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Polar Record Explorer Returns Home

By Paul O’Hare, Scottish Press Association

Accountant-turned-adventurer

An explorer who completed the first Scottish expedition to the South Pole tonight spoke of his relief at being back in the UK.

Craig Mathieson hauled a 160lb sledge 730 miles during his gruelling journey across Antarctica.

He finished the epic adventure in 56 days despite his partner dropping out.

The father-of-three from Bo’ness, West Lothian, also had to fight through the pain barrier after suffering a ripped knee tendon 70 miles from the finish line.

Reunited with family

Mr Mathieson, 35, was tonight reunited with his wife, Michele, and three children at Edinburgh Airport.

“It‘s a huge relief to be back,” he said.

“I spent a long time on the ice as it is just over two months since I left.”

On the significance of his achievement, the accountant said: “I don‘t think it has sunk in yet.

“Once I get the chance to relax over the next week or two I think it will hit me.

“I feel immensely proud to have completed the first dedicated Scottish expedition to the South Pole.”

Extreme conditions

The temperatures were so extreme that he could only stop for five-minute breaks at a time during the day for fear of frostbite.

And he said one of the most treacherous aspects of the trek was negotiating crevasses covered with thin layers of snow.

Mr Mathieson walked for eight-and-a-half hours a day and got by on seven hours’ sleep a night.

Looking to the future he said: “I just want to have a long rest and spend time with my family.

“I have no other major expeditions planned.”

Wife and childrne at airport to meet returning hero

His wife Michele and three children, Layla, nine, Jake, six and Ruari, 23 months, met him at the airport.

Mrs Mathieson said: “He looks really well and it‘s just great to have him home.

“When someone you love is away like that then it is very worrying.

“But I always knew he would do it.

“We are looking forward to having a family party and some time to ourselves.”

Mr Mathieson left Glasgow in late October with a fellow accountant, Fiona Taylor.

The intention had been for each to pull a 160lb two-metre sledge, starting from Hercules Inlet in Antarctica.

Companion forced to return

But Ms Taylor, also 35, from Dunfermline in Fife, was forced to return to base camp less than a fortnight into the expedition with hypothermia and frostbite.

She had been forced to wrap her hands in thick bandages in an attempt to stave off severe frostbite in the worst weather seen in the region for years.

Mr Mathieson pressed on alone, with the intention of reaching the Pole on New Year’s Day.

But organisers of the Scot 100 expedition confirmed he reached his destination on December 28.

Throughout the trek, Mr Mathieson had to endure the harshest weather conditions for 15 years, with temperatures as low as –53C.

A spokesman for the organisers said he pulled a sleigh weighing 160lbs and burnt 6,000-8,000 calories per day – the equivalent of running a daily marathon.

Fiona Taylor is said to be recovering well and is working with the project team to raise as much money as possible for its chosen charities – Cancer Research UK Scotland, ChildLine Scotland, MS Society Scotland and the Scottish Huntington’s Association.

A Scottish First in Centenary year

The expedition has been recognised as a Scottish first by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, as it was the first time a Scottish team had man-hauled sledges to the South Pole.

It coincides with centenary celebrations for the achievements of William Speirs Bruce during the voyage of the Scotia in 1904.

The purpose of the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition of 1904 was scientific, and not to reach the Pole itself.

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