Smitheringale: It was minus 1

Published on 20.04.2010 - One Man Epic Mission North Pole

The end of the Australian Tom Smitheringale's expedition has been a bit distressing. He fell into a lead without wearing his survival suit and had to swim for several minutes before getting hold of some firm ice.

The incident occurred on Thursday, 16 April. While he was on the point of crossing an umpteenth lead, Tom fell into the water without wearing his survival suit. Then, he had to swim several metres to get to a place where he was able to climb up on to the ice. Once in safety, the Australian activated his distress beacon: it was around noon UT.

At his headquarters, Webmaster Jim knew that if Tom had activated his distress beacon, it was because of a serious incident that had just occurred and not because of some bagatelle. He had to move fast because, according to Jim, his protégé undoubtedly had only a few more hours of life left. The webmaster first contacted a private air company which answered that to help the unfortunate man would take at least 24 hours. Impossible. He then got in touch with the Canadian military to ask them to go to Tom's rescue. It so happened that they precisely had a detachment on an exercise at about 200 km from point that the Australian had indicated as his latest position on the ice. Other fact of fate: based in Alert (a Northern Canadian town), the two Twin Otters and the helicopter available for this operation had a range that more or less covered the distance between their hangar and the place where Tom was. The three aircraft in fact arrived in the area with less than five minutes of fuel left in the tanks. Fortunately, one of the Twins had brought some spare cans of fuel with it.

The pick-up took place approximately nine hours after the distress beacon was activated and everything happened OK. The adventurer was transported to the Alert station where he received the necessary first aid. A few more hours on the ice, as the doctor from the Canadian base who had treated him explained, and the man would have been finished. At the moment when he was rescued, he was living only on his own adrenalin.

We don't yet clearly know the details of this fall into the ocean, but Tom has already declared that because of the frostbite on the end of his fingers, he had enormous difficulty in climbing up on to firm ice and it was that that nearly killed him. He had spent more than ten minutes in the icy water.

Be that as it may, Smitheringale has no regrets about his polar adventure. He has in any case found the right name for his expedition, "One Man Epic Expedition", that's putting it mildly. The story doesn't yet say whether he's planning to give it another go, or not...

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