Irish trekker moves into polar position

POLAR history is being made with the near-completion of the gruelling trek to the southernmost place on earth by Irishman Mike Barry.

Yesterday, as the frozen goal came within his grasp, Mr Barry’s thoughts must have focused on his fellow Kerryman Tom Crean who in November, 1912 was within 150 miles of the South Pole before his expedition leader Robert Scott ordered him to turn back.

Mr Barry, a 50-year-old father of three from Tralee, was yesterday taking the final steps towards polar history. At the beginning of this week the polar team had a mere 30 miles to go. Conditions were described as tough. “The cold dry air contributes to the snow crystals being razor sharp; this in turn causes excessive friction on skis and pulks (sleds),” said a dispatch from team leader Matty McNair.

Ms McNair made her own polar history in 1997 when she led the first women’s expedition to the Geographic North Pole. The mother of two who has already been to the South Pole, runs an expedition and adventure company from her home base in Iqaluit on south Baffin Island.

Mr Barry and the team had been walking across 600 miles of the earth’s most inhospitable landscape for the past 50 days. Their first encounter with civilisation in that time will be their arrival at the US Government’s scientific research base. At this time of year, during the Antarctic summer, there are as many as 250 people living and working at the station. Having arrived at the South Pole, Mr Barry and his team mates will be flown by Twin Otter to Patriot Hills where they will await a larger Russian plane that will transport them back to southern Chile.

A member of three major Himalayan expeditions, including the first and successful Irish attempt on Mount Everest in 1993, Mr Barry was the first Irishman to climb Aconcagua in Argentina. He was also part of the 1997 South Aris expedition to trace the famous Shackleton/Crean adventure across the Southern Ocean after Shackleton’s ship became trapped in pack ice in 1915. Mr Barry hopes to raise funds for Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin, Dublin, from a post-expedition lecture and slide tour.

“I just want to wish Mike the best in his endeavours at the South Pole,” said adventurer and Everest mountaineer, Pat Falvey. “I’ve known Mike for over 14 years and he is one of the most focused and determined people that I know. He has a love and passion for adventure and the self belief required to achieve his ambitions.”

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