellite phone from the South Pole today Mr Parker added that he was “exhausted” and “emotional” after his journey but would be spending the day like “everyone else eating and sleeping”. He’ll be staying in his tent, however his support team at the Pole has set up a stove and a chair, which he described as “wonderful luxuries”.

Prior to the speed record attempt the team was transported 1,790km from Union Glacier by a specially Toyota truck. The team will now spend the next few days in the South Pole before travelling back to Union Glacier where the team can catch a flight out of Antarctic back to Punta Arenas, Chile.

Meanwhile fellow British explorer Ben Saunders is expected to reach the South Pole by the end of the week in a bid to recreate Captain Robert Scott's ill-fated 1,800-mile journey to the bottom of the Earth

Speaking from his tent in Antarctica, Ben Saunders said. “We’ve spent much of the last week in at least partial whiteout which I can only describe as a bit like existing inside a ping pong ball. When the sun does break through though it’s clear blue skies and a white surface to the horizon in all directions.”

According to his support team Scott and his men experienced a similarly white Christmas on their pioneering journey to the South Pole on their Terra Nova expedition in 1911/12 Mr Saunders is blogging his experiences to sit alongside Scott’s diary, but like Scott he only enjoyed his standard rations yesterday  – almost 6,000 calories of high-energy freeze dried food, hot energy drinks and energy bars in place of a traditional roast turkey, mince pies and Christmas pudding.

You can read his blog here: http://scottexpedition.com/blog.