SYDNEY, Australia – A trio of Canadian adventurers said Friday they have set a new record for fastest trek across Antarctica to the South Pole, after suffering through whiteout conditions, temperatures as low as minus 40 — and a steady diet of deep-fried bacon and butter.
Ray Zahab said he and his teammates completed the 700-mile journey from Hercules Inlet on Antarctica's Ronne Ice Shelf to the South Pole in 33 days, 23 hours and 30 minutes, finally arriving Thursday.
"If you took a cloud, wrapped it around your head and then duct-taped it, that's what a whiteout is like," a weary yet animated Zahab, 39, of Chelsea, Quebec, told The Associated Press by satellite phone from Antarctica. "It was exhausting."
Zahab is best known for his epic 4,300-mile run across the Sahara Desert in 2007, which was the subject of a documentary narrated by actor Matt Damon entitled "Running the Sahara."
Tom Sjogren, founder of ExplorersWeb.com, a New York-based Web site that compiles statistics on adventurers' feats, said the men beat the previous record of 39 days, 7 hours and 49 minutes, which was set by American Todd Carmichael just last month.
"They have definitely broken the record," said Sjogren, who uses a variety of materials, including photographs of explorers' GPS coordinates and their logs, to help verify adventurers' records.
Zahab and his teammates — Kevin Vallely of North Vancouver and Richard Weber of Alcove, Quebec — documented their journey on their Web site, using their satellite phone to post photos and podcasts along the way. They pulled 170-pound sleds of equipment, with Zahab traveling on foot and on snowshoes while the other two men skied. At night, they hunkered down in a tent to sleep.
The men suffered altitude sickness, vertigo and massive, painful blisters. They kept themselves fueled with a 7,000-calorie-a-day diet of deep-fried bacon, cheese and huge chunks of butter.
"I am dying for pizza," Zahab said with a sigh Friday. "All I've been thinking about is pizza."
He was longing, too, for his 6-month-old daughter, Mia Sahara, and wife of two years, Kathy.
"All I would do is think about them and think about how I would spend the day with them and how I would never complain about changing a diaper again," he said.
But the effort was worth it, said Zahab, who helps run a nonprofit organization called Impossible2Possible that aims to inspire young people to protect the planet.
"I started looking at impossible places on the planet in the past year, and I said Antarctica is one of those impossible places, and if we can create an expedition, perhaps we can inspire a bunch of young people to realize they can achieve," Zahab said. "I'm a regular person — I truly am. I believe it's in all of us."