Grant Thornton supports epic Antarctic journey to South Pole

26 January 2023 3 min. read
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A pair of doctors have overcome the chronic conditions to complete an arduous ski trek to the South Pole from the Antarctic coast, supported in their journey by professional services firm Grant Thornton.

After 66 days and 1,353 kilometers of gruelling terrain, Antarctica 2023 expedition duo Gareth Andrews and Richard Stephenson have reached the South Pole.

The pair, both doctors, set out back in November in an attempt at the longest known unsupported ski crossing of the continent; an already daunting challenge made especially difficult by having to pull 160 kilogram sleds – including Bob, named by expedition sponsor Grant Thornton.

Grant Thornton supports epic Antarctic journey to South Pole

“We are incredibly proud to have supported a team that embodied the spirit of ‘Reach for Remarkable’, the professional services firm stated in forwarding its congratulations. “It was a privilege to be on the journey with them. At the end of the day it was the journey – not the destination – that was most important of all. They set a big goal and worked hard at it, connected with and inspired the community, and collected critical data for climate science.”

Commencing their trip at the edge of the Ronne ice shelf on the Antarctic west coast, Andrews and Stephenson have over the past two months battled unexpectedly harsh conditions, including traversing hundred of kilometers of sastrugi, a kind of polar version of sand dunes or waves of frozen, windswept snow which can rise to as tall as a house. Alternatively, contending with periods of softer snow would be likened to pulling a bathtub through wet cement.

The pair would also have to deal with deadly crevasses and whiteouts, and potentially disastrous equipment failures, including the snapping of Stephenson’s sole spoon, which was comically converted into a foot-long utensil with the aid of a spare tent pole. And while there were some incredible highlights, such as witnessing a polar sun dog (an atmospheric halo of the sun caused by ice crystals), the arduous nature of the journey continued until the very end.

“Our day started cold (-32 degrees) and overcast with a freezing wind blowing from the North,” notes the last expedition blog of the final 12-hour push. “We were up and eating breakfast by 4am, an early start after crawling into our sleeping bags at midnight. The day before had been tough and very long. We were camped 27 kilometers from the South Pole and ready for one last big effort. The plan was simple, one foot in front of the other and don’t get frostbite.”

On an emotional day filled with excitement and trepidation, Andrews and Stephenson would push through the exhaustion and gloom to finally reach the pole at 6.30pm, the tears misting up and freezing in their goggles. And although they may not have reached their originally intended destination, the intrepid travelers return with invaluable data such as to wind speeds, direction, humidity and dew points, which will aid climate scientists in re-calibrating and refining their models.

As for Grant Thornton, the accounting and consulting firm says that the expedition’s spirit and goals aligned with its own values and aspiration for remarkable experiences. “We encourage our people to pursue the greater good for the communities in which we live and operate. Supporting the Antarctica 2023 team provided the chance for our people to be involved in an initiative that drives climate change, supports the community, and inspires them to reach their goals.”