TV presenter Ben Fogle and Olympic gold medallist James Cracknell talk about their epic race to the South Pole, screening on BBC Two on Sundays in On Thin Ice…
After rowing across the Atlantic why did you decide on the South Pole?
James: “We’d been offered lots of different challenges since the row, but nothing appealed before Antarctica, which is somewhere that both us wanted to go to.”
But it’s surely extremely dangerous?
Ben: “The Atlantic was a catalogue of errors, all great examples of how not to do it and how not to approach a big event. We knew from very early on that if we mucked around in the Antarctic we wouldn’t be coming back; that’s the bottom line. It’s not a place that you can go half-heartedly too, so we put a lot of training into it.”
What was the hardest thing about the challenge?
James: “Skiing for 28 hours was the hardest day of anything that I’ve ever been involved in. It was a whole day of continuous movement in -40 and -50 degree temperatures.”
And the scariest moment?
James: “We came dangerously close to falling into a giant crevasse, but fortunately we managed to navigate ourselves out of danger.”
What about your health James?
James: “I had some pretty severe blisters all over my feet and I couldn’t really move to avoid them. But that wasn’t why the doctors were going to pull me out. I had a chest infection that went into pneumonia in my left lung which meant that I was struggling to get enough oxygen in, especially when I was asleep because I’d wake up short of breath. As a team you had to finish with the number of people you started with, so these guys would have been out of the race as well.”
Ben: “We’d put so much effort in and we’d got that far, already covering 450 kilometres with just another 450 kilometres to go, so the thought James could be pulled out was terrible.”
But you did finish?
James: “Yes in 18 days, five hours, and 30 minutes. For the last three or four hours we were like drunk idiots, staggering towards the finish line. We’d totally run out of energy and food, we just had to get there.”
Ben: “I had so many points along the way when I didn’t think I was going to make it, so the finish line was incredibly and surprisingly emotional for us all.”
*On Thin Ice screens on BBC Two on Sunday evenings*