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Thursday, 10 February, 2000, 17:54 GMT
South Pole trip for 94-year-old

Colonel Norman Vaughan and husky Norman Vaughan with his means of transport

A man who conquered the South Pole in the 1920s is setting off across the ice again - this time at the age of 94.

Colonel Norman Vaughan will travel 800 miles across some of the most hostile terrain in Alaska, on a sled pulled by huskies.

He will be leading a race which recreates an heroic sled run in 1925, when teams of huskies raced in appalling conditions to get vaccines to a remote town.

Alaska Colonel Vaughan faces Alaska's hostile terrain
Twenty men and their dogs were involved in the original run, fighting their way through driving blizzards for five days to reach the town of Nome, which was in the grip of a diptheria epidemic.

Conditions were so tough that some dogs froze to death on the way. Temperatures dropped to minus 60 degrees Celsius and visibility was almost zero.

The repeat of the epic feat has been staged annually since 1973, partly as a means of preserving the tradition of dog-sleds.

Colonel Vaughan, who will be leading this year's run, is no stranger to ice-bound adventure. He is the last surviving member of a group of US explorers who made it to the South Pole in the 1920s.

Colonel Norman Vaughan Colonel Vaughan speaks about his earlier adventures
He was studying at Harvard when he spotted a newspaper report about plans to stage the first American exploration of Antarctica. He dropped out of his studies to join the team, led by Admiral Richard Byrd, and became the expedition's dog trainer and driver.

At the end of the trip, he achieved the honour of becoming the only man to have had a mountain in Antarctica named after him - the 10,302ft peak Mount Vaughan. Many years later, at the age of 89, he celebrated by becoming the first man to climb it.

Wartime rescue

Colonel Vaughan has also led other dramatic ice-bound adventures. In the 1920s, even before his Antarctic exploration, he helped delivered vital medical supplies to remote villages in Newfoundland.

During his service in World War II he had 200 dogs and 17 men under his command. His most dramatic mission involved the rescue of more than two dozen American servicemen, who had been stranded in Greenland. They were brought out by dog and sled under the noses of German forces.

He also achieved the distinction of teaching Pope John Paul II how to control huskies.

Colonel Vaughan visited London on Thursday to speak at the Royal Geographical Society in central London, before setting off on his trip across Alaska.

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