Teenage polar explorer on quest to raise climate change awareness

Mon Jan 27, 2014 5:41pm EST
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By Marina Lopes

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Parker Liautaud, the teenage polar explorer who set the record last year as the fastest unsupported person to trek to the South Pole, said he set off on the 314-mile trip from the coast of Antarctica to draw attention to climate change.

The 19-year-old California native broke the previous record held by Norwegian explorers Ottar Haldorsen and Jacob Meland by almost four days when he reached the South Pole on Christmas Eve after 18 days, four hours and 43 minutes.

On the return trip Liautaud bored into the hostile terrain and took 6.5-foot-deep (2 meter) samples that he hopes will help scientists answer questions about global warming.

Researchers at GNS Science, a New Zealand research institute, are analyzing the samples for changes in composition that could shed light on the pace of climate change in the region.

"What we wanted to do was to harness an engaging story that people could be a part of from a region that was being significantly hit by climate change," Liautaud, who had hiked to the North Pole three times, said in an interview.

It wasn't easy for the teenage explorer who ignored a chest infection, swollen ankle and the frostbite eating at his fingers and toes to finish the trek.

With visions of hotel beds and burrito restaurants dancing in his head, the Yale geology student persisted.

Every morning he and his teammate, veteran explorer Doug Stoup, hosted a live webcast on the expedition's website that brought climate experts and skeptics together for discussions on everything from food security to changes in the ozone layer.   Continued...