Arctic explorer saved by e-mail from his mobile

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The Independent Online

An Arctic explorer attempting to walk unaided to the North Pole was flown to safety from a melting ice floe yesterday after e-mailing rescuers with an SOS message on his mobile phone.

An Arctic explorer attempting to walk unaided to the North Pole was flown to safety from a melting ice floe yesterday after e-mailing rescuers with an SOS message on his mobile phone.

Dave Mill, 34, had been on track to become the first man to reach the geographical Pole unsupported on foot when he became marooned on a crumbling ice floe.

After 50 days of extremely hostile weather, being stalked by polar bears in temperatures as low as minus 30C, the professional explorer was forced to abandon the attempt, having completed 185 miles of his 375-mile trek.

Mr Mill found himself in a race against time, with only days to go before the gravitational pull of the Moon on the Arctic tides turned the flat surface of the ice floe into a series of craters and ice mountains that would prohibit any attempt by a rescue plane to land.

For three days he waited for a gap in the weather that would allow a rescue operation to be mounted from Resolute Bay in Canada. Satellite weather pictures showing dense fog and low cloud cover were distorted by atmospheric conditions, preventing rescuers from assessing properly the risk of an attempted airlift.

Using his pulk, a sledge that can be employed as a small boat to cross water, Mr Mill marked out a runway 32 metres long on the ice. He took a picture of it using his digital camera, which he then e-mailed by mobile phone to the rescuers, First Air, at Resolute Bay. Having studied the clearer pictures taken from the ground, the Swiss pilot of the rescue plane decided to attempt the eight-hour operation, landing on the ice at 3am yesterday.

An exhausted but euphoric Mr Mill was recovering from his ordeal in Canada before preparing plans for another attempt, his third, next year. "It has been a very hard and tough trip," said the explorer, who has lost 19kg (three stone) in weight since he set off from Canada's most northern point of Ward Hunt Island in March.

"It is a life-changing process. I've done all I could do this year. I don't believe any human being could do anymore."

At the family home in Kenmore, Perthshire, John Mill, the explorer's father, expressed his relief at the success of the rescue. "David managed to phone us as the plane came into pick him up and we are very relieved that he is now safe.

"We'll just be glad to have him home. I am a very proud father of my son's achievements so far," he said.

The explorer is expected to return to Britain this weekend after a medical examination.

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