Harry makes icy mark on royal history

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AFP

This undated picture, issued by Walking With The Wounded on November 25, 2013, shows Britain's Prince Harry (right), patron of Team UK in the South Pole Allied Challenge 2013, pulling the pulk which is guiding US team member Ivan Castro, who is blind, during ski training in Novo, Antarctica, ahead of a charity walk to the South Pole.

Prince Harry on Friday became the first member of Britain's royal family to reach the South Pole after a three-week charity trek with injured military veterans from Britain, the United States, Canada and Australia.

Harry and the 12 servicemen and women reached the globe's most southerly point at 1200 GMT following a 200-mile (320-kilometre) journey across the frozen wastes of Antarctica, organisers Walking With The Wounded said.

The expedition was initially conceived as a race but it was abandoned due to concerns about the safety of the participants, some of whom lost limbs fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The teams decided to continue their trek, however, dragging 70-kilogramme sleds through the bitter cold and high winds.

Harry, 29, who serves as an army helicopter pilot, joked earlier this week about the expected arrival date of Friday 13th, which he said was “unlucky for some, lucky for us”.

“The wind has dropped down, which is nice. I think everyone is feeling a bit tired but slowly getting into the rhythm,” the fourth-in-line to the throne said.

“Only just got into the rhythm now and it has almost finished.”

The veterans have endured temperatures as low as minus 35 degrees Celsius (minus 31 degrees Fahrenheit) and wind speeds of around 50 miles (80 kilometres) per hour.

The trek has been organised by Walking With The Wounded, a charity which raises funds to retrain injured troops and help them find new careers outside the military.

Harry joined the charity for part of a trek to the North Pole in 2011, but had to come home early to be best man at his brother Prince William's wedding to the former Kate Middleton.

While Queen Elizabeth II's grandson is the first royal to reach the South Pole, Britain's monarchy has a number of links to the frozen continent.

The queen's husband Prince Philip crossed the Antarctic circle in 1957 on board the now-retired royal yacht Britannia while visiting a memorial cross to polar explorer Ernest Shackleton on the remote Atlantic island of South Georgia.

Harry's aunt Princess Anne has twice visited Antarctica, most recently in 2007.

The queen herself had a huge chunk of Antarctica named after her in a gift from the British government to mark her diamond jubilee in 2012.

Queen Elizabeth Land is around 169 000 square miles (437 000 square kilometres) in size, making up just under a third of British Antarctic Territory.

AFP


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