North Pole explorer still stranded as weather thwarts rescue mission

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The Independent Online

The British explorer stranded for six days at the North Pole was said to be in good spirits yesterday as he waited for rescuers to reach him.

Pen Hadow - who has just three days of food left - was supposed to be picked up by his team on Saturday. The attempt failed when thick cloud and broken ice prevented their aircraft landing at a refuelling stop. A new plan involves lightening the aircraft and adding extra fuel tanks.

The 41-year-old became the first person to reach the geographic North Pole unsupported when he arrived there from Canada last Monday, having braved freezing temperatures, swum in icy sea, and negotiated huge pressure ridges. But he has been stranded since, living on half rations of nuts, chocolate and dried fruit.

His team are now waiting for a break in the weather so they can fly a Twin Otter aircraft on the 13-hour round trip from Ellesmere Island off Canada. The explorer has prepared a landing strip using a flare and his remaining ski. He lost his other ski when he fell through thin ice three weeks ago.

Ian Wesley, the rescue team's operations manger, said Mr Hadow has been cut off since his satellite phone went dead, but that he did manage to speak to the pilots during their last attempt to reach him.

"Pen talked to the pilots briefly and seemed to be in good spirits, but just wanted to get out. He still has enough food and fuel to last until Wednesday. Everything is set up. The pilots are ready, plane refuelled, sandwiches made, fresh clothes packed. All we need is good weather above Pen," he said.

If the plane cannot land, the team will drop food supplies until the weather improves.

The explorer, from Hexworthy, Dartmoor, has now spent more than two months on the ice during his 478-mile walk. His wife, Mary - who awaits his return with their two children, Wilf, four, and Freya, one - called him "invincible" and said:"It's safer sitting in a tent than walking over moving ice. I think he's getting some recuperation. I'm not worried."