Hampshire Men First To Row To North Pole

26 August 2011, 11:12 | Updated: 26 August 2011, 11:17

Two Hampshire men are among a team of explorers who've become the first people to row to the magnetic north pole.

Rob Sleep, 38, and British Army officer Captain David Mans, 28, took just under four weeks to complete the 450-mile route, along with four other men.

They encountered polar bears and collided with icebergs as they travelled through the Arctic waters in their specially designed vessel.

The trip has only recently become possible because of an increase in seasonal ice melt in the Arctic which has opened up the waters.

The expedition was organised to highlight the effects of climate change on the ice in the region.

Team leader Jock Wishart said: “It was a dream four years ago but now it's reality..we are all exhilarated and relieved that weather conditions were in our favour and we have completed our row to the magnetic north pole while it was still possible.

“It is an enormous achievement, and a privilege for our team to have been part of what is one of the world's last great firsts.”

The group set out from Resolute Bay in Canada on July 29 in their specially designed boat-cum-sledge the Old Pulteney, which has runners on its underside so that it can be hauled over the ice.

They slept in shifts between rowing stints and were fuelled by 7,000 calorie per day dry rations.

The group saw around eight polar bears on their journey, one of which came within five feet of them.

Another challenge was floating ice which blocked their route, particularly towards the end of their journey as the ice closed in.

Mr Wishart continued: “We've been very lucky with the weather but there's been times when we've been trying to find our way through moving ice floes in fog and we're a long, long way from help.

“But everyone in the team has been in good humour and fettle. They are the best of the bunch.

“Now I'm looking forward to a nice pint and a glass of malt whisky when I get home.”