Nunavut family sets record with round trip to South Pole

A Nunavut woman and her 2 children have arrived safely on the Antarctic coast after a record round trip to the South Pole.

A Nunavut woman and her two children have arrived safely on the Antarctic coast after setting a record for trekking 2,200 kilometres to the South Pole and back.

Their expedition was the longest, unaided foot journey on the southern continent.

Matty McNair, a U.S. citizen who makes Iqaluit her home, arrived with her team Tuesday in the coastal community of Hercules Inlet, which they left two months earlier.

"I'm feeling tired, elated, contented," McNair told CBC News in a satellite telephone call from the coastal community.

McNair, 53, set another record on Dec. 23 when she became the first female resident of Canada to reach the South Pole on foot without help.

Sarah McNair-Landry, 18, and Eric McNair-Landry, 20, became the youngest woman and man to reach the bottom of the world unaided.

The family, accompanied by British couple Conrad and Hilary Dickinson, set out on skis Nov. 1, dragging heavy sleds piled with fuel, equipment and food.

Sarah said the group travelled three times as quickly on the return journey, which took only 17 days. They were able to move faster because they harnessed their sleds to special kites that dragged the 156-kg load over crevices and ice.

Ferocious winds battered the team as temperatures plunged to –45 C, said to be the worst summer weather in Antarctica in 15 years.

"The trip to the South Pole was a lot of hard work," Sarah said. "Every day, we did nine hours of skiing.

"Coming back was a lot of fun because it was kiting. We never knew quite what we were going to do, when the winds were going to pick up."

Eric said some of his friends thought he was crazy to risk his life in the polar adventure, but he urged people to chase their dreams.

"I think you got to look for adventure in life. You can't just sit in front of the TV."

McNair, who has visited the South Pole three times, said this expedition was tough – but not as difficult as her trek to the North Pole in 1997, when she led the first women's expedition there.

"There aren't any polar bears to worry about, there are no pressure ridges, and when you set up camp the next morning, you're in the same place – you haven't drifted backwards or east or west," she said.

"You don't have to worry about the ice cracking underneath your tent or half the group getting across or falling through leads, so in that sense I'd say the North Pole is more challenging. It keeps your attention. It's fun."

McNair plans to return to Iqaluit at the end of the month.

Then she'll begin preparing for another adventure: leading a group to the North Pole by dogteam in April.