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68-year-old Welshman closes in on new Antarctic record

This weekend (Saturday 13th January 2024) 68-year-old Welshman and former Royal Marines Commando, Dave Thomas from Port Talbot, marked the poignant 1,000 km milestone in his attempt to set a new Guinness World Record by becoming the oldest person to reach the South Pole unassisted, beating the previous record by an impressive four years!

With ‘just’ 130km left to go – and weather permitting – Dave and fellow former RM Alan Chambers MBE expect to reach the Pole on or around 19th January. 

By then, they will have been on the ice for close to two months having ski-ed, unassisted, the 1,130 km from Hercules Inlet, dragging their heavily laden sleds with all their food, fuel and stores for the 54+ day Mission Spiritus Antarctica expedition. 

Dave says: “The 1,000km mark was a huge emotional milestone for us. We have one more degree to deliver the mission to the South Pole. Still no easy feat but the Commando Spirit is strong.”

Having reached the polar plateau and with the steepest part of the journey behind them, daily progress nevertheless remains a brutal challenge. 

This is the centre of Antarctica, often described as ‘the highest, coldest, windiest and iciest land mass on the planet, an inhospitable wasteland’ lying at 2,800m above sea level. 

They are at the mercy of the full-on Antarctic summer with high winds and often white-out conditions where summer temperatures fluctuate from highs of -23 to lows of – 28 degrees, and where a frigid light breeze can easily plummet temperatures into the -30’s.

The past few days have been dogged by fresh new snow on an icy base layer, but the snow is not the ‘gliding’ type for fast travel, dragging heavily on the sleds and skis. The constant endurance of the daily toil, mental strain and precise concentration needed over the final kilometres is energy sapping on now very tired bodies.

Mission Spiritus Antarctica is a multi-faceted polar scientific expedition undertaking research into the global impact of nano plastics on behalf of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and the effects sensory deprivation has on the body in prolonged remote climates in conjunction with Manchester Met University. The team is also raising funds for RMA – The Royal Marines Charity.