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The BBC's Darren Jorden reports
"Completing a unique double"
 real 28k

Monday, 24 January, 2000, 15:06 GMT
Polar double for British women

First all-female group to reach both poles

A group of five British women have been personally congratulated by Prince Charles after becoming the first all-female expedition to reach both the North and South poles.

The Prince is patron of the 350,000 M&G ISA-sponsored expedition which completed its 695-mile trek to the South Pole at around 0600 GMT on Monday.

Cold comfort
Temperatures at the South Pole can be as low as -75C, with winds of up to 80mph
Antarctica is the coldest and fifth largest continent - twice as big as Australia
The five women risked crevasses up to 100ft deep and battled over snow dunes up to 10ft high
Expedition leader Caroline Hamilton, 35, speaking from the South Pole by satellite phone said the Prince was the first person the team contacted on reaching their goal.

She said: "The Prince said he was very proud of his ladies, and we hope to meet up with him when we get back."

By reaching their goal - 9,500 feet up on the Antarctic plateau - the women became the first all-female British expedition to reach the South Pole.

But the team had also reached the North Pole in a relay expedition in 1997, creating a unique world record.

Ms Hamilton, a film financier from London, said their arrival at the South Pole was like "something out of a James Bond movie".

"The United States South Pole base appeared out of the mist, people came towards us, and a Hercules aircraft landed in front of us.

"We flew the Union Jack and the M&G flag and sang the National Anthem," she said.

Prince Charles: Expedition patron
Ms Hamilton, was on the last leg to the North Pole with Zoe Hudson, 32, a sports physiotherapist from Leeds, and 46-year-old property developer Pom Oliver, from Sussex.

The Queen Mother's great niece, 38-year-old writer Rosie Stancer, from Prague in the Czech Republic, and Ann Daniels, 32, from Yeovil, Somerset, tackled earlier North Pole legs.

Earlier this month, Catharine Hartley and Fiona Thornewill became the first British women to complete the journey to the South Pole on foot as part of a mixed expedition.

Mrs Thornewill and her husband Mike renewed their wedding vows at the Pole.

Scientific research

Ms Stancer said the British team was "ecstatic" to reach the pole.

"We are all very proud at what we have achieved, it has been hard work but we have seen a lot of wonderful things," she added.

During their trek the women have been collecting meteorological, physiological and scientific data, intended to aid understanding of how the female body works in extreme conditions.

The team is also fund raising for Special Olympics UK, the UK's largest sports charity.

Ms Oliver, a 46-year-old property developer, speaking from their tent pitched on the geographic South Pole, said: "It is great to be here, we are all on such a high."

She said she was looking forward to steak, pudding and wine at the US base, where they have been invited to celebrate.

Their journey began at Hercules Inlet, on the edge of Antarctica, on 24 November.

Pulling all their food and equipment on sledges, the women have tackled the Antarctic wastes without a guide, and with a single re-supply, on 3 January.

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See also:
31 Dec 99 |  Sci/Tech
South Pole is moved
04 Jan 00 |  UK
Double Pole record set
06 Sep 99 |  Sci/Tech
Explorer's relics unfrozen
06 Jan 00 |  UK
Go girls: Women adventurers

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