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Aussies set record for unsupported Antarctic trek

19 january 2012, 13:10
Two Australian adventurers made history Wednesday by travelling more than 1,800 kilometres (1,100 miles) unsupported through the Antarctic wilderness, AFP reports.

James Castrission, a 29-year-old accountant, and Justin Jones, 28 and a scientist, are attempting to ski from the edge of Antarctica to the South Pole and back.

They reached the Pole on December 31 and are now 80 days into their trek in one of the harshest environments on the planet, passing the previous longest polar skiing trip without airdrops or sails.

That record was set in 2009 when Norwegian Cecilie Skog and American Ryan Waters covered 1,800 km.

"This expedition has been both physically and mentally gruelling but we've reached a great milestone overnight," Castrission said in a statement.

"We are now down to half rations and are being pushed to our very limit, but reaching the record overnight has given us a boost and we can't wait to punch out the last few hundred kilometres and finish the job."

The pair still have just under 400km before they complete the quest and if they are successful, will set another record by being the first team to complete the arduous journey unassisted.

It is expected that the expedition will be completed in time for the last flight out of Antarctica for the season on January 27.

"It's certainly a nice feeling to have got this far and set a new world record but our mission is by no means complete," said Jones.

"We've still got a lot of kilometres to cover to make it in time for that last flight out of Antarctica, and only when we step foot onto that flight will we feel like we have achieved something special."

Both men beefed up by about 20 kilograms (44 pounds) each in preparation for the gruelling trip during which they were towing 160kg of gear.

They were eating the calorie equivalent of 15 beef burgers a day until bad weather caused delays in reaching the South Pole which forced them to ration their food supplies.

Over the past 80 days they have endured heavy snowfall -- including close to two weeks of white-out days -- and winds of up to 70 kilometres per hour while the average temperature has been minus-25 Celsius (minus-13 Fahrenheit).

The men hope to raise funds for a cancer charity for young people during their 2,220 kilometre expedition.

They are familiar with the extreme, battling giant seas, sickness, sharks and food shortages during a 62-day world record crossing of the Tasman Sea in a kayak in 2007-2008, a 3,300-kilometre journey.

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