Shackleton Centenary Expedition

The Last 97 Team December 07 2008

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A little over a week ago, the last 97 team came back from Alta, in Northern Norway after having spent a week training for their own expedition in less than a month's time. They will be doing the last 97 nautical miles to the South Pole, which works out at 120 standard miles. In this time they were able to cross-country ski around the Finnmark area, taking in the scenery including Europe's largest canyon, they pitched tents in the dark (around 3PM at the latest), and learnt some of the skills necessary to survive down in Antarctica.

The team were above the Arctic Circle and only 1200 nautical miles from the North Pole. They were even snowed in for one day in a total white-out, with temperatures around -10° C to -15° C with a windchill added in, the team eperienced temperatures of around -20° C. Looking at the temperatures that the guys in Antarctica are facing at the moment that will hopefully stand them in good stead, however temperatures in Antarctica have gone down to -50° C in the summertime when they will be looking to head down.

Matty McNair will be the guide for the Last 97 nautical miles, she was the boss in Norway, showing everyone how to put up a tent in the wind, basic navigation skills and frequently telling everyone "if you get wet you die" - helps to concentrate the mind. Matty contributed to polar history in 1997 when she led the first commercial polar expedition, guiding the first women's expedition to the Geographic North Pole. She has since guided 3 expeditions to the South Pole, and a dog sledding expedition to the North Pole.

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Dave Cornell is the great-grandson of Jameson Boyd Adams. David was an officer in the British Army before entering the City, and spent several years in Norway leading Arctic warfare exercises. He heads the fundraising team, and has played a crucial role in ensuring that this expedition has raised more money in sponsorship prior to setting off, than any previous polar expedition.

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Tim Fright is 25 years old, He is the great-great-nephew of Frank Wild, the only explorer to accompany Shackleton on all his missions.Tim counts skydiving and marathon running amongst his hobbies and has worked on the website when he wasn't working as a speechwriter and researcher for Lord Bilimoria CBE DL, founder and Chairman of Cobra Beer.

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At the age of 18 Andy Ledger set off alone to go walking in France. While studying he walked the 200 miles from Sheffield back to university in Newcastle 'just to see what it was like'; and it was on another solo trip, cycling across America and China, that he spotted an advertisement for the Place at the Pole competition, run by the Matrix Shackleton Centenary Expedition. Andy beat 3000 applicants in a nationwide competition to do the last 97 miles, and is looking to join the Marines after this.

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Richard Gray (Ronnie), a 38 year-old Law graduate, has worked for Credit Suisse in London since 2005. Previously he was with UBS, Threadneedle and Morgan Grenfell. Prior to joining the Financial Services industry, Richard was a Captain in the Coldstream Guards. Married with 3 children, Richard enjoys field sports, travel, sport, history and music.

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Finally, Keith Abel came with us to Norway as well. Keith, the founder of Abel and Cole, the organic food delivery service, was a great addition to the team, providing much needed (and much appreciated) advice and expertise and we are all sorry that he won't be able to do the last 97 with the rest of us.

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Tim and Andy fly out on the 28th December, with Ronnie and Dave meeting up with them in Chile a few days later. From there, Matty will meet up with everyone before the team look to land in Patriot Hills airbase in Antarctica around the 4th January, and then fly up to the 97 mile point by the 9th January. All things being well, both the Last 97'ers and the Ice Team will reach the South Pole around the 20th January and will be back in the UK by around the 1st February at the latest.

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