March 25, 2008 / 4:39 AM / 10 years ago

Briton gives up North Pole bid after fall

LONDON (Reuters) - British explorer Hannah McKeand has called off her attempt to become the first woman to reach the North Pole alone and unaided after falling through ice and injuring herself, her expedition manager said on Sunday.

She set out from Canada’s Ward Hunt Island on 8 March and by skiing, walking and swimming had hoped to take 60 days to cover the 478 miles to the pole, where temperatures can dip to minus 60 degrees Celsius (minus 76 Fahrenheit).

The 34-year-old McKeand hurt her leg, back and shoulder after falling into an eight-foot deep hole in the polar ice on Thursday night, 45 miles north of her starting point.

“Hannah had climbed onto a pile of ice blocks to scout the view ahead,” said expedition manager Steve Jones.

“There was a crack in the ice but no hint that it was a dangerous situation. Without warning the snow gave way and Hannah fell sideways into a hole eight-feet deep.”

McKeand took an hour to extricate herself from the hole and camped overnight but in pain and with limited mobility decided to abandon the expedition.

“It became clear her injuries would prevent further progress and arrangements are under way to organise a pick up from her current location,” added Jones.

She will be airlifted to a Canadian forces airstrip and then taken to Resolute and finally on to Ottawa for medical checks.

Five years ago Briton Pen Hadow, then 41, became the first person to reach the North Pole unaided from Canada, completing the trip in 64 days.

Dubbed the “Human Icebreaker” because he swam through shattered ice sheets, Hadow was stranded for eight days on floating ice by bad weather after he had completed his expedition.

Kenn Borek Air, the company that flew him to safety, said he had put its pilots in danger by mounting his expedition so late in the year.

Another Briton, the 30-year-old Ben Saunders is attempting to beat Hadow’s record, by completing the same journey in 30 days.

“I had my first case of pre-match nerves mid-way brought on in part by the fact that the only other person trying to get to the North Pole this spring, Hannah McKeand, is currently sat in her tent waiting for a pick-up flight after injuring her back and shoulder,” wrote Saunders on his blog on Sunday.

“So I’ll have 5.4 million square miles -- an area bigger than America -- pretty much to myself for the next month.”

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