BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: UK: Scotland
Front Page 
Northern Ireland 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

BBC Scotland's Colin Wight reports
"There were celebrations at the Marines' home base"
 real 28k

Base camp manager Freddie Warwick
"It's brilliant achievement. They've been through a really rough phase in their lives, but they have achieved it now"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 17 May, 2000, 16:53 GMT 17:53 UK
Scots Marine 'on top of the world'
The Marines on the ice
The team is only the third to complete the historic trek
A Scottish Royal Marine is on "top of the world" after becoming one of only a handful of people to walk unaided to the North Pole.

Charlie Paton, from Stonehaven, and Corporal Alan Chambers, from Scunthorpe, completed their historic trek early on Wednesday.

The men, both commandos, are the third team ever to reach the geographic North Pole without resupply and the first British team to achieve the feat.

I think it's the true grit of the north-east of Scotland, the dour grit

Charlie Paton snr
The 700-mile journey took 67 days and has been completed by fewer people than have stood on the surface of the moon.

Corporal Ian Warwick, of the Marines' Support Team, said: "We're all on top of the world basically. Just to hear and see that they've made it has put us all on top of the world.

Marines' spokesman, Major George Matthews, said: "It was a close run thing but they made it before the weather turned against them - it's the culmination of a massive team effort.

'Lowest point'

Charlie Paton said: "The last seven days were the worst days of our lives really, we made a few bold decisions as to whether to carry on or to get the plane in.

"We ran out of food and decided to split two bags of food up for six days and crack on. That was the lowest point, not enough food to keep us going for 12 or 16 hour days."

He said the food rations in the last few days were equivalent to about half-a-cup of porridge per day and that it was simple willpower that drove them on.

Charlie Paton
A frost-bitten Charlie Paton after his walk
As they took their last steps, an aircraft was in the air to pick them up and fly them back in triumph to their base at Resolute Bay, northern Canada.

Paton, 29, and Corporal Chambers, 31, won their race against time to reach their objective after five weeks of battling ice pressure ridges, blizzards and white-outs.

They negotiated open stretches of water when the ice cracked, and endured temperatures of -30C.

The journey began in 24-hour darkness and ended in 24-hour daylight.

Short of food

They were scheduled to be airlifted from the pole on Wednesday, regardless of whether or not they had completed the trek, because of approaching bad weather, bringing severe temperatures and high winds.

The two men, who pulled sledges of supplies across the ice cap, were perilously short of food when they reached the pole, having broken into their emergency rations last Friday.

They are now looking forward to tucking into the sweets and foods they fantasised about during their walk.

Charles Paton
Charles Paton snr: "Very proud"
Back home in Stonehaven, Charlie Paton's father, Charlie senior, mother Marion and brothers Kenny and Andrew, were celebrating.

Mr Paton said he was certain what had pulled the two men through.

He told the BBC: "I think it's the true grit of the north east of Scotland, the dour grit.

"I think it's infected the both of them and they've done very well. It's a great relief that they've got there and we're both very proud of what they've done.

Brother Kenny said: "I think it's just tremendous, more people have stood on the North Pole."

Cracking ice

The men ordered a list of goodies, including chocolate and pizza, to be brought by the pick-up plane.

The pair, stationed at 40 Commando Unit, Taunton, Somerset, were originally scheduled to reach the pole last weekend.

But with 60 miles to go the ice cracked and a huge water "lead" confronted them - forcing them to detour 15 miles to find a way round it.

The Marines suffered numerous other setbacks en route, including a tent fire and one of their members falling into freezing water twice.

Last month two other members of the Marine expedition, Corporals Jason Garland, from Oxfordshire, and Paul Jones, from North Wales, were airlifted off the ice after developing severe frostbite.

In a recent failed solo attempt, the Exmoor-based explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes recently lost the tips of a thumb and forefinger.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

17 May 00 | UK
Marines tackle tough trek
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Scotland stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Scotland stories