December 25th, 2013 | University

Yale sophomore completes fastest-ever trek to South Pole

While most Yale students were at home relaxing, one week into winter break Parker Liautaud ’16 was breaking world records.

On Tuesday, Liautaud completed the fastest-ever trek from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole, reaching the southernmost point on the Earth’s surface in just over 18 days. The roughly 315-mile journey by foot and ski also made him the youngest person to travel to both poles of the Earth. Liautaud, a 19-year-old Davenport College sophomore who hails from London, has traveled to the North Pole three times. This was his first trip to the South Pole.

Setting out from the Ross Ice Shelf on Dec. 6, Liautaud and his expedition partner travelled for up to 12 hours a day in temperatures as low as -72 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the website for the voyage, entitled the Willis Resilience Expedition. Underwritten by the London-based insurance broker Willis Group, the expedition seeks to shed light on climate-related issues.

A three-man video crew trailed the duo, documenting the journey. Video and voice recordings uploaded from the trans-Antarctic mountain range detailed Liautaud’s struggle to stay warm and well-fed.

“We are 29 miles from the South Pole,” Liautaud said in a Monday recording. “I’m very excited, and we had a great day today. We did 18.2 nautical miles…our best yet. We’re just really pushing it, and we had a really great day. A lot of hard work.”

The coast-to-pole record was previously held by Christian Eide of Norway, who completed the journey in 24 days. Liautaud initially set his goal at 22 days, expecting to reach his destination before New Year’s Eve. He arrived four days early.

According to the expedition’s website, Liautaud will remain at the South Pole for a few days before catching a flight out of Antarctica to Punta Arenas, Chile.

“I now hope to work with our scientific partners in the next phase of the research from this expedition and continue to contribute to reigniting the dialogue on climate change,” Liautaud said in a Tuesday statement.

Liautaud is a Geology and Geophysics major at Yale.