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Geoff Wilson First Australian to Complete Solo and Unsupported Crossing of AntarcticaJan 17 (Fri ), 2014
Adventurer Geoff Wilson has carved his own piece of history in Antarctica’s ice, becoming the first Australian to complete a solo and unsupported crossing of earth’s southernmost continent and setting a new world mark in the process.
The Gold Coast veterinarian has been kiting, trekking and skiing across Antarctica on a 53-day, 3,428.53km kilometer journey since November last year – with his pink ‘boobsled’ in tow - to raise breast awareness and funds for the McGrath Foundation.
“I wasn’t expecting to finish my journey so quickly, but after a couple of weeks of horrendous conditions the last few days were perfect and I was travelling up to 200 kilometers daily, the longest stretches I’d been able to accomplish on the crossing,” Geoff said from an ice shelf at Hercules Inlet, where he is awaiting an airlift to Union Glacier and then home via Chile.
Wilson, 43, has averaged one and a half marathons daily. He is the first Australian, and just the third person in history, to complete a solo and unsupported crossing of Antarctica.
Along the way he also set a new world mark for the fastest solo and unsupported crossing of Antarctica, smashing the record Norwegian Børge Ousland had held for 17 years, by 11 days.
“Australia has a proud and rich history of Polar exploration so it’s just a tremendous feeling to achieve this record for Australia and set a new mark for the others to chase,” Wilson said.
Leading Polar guide and adventurer Eric Philips OAM, who is widely regarded as a world expert on Polar exploration, described Wilson’s achievement as one of the ‘most extraordinary Antarctic accomplishments in recent history’.
“The Norwegians have traditionally been at the forefront of cutting edge polar adventuring but Geoff has taken it to them with an achievement that is truly world class,” Philips said. “I don’t think this mark will be broken for a while – men like Geoff don’t come around every year – he’s one of that rare breed that continues the great tradition of Australian Polar exploration.”
Hobart-based Philips, a guide with Prince Harry’s team on the Walking With The Wounded Antarctic expedition last month said Wilson’s feat was all the more extraordinary as it was totally unsupported.
“Geoff has had no physical assistance from a single person during the past 53 days, relying solely on his own resourcefulness and the wind to cross Antarctica from one side to the other,” Philips said. “And that would have been extremely difficult as there were a couple of temptations along the way, particularly when he reached the South Pole and was just meters away from a hot shower, a big steak, a glass of red, a warm bed and a flight home. He’d already accomplished so much by then that it would have been very easy to say ‘enough’s enough’, but he didn’t and I knew he wouldn’t the moment I met him – Geoff Wilson is an extraordinary man. A handful of other people have crossed Antarctica, but they have been supported with resupplies - Geoff is one of just three people in the history of Antarctic exploration who has taken on the crossing and won with zero physical support.”
Philips only met Wilson last year but became a vital link in the Pink Polar Expedition assisting with gear choices, tactics and permissions.
“The gear is critical and can mean the difference between success and failure on the ice,” Philips said. “The Antarctic is both beautiful and brutal and I can envision what Geoff was up against in the middle of the storm that delayed the Walking With The Wounded expedition in Cape Town. Thankfully his tent held out, but he also proved himself to be a very patient and resourceful man in the face of such danger.”
Wilson has also set a new national record for the longest solo and unsupported Polar journey by an Australian (previously 1,130 km) and become the first and only Australian to do the approach to the South Pole the long way from Novo Station on the South African side of the Antarctic Coast.
Since starting the Pink Polar Expedition on 13 November 2013, Wilson has lost about 18 kilograms, but none of his sense of humour as he joked about an unofficial record he can add to the list.
“I’m pretty sure I’ve just become the only man in history to drag a pair of pink boobs across Antarctica,” he laughed. “My body’s a little battered and so is the pink ‘boobsled’, but it also slid into the history books on Sunday, which is great because it is the symbol of what this journey has been all about.”
The Pink Polar Expedition was inspired by Wilson’s friend Kate Carlyle, who at 35, is a two-time breast cancer survivor.
“I couldn’t watch Kate go through her breast cancer experience without doing something and we have worked on the Pink Polar Expedition together from the outset,” Wilson said. “Katie represents every Australian woman experiencing breast cancer and those women inspired me to keep going. There were many days that I was tired and broken and feeling that I couldn’t go on but I’d remember those women and draw strength from their courage. I don’t think you could do something like this unless you were driven by a passion and I am passionate about raising breast awareness, particularly in young women, and funds for the McGrath Foundation. I saw the wonderful support Katie received from her breast care nurse and the difference that support made to her and her family. The great work the McGrath Foundation does was publicly celebrated at the ‘pink Test’ yesterday but it was also one my private inspirations on this journey, another motivation to keep me going on the tough days.”
The Pink Polar Expedition is self-funded with the support of generous corporate sponsorship so 100% of all donations go to the McGrath Foundation.
“My target when I set out was to raise $1 million and even though my journey on the ice has finished I’m not going to give up on that reaching that fundraising goal,” Wilson said. “We’ve had tremendous support from all the people who’ve been following the Pink Polar Expedition – I was very chuffed to hear that my favourite chef Jamie Oliver shared an image from the ice on Instagram the other day and, funnily enough, that was the day the wind came up! I love the McGrath Foundation’s tagline ‘together we can make a difference’ and I still believe that the Pink Polar Expedition can raise $1 million dollars which would fund three McGrath Breast Care Nurses to support Australian families experiencing breast cancer in communities around Australia.”
Personally Geoff has missed some important moments in his own family’s life while on the ice, including his son’s 13th birthday and Christmas.
“My family has been behind me every step of the way and every step I’ve taken is one step closer to home and to them,” Wilson said. “My wife Sarah has been amazing – from letting me build the pink ‘boobsled’ from a cast of her breasts to being my ‘mental coach’. And my three children have never stopped believing in me, despite their Dad being the crazy guy dragging a pink ‘boobsled’ across Antarctica! Home is my next journey and I can’t wait to get off this ice shelf and start it!”