Blind man returns from polar adventure

Wed, Feb 4, 2009, 00:00

WHILE MOST people found yesterday’s snowfall to be on the cold side, for Mark Pollock, the first blind man to ever reach the South Pole on foot, it felt positively tropical.

Mr Pollock returned home to a hero’s welcome at Dublin airport yesterday after taking part in the Amundsen Omega 3 South Pole race last week. Mr Pollock and fellow competitors, Dubliner Simon O’Donnell and Norwegian Inge Solheim, came fifth overall of six teams in the race.

With temperatures at the southernmost point of the planet often dropping to -50 degrees, the bad weather in Dublin didn’t faze him, even if it did mean that his flight back was delayed by a few hours.

“I have to admit that it’s an irony to return home to snow but I’ve come to like it,” said Mr Pollock.

Pollock’s team-mate, Mr O’Donnell, who sustained frostbite on his hands, face and ear during the race, was also pleased to be back in Ireland.

“It’s almost strange to be here. We had a few days in Cape Town on the way back where we totally relaxed so there’s almost a sense of coming back from holidays,” he said.

Mr Pollock, from Hollywood, Co Down, lost his sight 10 years ago at the age of 22. He has taken part in a series of extreme challenges since losing his sight but his mother Barbara admitted that his journey to the South Pole worried her.

“This one was different from anything Mark has taken part in before, so it did cause us a bit of concern but I never thought for one minute that he wouldn’t do it,” she said.

Mr Pollock is working on a book about his participation in the Omega 3 South Pole race. After being reunited with family members and his beloved guide dog Larry, Mr Pollock said he was looking forward to settling back down to a normal life for a while.

However, his father Johnny said he thought that it wouldn’t be long before Mark was ready for another challenge again.

“Mark was interviewed just after his arrival at the South Pole and he mentioned kite skiing, whatever that is.

“But then maybe he’ll do something easy like a few marathons instead,” he said.