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The South Pole

  • Prince Harry emerge from a cold chamber
  • Prince Harry sets up his tent in Norway
  • Prince Harry at the departure event for the South Pole 2013 expedition

Prince Harry and the Royal Family in the South Pole

In November 2013, Prince Harry joined one of three teams of wounded servicemen and women to trek to the geographic South Pole for Walking With the Wounded South Pole Allied Challenge.

The three seven-man teams from the UK, Commonwealth and USA departed London for Cape Town on Sunday 17th November to acclimatise at Novolazarevskaya Station, Antarctica.

The expedition to the South Pole began from 87° south on 30th November, with the teams reaching the geographic South Pole on 13th December.

The teams of service personnel, all of whom have physical or cognitive injuries, represented and raised funds for military charities from the constituent nations: Soldier On (Canada); Soldier On (Australia); Soldiers to Summits (United States); and Walking With The Wounded (United Kingdom).

Due to the hostile conditions and the nature of the injuries involved, the expedition teams were followed by a support team, who were on hand in case of emergencies.

Trekking around 15km to 20km per day, the teams endured temperatures as low as -45°C and 50mph winds as they pull their pulks (custom built arctic sledges), each weighing in excess of 70kg, towards the southernmost point on the globe.

As with previous Walking With The Wounded expeditions, the South Pole Allied Challenge aims to highlight the extraordinary courage and determination of the men and women who have been wounded while serving their countries and to draw attention to the need to help in their career transition.

Before they set off, The Walking With The Wounded teams and Prince Harry met The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh at a reception at Buckingham Palace as they made their final preparations for the 200 mile expedition.

To prepare for the trek, Prince Harry and his team mates undertook a gruelling physical regime, including a training expedition to Iceland and spending a night in the MIRA Cold Chamber testing facility in Nuneaton, where they undertook exercises and camped out in freezing conditions to mimic the conditions they would face on the trek.

Prince Harry was also Patron of the Walking With The Wounded trek to the North Pole in 2011 and the Everest Expedition in 2012.

We have compiled a series of archive images from the Royal Collection Trust, which include a telegram from Shackleton to King Edward VII.

View Album (8 images)

Photos

  • Prince Harry sets up his tent as he joins the Walking with the Wounded team who gather on the island of Spitsbergen, situated between the Norwegian mainland and the North Pole, March 2011

    Prince Harry sets up his tent as he joins the Walking with the Wounded team who gather on the island of Spitsbergen, situated between the Norwegian mainland and the North Pole, March 2011

  • The Duke of Edinburgh making a round the world tour aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia. He is pictured feeding penguins during a visit to Antarctica, January 1957

    The Duke of Edinburgh making a round the world tour aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia. He is pictured feeding penguins during a visit to Antarctica, January 1957

  • The Prince of Wales attends a science and policy event at the British Antarctic Survey HQ in Cambridge, May 2008

    The Prince of Wales attends a science and policy event at the British Antarctic Survey HQ in Cambridge, May 2008

  • The Princess Royal inspects the outside of British explorer Robert Falcon Scott's Terra Nova Hut at Cape Evans in Antarctica, February 2002

    The Princess Royal inspects the outside of British explorer Robert Falcon Scott's Terra Nova Hut at Cape Evans in Antarctica, February 2002

  • Prince Harry (right) poses with Team UK during the Walking with the Wounded South Pole Allied Challenge departure in Trafalgar Square, central London, November 2013

    Prince Harry (right) poses with Team UK during the Walking with the Wounded South Pole Allied Challenge departure in Trafalgar Square, central London, November 2013

  • Prince Harry and the Walking with the Wounded team on the North Pole expedition in 2011

    Prince Harry and the Walking with the Wounded team on the North Pole expedition in 2011

The Royal Family and the South Pole

Upon successful completion, Prince Harry became the first member of the Royal Family to trek to the geographic South Pole, however the Royal Family has a long-held association with the continent.

Prince Harry's grandfather The Duke of Edinburgh crossed the Antarctic Circle on New Year's Eve 1957, on board HMY Britannia. The Duke paid a visit to the memorial cross to explorer Ernest Shackleton erected in South Georgia, accompanied by veterans of both Nimrod and Terra Nova expeditions.

The Princess Royal has also visited Antarctica twice, most recently on board HMS Endurance in 2007 when she spent seven days visiting various scientific bases. On this occasion, The Princess Royal also travelled by Sno-Cat to Caboose, a local glacier, where she visited a British Antarctic Survey party undertaking mountain training.

Videos

  • Prince Harry and the Walking with the Wounded team reach the South Pole

  • Prince Harry announces that he will join a race to the South Pole

  • South Pole Allied Challenge Trafalgar Square Launch

In addition to visiting the Continent themselves, The Royal Family also has a long established tradition of supporting expeditions to The Antarctic, not least through the connection to The Royal Geographical Society (RGS) which was granted its Royal Charter under Queen Victoria in 1859, and which sponsored or supported many of the great expeditions by noted explorers such as Scott and Shackleton.

King Edward VII in particular,who was in reign during the 'heroic age' of Antarctic exploration,supported the voyages of Scott and Shackleton, who were both invited as guests to Balmoral where they presented lectures on their voyages. When Shackleton completed his Nimrod expedition to the South Pole, he sent a telegram to King Edward VII to share news of their achievements.

King George V continued the Royal Family's interest in polar exploration when he came to the throne. He met Shackleton on several occasions and presented him with flags before two of his expeditions, including his most Famous on HMS Endurance in 1914. The flag remained with the crew on Elephant Island while Shackleton embarked on his voyage to South Georgia and it then travelled with him on his rescue journeys home.  In 1917, Shackleton handed back the flag to King George V, when he was invited to an audience with The King.

This history of patronage for Polar explorers continues today, with The Prince of Wales supporting Sir Ranulph Fiennes and his team with the 2012 winter challenge exploration of the Antarctic.

The Prince of Wales has also sought to address the key issue of climate change, notably addressing the British Antarctic Survey in 2008 to discuss climate change implications for business and society. The event was organised jointly by the University of Cambridge Programme for Industry (Prince of Wales Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change) and British Antarctic Survey.

Prince Harry's brother, The Duke of Cambridge, was Patron of the 2012 Scott Amundsen race to the South Pole. This featured teams of British Service personnel racing each other across the continent to raise money for the Royal British Legion.

In 2012, the UK Government named a portion of mainland Antarctica Queen Elizabeth Land as a Diamond Jubilee Gift to The Queen.

  • Walking with the Wounded

    Walking with the Wounded

    Walking With The Wounded is a UK based charity which funds both the re-training and re-education of wounded servicemen and women with the aim of helping them find long term employment after they have left the Armed Forces.

    Visit the website
  • Royal Collection Trust

    Royal Collection Trust

    The Royal Collection is held in trust by The Queen as Sovereign for her successors and the nation.

    Visit the website
  • Pictures from the Royal Archives

    A flag given to Shackleton by King George V

    We have compiled some fascinating images from the archives of the Royal Collection, including a photograph of a telegram from Shackleton to Kind Edward VII.

    View the gallery

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