Letter: One way into the record books

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Sir: The historic journey by Sir Ranulph Fiennes and Dr Michael Stroud ('Sir Ranulph ends trek 'more dead than alive' ', 12 February) has done better than beat two existing records.

First, the previous longest 'unsupported' journey, by Sir Ernest Shackleton, was not unsupported in the same sense. It was a return journey, and thus they were able to pick up depots of food made by supporting parties.

Second, crossings of mainland Antarctica - ie over ice and snow resting on land - can vary from 600 miles (betweeen the Ronne and Ross ice shelves) to over 3,000 miles (from the tip of the Graham Land peninsula to Wilkes Land). So they did not follow anything like the shortest route.

What astonishes a Thirties polar explorer like myself is the immense advance since then in light sledges, warm clothing and nourishing food that has made these man-hauling journeys possible. Whether the safety factor of being collected by air, if necessary, is a help or hindrance to perseverance is an interesting question. However, it was a great feat of endurance, and I have been assured that the Multiple Sclerosis charity will absorb the whole of any gift.

Yours faithfully,


West Wittering,

West Sussex

12 February