Humpty Dumpty South Pole Expedition

My great uncle, Douglas Stewart, was a writer.  He wrote a radio play called The Fire on the Snow about Scott’s tragic journey to Antarctica.  I grew up knowing all about this story that had the worst possible outcome but I didn’t ever think I would have a friend, one hundred years later, make that same journey.

A few years ago Rob Clarke’s nephew, Reuben, was born premature and needed specialised equipment to survive.  The equipment was provided by The Humpty Dumpty Foundation which is a charity that raises money to provide vital medical equipment to 178 children’s hospitals and centres across Australia and in East Timor, with the belief that every child deserves a fighting chance.

Waiting to have their bags weighed before boarding the flight to Antarctica

Touched by this provision to his nephew, Rob Clarke and his team set out to raise $1,000,000 for the charity and along with four others, left Australia on New Year’s Day to trek 111kms to the South Pole.  To get there they had to fly to Chile and then board a plane that would land on the ice in Antarctica.  From there they had to make the journey on skis, setting up tents at the end of the day to rest and sleep.  The temperatures averaged around -37 degrees (-34.6F).  Being summer it was daylight 24 hours a day.  There were no signs of life – no birds, insects or animals.  As far as the eye could see there was nothing but ice.  Everything you brought in with you, you had to bring out, yes, everything (think taking the dog for a walk with those little bags!)

Nothing but ice as far as the eye can see

Rob Clarke, Cath Murray, Grant Bambach, Kim Loane and guide, Damien Gildea arrived at the Pole on January 17, the Centenary of the date Scott and his party arrived at the pole.  They held a ceremony in Scott’s honour, kissed the Pole, then, because there was a team of British explorers who’d also just arrived, did the right thing and played a game of cricket.  No need to mention which team won.

They had to pull all of their gear behind them

What an incredible adventure, what an enormous achievement and what an amazing triumph to have set such a difficult and challenging goal and despite all the challenges, deprivation and struggles, to have not only survived, but to have achieved the goal raising awareness and vital funds for the Foundation.

That's not the Hilton

And, on Australia Day (the day we celebrated Rob and his team’s triumphant return), little Reuben was there running around, healthy as an ox.  Rob’s wife, Kylie told me that when Rob reached the ceremonial pole (and apparently that was a very emotional moment), he pulled out photos of Reuben before and after his treatment and took photos of those images on the pole for Reuben to appreciate when he’s older.

Doesn't it look balmy

Rob, it was an honour and a privilege to be in your home on Australia day to welcome you home.  Congratulations you adventurer!

I'm not sure who this is but I do know they're cold

Rob inside the tent. They managed to warm these to about -5 degrees C

A way to go yet. The US Station in the distance that is a few hundred metres from the Pole

Almost there. US Station in the background

The brass pole at the Pole

The ceremonial pole and flags of the 12 original signatories of the Antarctic Treaty

Made it. All the way to the South Pole

Do you have a sense of adventure?  Is there a cause that gives you a desire to set yourself a challenge?


  1. You know, I didn’t actually know until now that there is a red and white striped pole at the south pole.

    Not to detract at all from the wonderful achievement of Rob and his party. For an extremely worthwhile cause too.

  2. This sounds like an awesome achievement. Challenging conditions, plus I guess it can get a bit boring doing this day in and day out. Great they made it. I’ve experienced -35-40, not so bad, but this was for short periods and I always knew a warm house and drink was never too far away.

  3. What an amazing trek! I would love to see Antartica one day, but I wouldn’t be able to handle the cold – I think Sydney’s too cold sometimes! I can’t get my head around having to take EVERYTHING back out with you – yuck!

  4. Great adventure. Great cause. I am in awe with admiration…but not envy. I have a huge sense of adventure, but not for extreme cold! This was quite an achievement–very impressive.

