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Last Updated: Monday, 9 February, 2004, 06:45 GMT
Making of the Ice Queen
by Eric Simpson
BBC News Online, East Midlands

Fiona Thornewill at the South Pole
Fiona smashed the existing record by eight days
Adventurer Fiona Thornewill gives full credit to the three bears for helping her smash the world record for walking to the South Pole.

Not the fairy tale bears or polar bears - they only live at the North Pole - but her favourite teddy bears Tiny, Growler and Spencer.

"My bears were fantastic companions and reminders of home - but they did get a free ride really," she told BBC News Online.

The Nottinghamshire polar walker has returned from her latest adventure having broken the previous record for walking solo and unaided to the pole by an astonishing eight days.

Norwegian legend Liv Arneson made the trip in 50 days in 1994, but it took Mrs Thornewill, a 37-year-old recruitment consultant, only 42 days.

Good weather, rigorous training and sticky toffee pudding were the other secrets to her success.

"I had 10 different puddings that we called Milestone Puddings - one for every degree of latitude I crossed.

The three bears
Sticky toffee pudding
Satellite tracking system
Photos of her family
Letters from home
Insulated underclothes

"So I was inspired by my sticky toffee, banoffe pie, cherry almond cake and caramel shortcake."

She covered an average of 16 miles a day dragging a 300-pound sledge behind her that weighed more than twice her own body weight.

The temperatures plunged to -60C with wind chill, but insulated underclothes, layers of protective clothing and previous experience walking to both the North and South poles kept her going.

"I trained for six months pulling a massive truck tyre around the fields near my home - for three hours a day."

Her expedition team and family back at home monitored her progress with the satellite tracking device she carried with her.

But her satellite phone, that was meant to provide daily contact with her supporters, failed to recharge after a few days and she was left completely on her own.

When I finally reached the pole, I had tears running down my cheeks
Fiona Thornewill
Polar adventurer

Her stepfather-in-law Roger Alton from Newark, Nottinghamshire said: "It was a worrying yet exhilarating time monitoring her progress on the Argos satellite tracker system.

"This was the only method we had of telling where she was."

After reaching the pole, Mrs Thornewill celebrated with a hot cup of tea and sweets with the Americans at the scientific base at the pole.

"I walked into the South Pole base and it was incredibly hot inside - I got quite light-headed with the altitude, effort and the change in temperature."

She had frostbite on her face and side, but otherwise she was in excellent condition.

But instead of returning to England straight away to recover, she camped outside the American facilities at the pole in a tent for 19 days.

She was determined to wait for the arrival of her husband Mike, 41, a Nottinghamshire policeman, who was leading another expedition of five novice explorers.

Her husband has organised several polar challenges, including one to the North Pole in 2001 and an earlier walk to the South Pole in 2000 when the two exchanged and reaffirmed their marriages vows.

"There is no way I would have achieved this without Mike."

Mrs Thornewill told BBC News Online that she had dedicated the trip to her first husband, Bill, who was killed in a car accident at age 26.

"He was cheated of his life so I promised that I would make the most out of mine."

The adventurer says she plans to write a book about her journey - but otherwise she is determined to take it easy for a while.

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13 Jan 03  |  England


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