Britons reach North Pole in bid to raise funds for UNHCR
MAGNETIC NORTH POLE, Canadian Arctic, May 7 (UNHCR) - Two young Britons are believed to have won an Arctic sprint against five other teams after reaching the magnetic North Pole by foot in their quest to raise £250,000 (US$495,000) for the UN refugee agency.
Team Refuge, comprising former UNHCR staffer Jake Morland and teacher James Turner, crossed the finish line with the Polar Horizon and all-female Blue Tits teams at 1:15 a.m. on Wednesday to tie the final leg of the Polar Race 2007.
Final results have yet to be released, but Morland, 31, and Turner, 30, are believed to have won the race after braving freezing conditions and encounters with polar bears since setting off by foot from Resolute, Canada's northernmost settlement, on April 9. Overall winners will pick up the Wedgwood Blue Ice Trophy.
"Unofficially, first place will probably go to two good-looking young men," said Polar Race founder, Jock Wishart, in his log on the race website. The Team Refuge website said that overall the two Britons had completed the race six hours faster than Polar Horizon, the team that closely followed them for most of the race. All six participating teams finished.
Meanwhile, poor weather conditions around Resolute were hampering efforts to pick up the 15 competitors, including a 62-year-old mother and her son aged 32, and a 62-year-old Canadian. It was not clear on Monday if the polar racers had been flown out.
Arch Insurance (Europe) donated £40,000 (US$80,000) to Team Refuge to cover the costs of the race, which means that all additional funds raised will go straight to UNHCR. The public will be able to continue donating to the team through the rest of this year.
Morland, who has worked for UNHCR in Iraq, East Timor, Sri Lanka and the Sudan, has said he wants to earmark £250,000 ($495,000) for a special trust fund to cover urgent medical evacuations for refugee children and a quick access fund for field officers to bypass too much paperwork.
UNHCR has an historical attachment to the Arctic. Nobel Peace laureate and Arctic explorer Fridtjof Nansen was the world's first High Commissioner for Refugees, serving in this position for the League of Nations, precursor of the United Nations. Each year UNHCR awards a prize in his name to a person or group for outstanding services in supporting refugee causes.