The RAF Southern Reach Expedition to the South Pole

 

Regrettably, an attempt by 4 members of the first RAF team to walk unassisted to the geographical South Pole and back was abandoned on the 23 December 2006 after injuries sustained by 2 of team became too serious for them to carry on. The team participating in the RAF Southern Reach Expedition had been walking for 43 days and were just 100 miles away from the South Pole when disaster struck. Plans to organise the expedition began in July 2004 after 27 year old Cpl Iain Kirk (Deputy Team Leader), who was serving with the RAF Police Flight at RAF Kinloss in Scotland, came up with the idea. Iain who joined the RAF in 2001 has completed detachments in Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Oman and is also a part-time member of the unit’s Mountain Rescue Team. The other team members were; WO A Sylvester MBE (Team Leader and telecommunications specialist RAF High Wycombe), Flt Lt K Scully (helicopter navigator MOD Boscombe Down) and Cpl P Mainprize (RAF Regime

The RAF Southern Reach Expedition to the South Pole

 

Regrettably, an attempt by 4 members of the first RAF team to walk unassisted to the geographical South Pole and back was abandoned on the 23 December 2006 after injuries sustained by 2 of team became too serious for them to carry on. The team participating in the RAF Southern Reach Expedition had been walking for 43 days and were just 100 miles away from the South Pole when disaster struck. Plans to organise the expedition began in July 2004 after 27 year old Cpl Iain Kirk (Deputy Team Leader), who was serving with the RAF Police Flight at RAF Kinloss in Scotland, came up with the idea. Iain who joined the RAF in 2001 has completed detachments in Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Oman and is also a part-time member of the unit’s Mountain Rescue Team. The other team members were; WO A Sylvester MBE (Team Leader and telecommunications specialist RAF High Wycombe), Flt Lt K Scully (helicopter navigator MOD Boscombe Down) and Cpl P Mainprize (RAF Regiment RAF Halton). On the 11 November, the team flew from Punta Arenas, the most southern city in Chile, to the blue ice runway at Patriot Hills where base camp was established. The following day, equipped with satellite phones and satellite emergency beacons, they left the safety of base camp and began the perilous trek towards the South Pole across the only continent on earth that belongs to everyone. The team aimed to follow the route of Captain Robert Falcon Scott, whose famous venture in 1912 was the last time that a British expedition, comprising only military personnel, had been involved in a trek to the South Pole. The journey from the edge of the frozen Antarctica continent to the geographical South Pole is almost 570 miles, starting at sea level and rising to over 9,000 feet, travelling over snow, ice and occasionally exposed rock. Antarctica is the world’s most arid, coldest and windswept continent and holds the record for the lowest recorded temperature at minus 82º Celsius. The snow is blown by constant winds into bizarre Sastrugi, which are rugged looking formations often rising to between 6 and 8 feet in height making it very difficult to pull a fully laden sledge through. Roped together safety reasons, each man hauled his own sledge (pulk) containing everything needed for the voyage. At the start, each pulk weighed 115kg. Iain Kirk, who left Basra in May where the temperature hit 50º Celsius, found himself 7 months later, crossing the frozen wastelands of Antarctica where the temperature dropped to minus 50º Celsius. Ironically, after the recovery of the RAF men, Lt Cdr A Brown RN, Maj P Mattin RM and Marine C Hunter led by Capt S Chapple RM, successfully reached the South Pole on Christmas Day and became the first British military team to complete the journey unsupported by dogs or vehicles.

 

(Photo shows the RAF Team at the South Pole after being recovered by air – Corporal Iain Kirk is on the extreme right)

nt RAF Halton). On the 11 November, the team flew from Punta Arenas, the most southern city in Chile, to the blue ice runway at Patriot Hills where base camp was established. The following day, equipped with satellite phones and satellite emergency beacons, they left the safety of base camp and began the perilous trek towards the South Pole across the only continent on earth that belongs to everyone. The team aimed to follow the route of Captain Robert Falcon Scott, whose famous venture in 1912 was the last time that a British expedition, comprising only military personnel, had been involved in a trek to the South Pole. The journey from the edge of the frozen Antarctica continent to the geographical South Pole is almost 570 miles, starting at sea level and rising to over 9,000 feet, travelling over snow, ice and occasionally exposed rock. Antarctica is the world’s most arid, coldest and windswept continent and holds the record for the lowest recorded temperature at minus 82º Celsius. The snow is blown by constant winds into bizarre Sastrugi, which are rugged looking formations often rising to between 6 and 8 feet in height making it very difficult to pull a fully laden sledge through. Roped together safety reasons, each man hauled his own sledge (pulk) containing everything needed for the voyage. At the start, each pulk weighed 115kg. Iain Kirk, who left Basra in May where the temperature hit 50º Celsius, found himself 7 months later, crossing the frozen wastelands of Antarctica where the temperature dropped to minus 50º Celsius. Ironically, after the recovery of the RAF men, Lt Cdr A Brown RN, Maj P Mattin RM and Marine C Hunter led by Capt S Chapple RM, successfully reached the South Pole on Christmas Day and became the first British military team to complete the journey unsupported by dogs or vehicles.

 

(Photo shows the RAF Team at the South Pole after being recovered by air – Corporal Iain Kirk is on the extreme right)