TORONTO – Five explorers using huskies and wooden sleds reached the North Pole on Tuesday, setting a world record by coming in several hours earlier than a 37-day trek by American explorer Robert E. Peary (search) for the same journey in 1909, the expedition team said.
British explorer Tom Avery (search) had set out to prove that it was possible to make the 475-mile trip from Cape Columbia in northern Nunavut, the Inuit territory of Canada opposite Greenland, in the time claimed by Peary.
The team of four men and an American woman, Mattie McNair (search) — leading the chief sled dog Raven — was even faster in the end, claiming to set a world record by arriving 4 hours and 49 minutes ahead of Peary's pace.
"We are just so unbelievably excited to be here and even though it's been the longest and possibly the hardest 37 days of our lives, the journey has left us literally feeling on top of the world," Avery said in a statement from the North Pole (search).
For decades, skeptics said Peary, who traveled with fellow American Matthew Henson and four Inuit men, could not have made the trip in only 37 days. The fastest journey that anyone had managed since Peary's day was by a Canadian team in 2000, which reached the Pole after 43 days.
Avery's team traveled in a similar style to Peary, using Canadian Inuit huskies and replica wooden sleds.
"We have always believed that Peary was one of the greatest explorers of all time and hopefully our recreation of his journey will silence anyone who doubted this and put the controversy to rest once and for all," he said.
After reaching the North Pole at 9:32 a.m. EDT, the exhausted explorers raised the Nunavut, American, Canadian, British, and South African flags, mirroring an act of triumph by Peary and his men nearly a century earlier.
Avery, who was also promoting London's 2012 Olympic bid during his expedition, is a 29-year-old polar explorer from Sussex, England. In 2002 he became the youngest Briton to reach the South Pole, although that record was beaten weeks later by Andrew Cooney, 23, from Nottinghamshire.
Barclays Capital Ultimate North Expedition, sponsored by Barclay's Capital and the Prince's Trust, was comprised of Avery; South African Andrew Gerber, a business consultant; McNair, a native of Pennsylvania who runs an Arctic adventure outfit; George Wells, a property developer from Suffolk, England; and Hugh Dale-Harris, a Canadian teacher and dog driver.
During the past year, the team prepared for one of the most inhospitable environments on the planet by driving dogs — Raven, Zorro, Denali, Seeglo, Ootah, K2, Ikki and Marvin — in the extreme climate of Baffin Island.
On their trek, the team encountered temperatures as low as minus 49 degrees Fahrenheit, enormous pressure ridges up to 30 feet high and constantly moving ice that split with areas of open water sometimes many miles wide.