News A pedestrian makes their way along a snow packed street in Indianapolis

Much of the United States is currently in the grip of a polar vortex, a system of dense air producing plummeting temperatures and swathes of freezing weather, bringing some parts of the country to a halt and causing chaos in others.

Last Night's TV: Harry's Arctic Heroes/BBC1<br />Random/Channel 4

You don't get to meet people like this very often," said Harry Wales, describing the four disabled Afghanistan veterans whose trek to the North Pole he was briefly going to join. Well, I don't, Harry, I thought... but surely it can't be that much of a rarity for you? It goes with the job really, doesn't it? All those hospital visits and hearts-and-minds tours, all those occasions when a royal handshake is assumed to be a sovereign remedy for the riot-struck and the dispossessed. It's partly what a prince is for these days. The old role, of being inaccessibly distant and more special than anyone around them, lingers on. But to it has been added the new duty of being ostentatiously less special than certain commoners. Prince Harry – regal rugger bugger and honorary squaddie – is actually quite good at this. As he said in Harry's Arctic Heroes: "I like to think I'm just one of the lads, whether I am or not."

Book Of A Lifetime: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, By Jules Verne

One of the books I have read and re-read with unfailing pleasure and interest is Jules Verne's 'Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea'. I can date my first reading precisely, as I still have my copy, given to me by "Mummy and Daddy, Christmas 1948", when I was nine. This edition was published in 1946 in Cleveland, Ohio, and has beautiful illustrations of sea creatures and seascapes, and of the brave adventurers who travel with Captain Nemo in his spacious submarine, the Nautilus. As a child, I liked the pictures of the narwhale and the kelp forest best, but now I also admire the narrator and his manservant Conseil, portrayed in handsome nakedness. Illustrated books were a rarity in that post-war period, and all the more to be cherished.

Melting polar ice creates a new challenge for British adventurers

The retreat of sea ice in the Arctic is not just opening up the fabled North-West Passage to shipping. It has made it possible for explorers to row to the North Pole.

The Stars: May 2011

The much-loved Plough is riding high in the heavens.

Video: Prince Harry sets off for North Pole

Prince Harry is starting a trek to the North Pole with a team of soldiers who were wounded in combat.

The Still Point, By Amy Sackville

Winner of the John Llewellyn Rhys prize, Sackville's debut novel marries the story of a doomed polar expedition with the story of a modern relationship in stasis.

North Sea oil rig deal will create 1,000 Tyneside jobs

A £150m oil rig deal between US oil group Apache and engineering contractor Offshore Group Newcastle (OGN) will create 1,000 jobs in the North-east over the next 20 months.

My life in snow travel: Ben Saunders

'I'm not a sociopath, but I'm happy on my own'

DVD: Beyond the Pole (15)

Two hapless environmental crusaders set off on the world's first unassisted, carbon-neutral, organic, vegetarian trek to the North Pole.

Their awfully big adventures: Teenage globetrotters

What is driving children to take on ever-more risky expeditions across oceans and polar ice caps? As another teenager sets out on a record-breaking trip, Simon Usborne investigates

Happy holidays &ndash; without Santa Claus or pumpkins

The Grinch stole Christmas back in the days of innocence, but today climate change and sexual alarmism are doing just as good a job as Dr Seuss's mean critter.

Premier snaps up Oilexco's North Sea fields for $505m cash

Premier Oil wants to buy the North Sea assets of the troubled Canadian exploration group Oilexco for $505m (£347m) in cash.

Replenished ice team head north again

After nearly a month in arctic conditions of minus 40 degrees Celsius, the Catlin Arctic Survey team are finally provided with supplies

Polar explorer sets off on Arctic survey

Polar explorer Pen Hadow will set off today to begin a 746-mile scientific survey of the floating ice in the Arctic Ocean.

DVD: The White Planet (E)

Replete with breathtaking footage of the North Pole's animal inhabitants, the French-Canadian director Jean Lemire's documentary snapshot of life in the Arctic tundra over the course of a year is mercifully light on global-warming preaching, but painfully heavy on anthropomorphising commentary.

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