WELLINGTON, New Zealand – Seven women on a 562-mile Antarctic ski trek reached the South Pole Thursday, 38 days after they began their adventure to mark the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Commonwealth.
"I'm incredibly proud of the team and I think ... if we can do this then you can do anything that you like to and that's the message that we really want to send to everyone," team leader Felicity Aston said in a message from South Pole Thursday.
Skiing six to 10 hours a day, the Commonwealth Women's Antarctic Expedition trekked an average of 15 miles a day, each hauling a 176-pound sled of provisions and shelter to reach the United States-operated Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station science base.
The expedition comprised women from Brunei, Cyprus, Ghana, India, New Zealand, Singapore and Britain.
Frostbite blackened the fingers of one of the original team of eight, Kim-Marie Spence, from Kingston, Jamaica, just three days into the journey which began Nov. 23, forcing her to leave the expedition.
The group faced blinding blizzards, winds in excess of 80 miles an hour, hidden crevasses and temperatures that plummeted to minus 42 degrees Fahrenheit, its Web site said.
The expedition had an inauspicious start when new tents were damaged by a roaring gale at Patriot Hills base camp in an area of Antarctica overseen by Argentina. The women had to borrow tents while they sewed patches on their own.
"We're all incredibly happy and we're standing here, seven women at the bottom of the planet, with a biggest smiles on our faces right now," Aston said.
After the tough trek across the frozen landscape, their priorities were "first of all ... to get a good sleep and to have something really good to eat," she said.
They will then be airlifted from the pole back to their starting point, a commercial expedition base at Patriot Hills in east Antarctica, near the bottom of South America, and then to fly back to London via Chile.
On the return journey the women will take their first showers since November.
Amundsen-Scott Station honors polar explorers Roald Amundsen, who reached South Pole in December 1911, and Robert F. Scott who reached the pole the following month.
The 53-nation Commonwealth links together mainly former colonies of Britain.