Teenage polar explorer will race to break world record to South Pole

Reuters
IMAGE DISTRIBUTED FOR WILLIS RESILIENCE - Parker Liautaud, a nineteen-year-old student at Yale University, launched preparation in London on Monday September 30, 2013 for his travel across Antarctica in the Willis Resilience Expedition 2013. In a death-defying world record attempt, Liautaud will trek this December from the edge of Antarctica to the South Pole by foot to raise awareness about climate change. During his journey Liautaud will take ice-core samples that climate scientists will analyze to assess climate changes in Antarctica. If he succeeds, Liautaud will be the youngest person to make the trip. He also aims to be the fastest. Future generations will suffer the worst impacts of climate change, yet their feedback is rarely sought as leaders grapple with the challenge. Get involved with Liautaud’s expedition by visiting http://www.willisresilience.com/. (Anthony Upton / Willis Resilience via AP Images)
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IMAGE DISTRIBUTED FOR WILLIS RESILIENCE - Parker Liautaud, a nineteen-year-old student at Yale University, launched preparation in London on Monday September 30, 2013 for his travel across Antarctica in the Willis Resilience Expedition 2013. In a death-defying world record attempt, Liautaud will trek this December from the edge of Antarctica to the South Pole by foot to raise awareness about climate change. During his journey Liautaud will take ice-core samples that climate scientists will analyze to assess climate changes in Antarctica. If he succeeds, Liautaud will be the youngest person to make the trip. He also aims to be the fastest. Future generations will suffer the worst impacts of climate change, yet their feedback is rarely sought as leaders grapple with the challenge. Get involved with Liautaud’s expedition by visiting http://www.willisresilience.com/. (Anthony Upton / Willis Resilience via AP Images)

By Elizabeth Dilts

NEW YORK (Reuters) - American teenage polar explorer Parker Liautaud plans to attempt to set a record as the fastest person to reach the South Pole, with a 397-mile (639-km) trek by foot and ski that will begin on December 3.

Liautaud, 19, of Palo Alto, California, plans to televise the trek, which he aims to complete in 22 days, using a satellite support truck that will follow him and his teammate, veteran explorer Doug Stoup, at a distance.

Speaking on Wednesday at the Explorer's Club in New York, Liautaud, who has three times hiked to the North Pole, said he hoped the journey would draw attention to climate change.

"I have to be prepared to pull a sled that weighs approximately 180 pounds (82 kg) for 12 hours a day for nearly a month," Liautaud said, as he sat beneath one of the sleds used in the world's first expedition to reach the North Pole in 1909.

Stoup and Liautaud, a Yale sophomore studying geology, will start on foot at the Ross Ice Shelf on Antarctica's Northwestern coast, switching to skis when they reach the Leverett Glacier.

Traveling 18 miles a day, they aim to reach the Pole in 22 days. The current record is 24 days, one hour and 13 minutes and was set by Christian Eide of Norway in 2011.

Insurance broker Willis Group is sponsoring the trip.

Liautaud's training regimen includes working out on a rowing machine while wearing a 70-pound (32 kg) vest. He's eating 6,000 calories a day, which he will maintain in Antarctica.

Liautaud said he is aware of the dangers he will face, which include temperatures as low as -76 Fahrenheit (-60 Celsius) and possible whiteout conditions.

On his first trek to the North Pole, when Liautaud was 15, his team leader called for an emergency evacuation just 15 miles from the end, when they reached a stretch of open water.

"It felt like a slap in the face," Liautaud said. "But I know better and I'm prepared better now."

(Reporting by Elizabeth Dilts; Editing by Scott Malone and; Eric Beech)

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