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2000: First Britons reach North Pole unaided

VIDEO : Report on Chambers and Patton's achievement

Two Royal Marine commandos are the first Britons to reach the geographical North Pole without outside support, braving severe weather conditions on as little as half a cup of porridge a day.

Corporal Alan Chambers, 31, and Marine Charlie Paton, 29, spent the past 70 days dragging 250lb sledges 700 miles across the ice.

"I'm OK now, all my kit has been dried and I've just got a bruise to my back which is getting better"

Marine Charlie Paton

Perilously short of food in the final days of the expedition, the pair broke into their emergency rations last Friday. They ran out of food a day before reaching the Pole.

They are expected to fly into the Team Polar 2000 base at Resolute Bay, northern Canada on tonight.

The Marines suffered numerous setbacks en route to the Pole, including a tent fire and minor frostbite. The temperature sank as low as -30C.

Team halved by illness

The original four-man team was reduced to two last month after Corporal Jason Garland suffered exhaustion and Corporal Paul Jones pulled out with frostbite.

Marine Paton twice fell into freezing water. In a message posted on the team's website, he reassured those following the expedition that he had escaped virtually unscathed.

"It was quite a scary experience falling in the water but the rest of the team got me out and warmed me up quickly - it feels quite warm in the water compared to the freezing temperatures out of it."

To prepare for the trip, the team acclimatised to the blistering cold at the Institute of Naval Medicine in Hampshire, where they spent a day in a -30C freezer.

Without protective clothing, spending just five minutes at that temperature would leave the hands and feet tingling for the rest of the day.

In Context
The triumph of entering the record books was marred by Charlie Paton's failure to notify his superior officers that he had been convicted three months earlier of assaulting a nightclub doorman.

The conviction would probably have meant his exclusion from the expedition.

He said he was planning another trek - this time to the South Pole and back unaided tracing the steps of the famous explorer Scott of the Antarctic.

In June 2002, British mother-of-triplets Ann Daniels and film financier Caroline Hamilton finished their hike to the North Pole to become the first women to walk to both Poles. They had reached the South Pole five months earlier.

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