North Pole expedition abandoned


THE IRISH North Pole Team 2010 began their disappointing journey home yesterday after being forced to abandon their expedition for medical reasons.

Expedition leader Pat Falvey and team members Dr Clare O’Leary and John Dowd were taken from the Arctic ice by plane and flown to the town of Resolute in Canada from where they had set out on their challenge almost a week earlier.

The decision to abandon the expedition came after Mr Dowd developed visible signs of frostbite on two finger tips. The team was planning to visit a medical centre yesterday evening before resting for the night and continuing with their journey back to Ireland.

The trio had aimed to be the first Irish team to reach the North Pole without the aid of dogs or any mechanical means. They had been planning to walk, ski and swim in their 784km journey, which would have taken almost two months.

The team had spent 22 days training in Yellow Knife and Resolute before they set out on their challenge. Their operations manager Niall Foley said the adventurers were disappointed “but these things happen”. He said Mr Dowd had early stage frost bite and it would have been dangerous to allow it to develop.

In a message to Mr Foley, Mr Falvey said the team had spent five days in -40 degree conditions. “We have been pulling and hauling sleds over very rough terrain and exposure is a real danger out here,” he said. “Of course we are feeling somewhat disappointed having to abort at this early stage, but these extreme conditions have taken their toll on John and his injury is not going to improve.”

Crossing the ice to reach the North Pole is considered to be one of the most difficult challenges because of the rugged territory, melting ice and the danger posed by polar bears. Before he set out, Mr Falvey had described the expedition as “equivalent to 60 consecutive marathons”.

The team was prepared for all eventualities, including the possibility that they might have to swim in sub-zero temperatures.

The trio were delayed in starting their journey by the weather and it was reported that other teams on the same journey were also facing difficulties.

Had they been successful, Mr Falvey and Dr O’Leary would have completed the Three Poles Challenge – an adventure to reach Everest, the South Pole and the North Pole. Mr Falvey is a veteran of over 65 worldwide expeditions, Dr O’Leary is a veteran of 22, and Mr Dowd a veteran of 12 expeditions. Dr O’Leary was the first Irish woman to climb Mount Everest in 2004.