Irish team make history by reaching South Pole

A four-strong team of intrepid explorers made history tonight by becoming the first Irish expedition ever to reach the South Pole.

A four-strong team of intrepid explorers made history tonight by becoming the first Irish expedition ever to reach the South Pole.

The squad, led by Cork man Pat Falvey, 50, arrived at the world’s most southerly point at around 8.30pm Irish time, team spokesman Niall Foley confirmed.

They have been trekking since November through some of the harshest conditions, battling icy winds, constant sub-zero temperatures and biting snowstorms.

“This a very historic occasion. It is very exciting. It shows that Ireland can play its part in polar exploration,” Mr Foley said.

And the squad also have another record to celebrate tonight.

Deputy team leader Dr Clare O’Leary, 35, also from Co Cork has become the first Irish female to make it the South Pole.

A world-renowned adventurer, she was the first Irish female to climb Mount Everest and also the first Irish female to complete the Seven Summits Challenge.

A specialist in gastroenterology and general internal medicine, she is currently based in South Tipperary General Hospital, Clonmel, where she works as a consultant.

The final members of the team are Shaun Menzies, 42, and Jonathon Bradshaw, 36 - relatively inexperienced high-altitude trekkers who were invited to join the expedition and be part of the trip of a lifetime.

Mr Foley, based at the expedition’s headquarters in Ireland, said the team were in good spirits and were resting at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.

“They’re well and being taken care of by the researchers there. ”They’re having a cup of coco I think,“ he said.

The Beyond Endurance Expedition kicked off in 2006 with an ambitious adventure with a group of “ordinary” people aged from 21 to 61 travelling across South Georgia, landing on Elephant Island, a mountainous ice-covered island off the Antarctic coast.

The purpose was to give budding explorers the chance to see Antarctica.

From this group Mr Menzies, a Dublin IT consultant, was selected for rigorous training in Greenland for the South Pole expedition.

There they met up with Mr Bradshaw, a budding adventurer who has explored remote parts of the Himalayas, Africa and New Zealand, who was on a separate trek.

The four adventurers have retraced the steps of some of the best-known Irish Antarctic explorers, including Ernest Shackleton and Tom Crean.

In 2004 Co Kerry native Mike Barry became the first Irish man to trek to the South Pole as part of an international expedition.

But Mr Falvey’s squad have now become the first Irish-led team to perform the feat.

The squad have travelled more than 1,100km (680 miles) since they set out on their trek in early November, with each member hauling a sledge weighing in excess of 150kg (330lb).

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