December 28, 2005

Austrian Says Reaches South Pole in Record 33 days

VIENNA (Reuters) - An Austrian explorer and his team have reached the South Pole unsupported in a record 33 days, he said on Wednesday.

Wolfgang Melchior, 50, said in a statement posted on his Web site that he and four other people reached the South Pole on Tuesday. They traveled on skis, without outside help and without a parasail.

"It is a particular pleasure and honor to report that we reached the South Pole on December 27 at 1630 hours," Melchior said.

"Health-wise, I am well apart from chillblains on my calf. Tired of course but I have no bigger complaints," he added.

Melchior said he and his team covered up to 40.3 km (25 miles) a day in the journey which was roughly 900 km long.

The fastest unsupported solo journey to the South Pole was by Norway's Boerge Ousland in 1996, who traveled on skis but with a parasail kite, which Melchior's expedition did not have.

Melchior and his team would now head to a camp to rest and celebrate the New Year, Melchior said.

Melchior had aimed to reach the South Pole in less than 40 days, which he said would also have been a record. He said he was also the first Austrian to reach the South Pole without outside help, a parasail or taking on extra supplies.

(Additional reporting by David Cutler in London)