  5. i can only say wow!! this is not only brave but probably the adventure of a lifetime 🙂

  6. Very impressive achievement. Great pictures. Thank you for sharing the story with us. 🙂

  7. Wow that is fantastic! I’m not too far away from there right now (I was probably very close when they arrived) and I can tell ‘summer’ shouldn’t be used in any description. It’s freezing.
    What an amazing achievement.

  8. Wow, I cant handle a normal winter. The biggest thing that I have done is go to Cambodia to volunteer to look after badly mistreated Elephants. That was hot hard work but I loved it

  9. Wow what a great adventure and achievement. Love the red and white striped pole. The brass pole looks like a beautiful piece of work. I must google to find other detailed pictures of it.

  10. I discovered the brass pole is the marker and changes each year. It is placed in the exact spot of the south pole ( which changes), remains in place for 12 months and then removed and placed in the cabinet of old pole markers, making way for the next one.

    • hotlyspiced says:

      Thanks Barbara for all the extra info. Yes, there is a cabinet down there where they have all the old poles. They did take a photo of the cabinet but it was hard to see all the different poles so I left it out of the ‘album’. It’s very interesting though isn’t it, how the pole has to be moved each year because the Pole keeps shifting!

  11. B at Just Add Attitude says:

    I think the Humpty Dumpty Foundation is a great name for a charity that raises funds for medical equipment for children’s hospitals. What a wonderful adventure and achievement your friend’s expedition to the Pole was. Kudos to him for doing it to raise funds for the charity.

  12. What a great charity, and great way to raise funds as well!
    I’m definitely not much of an adventurer, give me Glamping over camping any day! 🙂

  13. Wonderful story and a fascinating post! Thank you for sharing!

  14. Hi Charlie – you’ve been tagged ! Please play along if you can.
    Have a great Sunday !

  15. I have a sense of adventure, but this would be my nightmare of all nightmares – ha! I do not like extreme cold and the cold sets off my asthma. I think it would be cool to see though if I could be warm doing it. Thanks for sharing!

  16. Looks like you had you had one adventurous adventure! The brass pole looks amazing! would be an honour to see it in real life

  17. Wow. That is impressive. My sense of adventure comes out more when I’m on vacation.

  18. Wow, I LOVED looking at these photos Charlie. I would love to see the South Pole… I just think that such an area of harsh conditions and unspoiled beauty must be breathtaking. It must have been an incredible experience for your friend. Thank you so much for sharing the photos. I feel honoured, having had a chance to see them!

    Speaking of Antarctica, if you want a chuckle, check out this short video of one of the people in the science station there showing us what it’s like there in the winter. Scary stuff!

    • hotlyspiced says:

      I loved the photos too Charles. So fascinating. I would love to go there too – just for the experience and to say I’ve been, but I’m not sure I could handle the cold. Maybe I should start with the North Pole – it’s so much warmer. And that video was frightening. And she’s laughing about it! I’d be scared stiff.

  19. Now that is a story worth sharing the world over. Its touching to see the photos of their struggle, cold and final victory!

  20. congrats!!! wow… i woudlnt mind going… mmmhhh

  21. Congrats to the team and to Reuben! What a wonderful thing to do, most of us walk this world and never realize there are the kids like Rueben out there. I love it when I hear of someone trying to make a difference for not only these kids, but for all the ones born every day with issues that most people never even think about.

    Thanks for sharing the “doggy bag” part!

  22. Totally astounded by their amazing effort! And what a great story to tell Reuben when he’s big enough to understand what his uncle Rob did in his honour!

  23. AWESOME!!! Kudos to the team for trekking to the South Pole – can’t be an easy task!
    🙂 Mandy

  24. Fabulous! what a great achievement and a wonderful charity and story!

  25. Congratulations indeed and quite an accomplishment. An inspiration to everyone.

  26. Wow the photos are amazing 🙂 I’ve always wanted to go to the South Pole but I’m not sure my boyfriend is that keen ~

  27. What an incredible adventure and for so worthy a cause! Congratulations are in order for all involved.

  28. What a great thing to be a part of and such a great bunch of pictures! Wow – thanks for posting and sharing this with us!!

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