UK team claims fastest land crossing of Antarctica

The expedition team. Photo: 3 December 2010 The team has been conducting a range of scientific experiments en route

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A British expedition to Antarctica says it has succeeded in establishing a new record - the fastest land crossing of the southernmost continent.

The Moon Regan Transantarctic Expedition said the 10-man team had completed the crossing in under 13 days, smashing all previous records.

The total distance covered was 1,945.9km (1209 miles) in 303 hours.

The team set off from the Union Glacier airstrip on 25 November and arrived on the Ross Ice Shelf earlier on Thursday.

'Monster' trucks

A statement of the group's website said: "The team has crossed the continent! The Moon Regan Transantarctic Expedition team have just completed the fastest ever vehicle crossing of the Antarctic continent.

"The team will now retrace their tracks to the South Pole, and back to the west coast at Union Glacier. They hope to complete the return trip in around nine days; they will then be the only vehicle-based expedition ever to complete the there-and-back journey."

The team - explorers, mechanics and scientists - travelled in convoy led by a propeller-driven biofuelled scout vehicle. Two large "monster" trucks followed behind carrying most of the crew and equipment.

Ice-penetrating radar was used to avoid crevasses.

The expedition had planned to conduct several scientific tests en route.

These included testing the efficiency of biofuels at extreme temperatures and wireless health monitoring equipment carried by the crew.

They were also planning to collect samples of snow to test for trace metals, to track the passage of pollutants within the southern hemisphere.

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