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.

Polar women on top of the world

The first all-female expedition to reach the North Pole celebrated with champagne last night at the end of a 1,000-kilometre marathon across shifting sea ice.

Hellish ordeal for polar explorers

Four British women plucked to safety during a polar expedition after spending four days awaiting rescue from a drifting ice pack, last night described their "hellish" ordeal. The team, including the Queen Mother's great niece Rosie Clayton-Sancer, spent the time huddled in a tent in minus 40C temperatures, surrounded by steadily-cracking ice.

North Pole women get wind of Blair blizzard

Ros Wynne-Jones cheers - and chills - expedition with poll result

Warm welcome for women who came in from the cold

A mother of triplets whose expedition to the North Pole almost ended in disaster told yesterday how she survived a five-minute plunge into the freezing Arctic Ocean.

Polar women in final warm-up

Members of the first all-women expedition to the North Pole donned Arctic kit yesterday for their final training session on gale-swept Dartmoor. A hike across the high moor from Princetown was followed by an exhausting session of pulling tyres attached to waist harnesses - preparation for hauling 120lb sledges for hours a day in temperatures as low as -45C.

Women head for the pole - with 7,000 Penguins

At First sight a 50-year-old woman, a mother of triplets, and the great niece of the Queen's mother would appear to be unlikely radicals but at the end of this month they will challenge the traditionally macho pursuit of Arctic exploration and become part of the first all-female expedition to the North Pole.

Santa strapped for cash

Stockholm - Santa's little helpers have downed tools at North Pole post offices in Greenland and Iceland, leaving piles of children's Christmas letters unanswered and thousands of dreams unfulfilled.

Arctic photos `lost by Boots'

A scientist is seeking pounds 30,000 compensation from Boots for a fresh expedition to the Arctic after alleging the store lost his roll of 36 photographs from a previous trip.

Pupils in Pole position

Sixth-formers have created a Web site to follow the footsteps of a polar expedition. By Dorothy Walker

North Pole ice cap is melting, say scientists

THE North Pole is melting, top British and US scientists have discovered. They predict that the year-round polar ice cap will disappear entirely in the next century, due to global warming.

Spotters await the comet of the century

Thousands of amateur astronomers are preparing their binoculars to watch what could be the brightest comet so far this century. Comet Hyukatake, discovered in January by a Japanese amateur, will be at its brightest by the end of this week, when it should be visible all night as a large, fuzzy patch a little smaller than the Moon.

Plum pudding in the melting pot

Christmas in America by Penne L. Restad Oxford, pounds 17.99; From Santa Claus to `Away in the Manger', many of our best loved Christmas traditions are American imports, according to a new cultural history. By Christina Hardyment

how to be Santa Claus

Santa Tom is stumped. In more than 20 years of "ho-ho-hoing", he's had to deflect a range of tricky questions, from the feeding habits of reindeer, to the practical difficulties of squeezing down chimneys. He's studied for his Master of Santa Claus degree; gone on to train Father Christmases from all over the world, and now he's leading the School for Santas one-day course.

City slicker: Fairbanks

This week in Fairbanks, Alaska, just 180 miles south of the Arctic Circle, they're coping with less than three hours of daylight and temperatures of -35F. Still, things aren't too bad in the run-up to Christmas - Santa lives down the road

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