Two British women who made history by trekking to the North Pole flew to Britain yesterday to begin sampling the home comforts they missed on their three-month journey.
Ann Daniels, 37, a former banker and a single mother of triplets, and the film financier Caroline Hamilton, 35, finally reached the North Pole on Sunday after an 82-day trek, becoming the first all-female team to walk to both Poles. The pair conquered the South Pole in January 2000.
The explorers arrived at Heathrow airport on a flight from Ottawa in Canada yesterday morning, where they were greeted by friends, family and well-wishers.
Ms Hamilton, from Spitalfields, central London, was met at the airport by her mother, Jane, and her brothers Robert and Charles, while Ms Daniels, from Whimple, Devon, hugged her eight-year-olds Joseph, Lucy and Rachel.
Among the crowd was 50-year-old Pom Oliver, from Billingshurst, West Sussex, who had to pull out 47 days into the North Pole trek with frostbitten feet and was flown back to base in Canada.
Ms Daniels said it was "absolutely fantastic" to be back. She last saw her triplets on 1 March. "It's wonderful to be with the children," she said. "They haven't left my side since I got here. I was able to contact them 10 days or every two weeks by satellite phone, but because of the batteries you can't talk for long."
During their trek across the constantly moving frozen wastes of the Arctic Ocean, the women first pulled their 250lb sledges of food and equipment over house-sized pressure ridges of ice and sat out blizzards. Then, as the temperature rose from minus 50C to minus 10C, they were forced into a race against time across melting ice.
Faced by open "leads" of freezing water between the cracking floes, they swam across in specially developed all-enveloping dry suits with their floating sledges.
Once they reached the pole, the pair pitched their flag and celebrated with a miniature bottle of whiskey and dried beef stew.
Ms Daniels said she was most looking forward to a green salad – food with "texture", unlike polar rations – and a "nice warm bath".
But Britain's only female polar guide said she did not envisage going on another big expedition. "I won't be doing anything like this again," she said. "The children are eight and it's time for a break."