The final blog

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Hi good evening everyone, this is Lou Rudd, the expedition leader for SPEAR17 and I have the honour of doing the final audio blog for the expedition. So yesterday, at around 2 o’clock in the afternoon local – Chilean – time, we completed the expedition and we’re picked up by the ski plane out on the Ross Ice Shelf at our chosen finish point for the full traverse. The pilots did an amazing job, for them it was a twelve-hour round flight out to get to us right out on the far side of Antarctica. They very skilfully put the plane down between a heavily crevassed area where we were, right between our pulks that we used to mark our a temporary landing strip and did a great job and got us in.
We’re now all safely located back at Union Glacier, main holding camp, still in Antarctica, awaiting our flight back out to Chile which is scheduled to leave on the 26 of January. So a couple more days here in Antarctica, and then we rerun to Chile and then back to the UK.
We got an amazing reception when we arrived here in Union Glacier late last night. We got off the plane to a huge crowd, all the staff and other expedition members all came out to greet us with bottles of champagne, and we really were treated like royalty and had a fantastic reception and an amazing meal – our first fresh food in a very long time. So it was a great evening for the team and probably the first time really that it had actually sunk in, the magnitude of what we’d achieved, which is absolutely incredible. And really I’ve been waiting two and a half years now, with all the planning, preparation and build up, and throughout the expedition itself to say these four words: we have done it.
And it does feel absolutely amazing. The guys, the team and what they have achieved has been truly incredible and outstanding. Considering two years ago they came from a point of really zero experience as regards to Polar journeys or even working in a very cold-weather environment, I’m the only person on the team who’s been here before, conducting an expedition, and the rest really have gone from zero to hero. And to come out here, and pull off what’s probably the most difficult challenge you can undertake in Antarctica, a full traverse of the whole continent, it really is truly outstanding, so huge credit to them. And they faced every challenge that Antarctica could possibly throw at you, the full range of weather conditions, temperatures, challenges of equipment failures, and everything else really that particularly goes on in long-range Polar journeys. And they’ve overcome every single challenge, and all of them with a smile on their face as well. I’ve bee hugely impressed with this whole team. And for more personally, I couldn’t have wished for greater travelling companions for this trip. And when you consider that only three other expeditions, totally six people, have ever traversed Antarctica, and all those people who have done it before they’re full-time explorers/ adventurers, who do this for a living, and have a huge amount of experience of other journeys before they attempt a traverse. The team members have come out here with zero experience really, and pulled it off, so huge accolade to them.
We’ve achieved all our main objectives. The main objectives for the expedition, which we’ve achieved all of were: to promote the British Army, Regular and Reserves, and adventurous training within the Army, conduct the expedition in line with the British Army’s values and standards, and I’m very confident we’ve totally achieved that, and we wanted to conduct the British Army’s longest ever Polar expedition, and with a distance of well over 1,100 miles, I believe we’ve achieved that. We also wanted to be the first British team ever to traverse Antarctica, and we’ve done that.
Key for myself personally was to pay suitable tribute to a great friend, the late Lieutenant Colonel Henry Worsley, and again we totally achieved that in a number of ways. We were able to complete the route that Henry was attempting on his behalf, which is absolutely incredible. When we reached the top of the Shackelton Glacier, that Henry was just short of reaching himself, we conducted a very suitable memorial service on his behalf, and we carried his compass that he was carrying on his expedition with us throughout the trip.
And finally one of the other main objectives was to raise a significant amount of money for an incredible cause, one that’s close to all of our hearts, because it’s the Army’s charity, ABF The Soldiers’ Charity. And that’s still ongoing, and thank you all so much for the amazing support you’ve shown on that front as well, and got us to a really good point with that.
There are a huge amount of thank yous, and there are literally hundreds of people who’ve been involved in this expedition, that we’d like to thank, and I can’t cover them all here. But the key ones; General Ty Urch, who’s the GOC of Force Troops Command, incredible support for the expedition so a huge thank you for all of us for all of your support throughout and we look forward to seeing you soon. From 1ISR Brigade, Brigadier Bowdler and Brigadier Tom Cottinger-Simes, who’ve been unstinting in their support. And my Commanding Officer at the time, who for two years, again gave a huge amount of support, cutting me all the slack and time I needed to plan and prepare for the trip, Lieutenant Colonel Neil Grant, a huge thank you, particularly from myself, for your unstinting support throughout the last two years in preparation for this trip. To Adventure Training Group Army, Colonel Nick Richardson, who heads that up, and the equipment manager especially, Graham Cook as well, who was hugely supportive in kitting out the expedition to the highest possible standards and that was absolutely key in our success. The regional RFCAs and Colonel Tim Weeks, for their grant support, hugely appreciated. The Army Sports Lottery, SSVC, our friends from our Regimental Association, in particular Dave Lambert, Frank Bowen and Chris Dodkin, thank you for your incredible support throughout.
All the team at the Ulysses Trust who not only supported with a grant for the main expedition, but also our build-up trip to Iceland, which was again instrumental in our preparation for coming out here. The Army Mountaineering Association. Obviously I’ve already mentioned ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, all the team there, from Martin Rutledge, Richard Hackett, and in particular Wendy Searle, who has done all our media support throughout this expedition and has done an absolutely outstanding job, so a huge thanks from the entire team.
And to our main commercial sponsors, Adam and Michael at 7R Performance, thanks for all your assistance, financially and with the physical preparation, it certainly paid off. The team at Compass Underwriting, the Guild of Mercers, Connaught Trust, the guys at Bourn Hall, the Centenary Fund, Sandy Loder at Peak Dynamics, Kev Mann from Level Peaks, all the team at Airbus for their amazing satellite comms support. The guys at Mountain Equipment for all the clothing solutions – a huge thank you. The team at CNP, Expedition Foods for your support, and Professor Chris Imray. And there are many many more, and I think we covered most of those during out daily audio blogs. A huge thanks to all our backers.
And also to our patrons. We have four; Sir Ranulph Fiennes, newly knighted Sir Julian Brazier, Sir Cedric Delves, and Henry Worsley’s wife Joanna Worsley. Again huge thanks to you for all the support throughout and kind messages from our four patrons.
And finally really to everybody else that’s following us and tracking us, and supporting us in so many different ways, a huge thanks from the entire team. I really hope you’ve enjoyed our daily updates and watching our adventure unfold as we’ve inched our way across Antarctica and towards ultimate success.
For me personally it’s been a true honour to have the opportunity to lead this incredible expedition and really the biggest lesson I’ve learned; there’s a very famous quote: Through Endurance We Conquer. Goodbye

3 thoughts on “The final blog

  1. Mike Rodger

    Awesome, well done guys, what an astonishing achievement, you are very special.

    Especially well done Lou for pulling it together and keeping the show on the road for so long.

    What’s the next project then?!

    Reply

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