Young New Zealand and Norwegian explorers complete epic journey to the South Pole


They’ve endured waves of ice, high altitudes, extreme winds and punishing sub-zero temperatures and late yesterday the Antarctic Heritage Trust’s Inspiring Explorers ExpeditionTM team have reached the South Pole.


The expedition set off from Ronne Ice Shelf on 18 November. Each member skied almost 1,000km journey towing their equipment on a sledge behind them.

Roald Amundsens sydpolekspedisjon 1911. Amundsen, H. Hanssen, Hassel og Wisting på Sydpolen på avreisedagen. Nordmennene hadde oppholdt seg noen dager på polpunktet og gjort forskjellige vitenskapelige observasjoner. Til høyre stod teltet som Rønne hadde sydd. I det la man igjen noen ord til Scott, et brev til kong Haakon VII, og noen observasjonsinstrumenter og klesplagg. Ferden fra Framheim til polpunktet og tilbake tok 99 dager og omtrent 3000 km ble tilbakelagt. Bjaaland tok fotografiet. Publisert på s. 133 i bind II av Amundsens “Sydpolen” *** Local Caption *** Amundsen, Roald Hanssen, Helmer Hassel, Sverre Wisting, Oscar

The Inspiring ExplorersTM team was Auckland firefighter and medical first responder Laura Andrews (28); two-time Olympian and coach of the New Zealand canoe slalom team, Mike Dawson (35); and Norwegian intelligence analyst Marthe Brendefur (31).


A typical routine was skiing for an hour at a time for up to 12 hours a day, camping on the ice overnight.


Mike Dawson, both exhausted and beaming with pride could hardly put his feelings into words.


“It’s overwhelming to be here. It was a surreal feeling seeing the South Pole marker after such a long journey. Compared with my white water adventures, this was a long slow burn, every day walking towards that goal for 50 days.”

Guided by Norwegian polar guide Bengt Rotmo from Ousland Explorers and led by Antarctic Heritage Trust Executive Director Nigel Watson, the 50 day expedition followed the Messner Route from the Ronne Ice Shelf, on the Weddell Sea side of Antarctica, to the South Pole.


The expedition celebrated 150 years since the birth of legendary Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen. The Inspiring ExplorersTM were chosen from hundreds of young people who applied from both New Zealand and Norway.


Nigel Watson says, “We were in awe of Amundsen’s speed of travel. The team definitely reflected on the early polar explorers and what they were able to achieve over 100 years ago. It was a privilege to visit this fragile and remote environment and to lead this team of fantastic young explorers.

“Camping at 88.23 – the latitude where Shackleton reached his furthest South only 180km from the South Pole was poignant and an unexpected surprise.”


Laura Andrews says sastrugi (waves of ice carved by the extreme winds) and temperatures in the high -20 degrees are just some of the challenges the team faced.


She says they’d often lose themselves in their thoughts and surroundings and while it could have been monotonous, many moments were amazing.


“It’s more about the journey than arriving. We had an amazing team spirit and that carries you through the high and low points. To have this continuous time in this pristine and beautiful environment where one minute you have perfect snowflakes and the next dramatic sastrugi – it’s just incredible.”


Marthe Brendefur who celebrated her 31st birthday on the expedition (surprising the others with a cheesecake she’d brought all the way from Punta Arenas in Chile) says she is feeling so many emotions.


“I have so much respect for what Amundsen and his team went through now that I have experienced how piercing, cold and ruthless Antarctica can be. I love the expedition life – even the unpleasant parts. I loved pulling my sledge, using my entire body to move it – it was really satisfying!”


Antarctic Heritage Trust Acting Executive Director Francesca Eathorne says the success is a testament to meticulous planning and preparation as well as the team’s sheer determination.


“We’re very proud of them. The team put in months of rigorous training – physically and mentally and even then, nothing is guaranteed. It’s a remarkable feat and they’ll have many stories to share.”


A surprise for Nigel Watson while he was in Antarctica was learning he had been awarded the prestigious New Zealand Antarctic Medal in recognition of his services to Antarctic heritage preservation.


Reflecting on the team’s journey Nigel says, “I didn’t think I could have more respect for Amundsen, Scott and Shackleton’s achievements but after this expedition, my respect is even greater than it was. What they did was truly heroic.


“The team are filled with enthusiasm and can’t wait to get home and share their stories and connect with their communities through their outreach.”


The team now heads to Union Glacier where they will begin their journey back to New Zealand and Norway via South America. They’re expected home late next week.

The expedition, in partnership with Ousland Explorers, was supported by Clothing Partner Norrøna, Photographic Partner Canon, and Roald Amundsen’s House, with logistics provided by Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions (ALE).


Full Story next issue in April

Team bios

Laura Andrews

28, Auckland

28-year-old Kiwi Laura Andrews is a firefighter and medical first responder by day, working for Auckland Airport Emergency Services.

She has previously spent three months walking the length of Te Araroa, Te Waipounamu solo, cycled the length of New Zealand along the Tour Aotearoa route, competed in endurance, adventure and ironman races in New Zealand and firefighter stair climbs internationally.

Laura thrives on pushing her physical and mental boundaries. She is a big believer in the ‘anything is possible with a bit of hard work’ philosophy, and feels inspired by previous explorers. Laura aims to incorporate modern day adventures into her everyday life. She spends her days off on micro adventures, hiking, biking, kayaking and trail running. She is also a keen skier and snowboarder.

When not in the outdoors Laura works in Emergency Services responding to fire, medical and marine emergencies. She enjoys the close-knit team environment, the ability to interact with the community and the dynamic environment that means no two days are the same.

Laura is looking forward to the physical and mental challenges of training for and carrying out forty plus days on the Ice and working in a small expedition team. She hopes to learn more about polar exploration, the contrasts between modern and historic methods, and be able to bring those stories back to communities around New Zealand.

Marthe Brendefur


Hailing from the west coast of Norway, Marthe has a special love for wild terrain. When she moved to the flat part of the country in 2014, she switched her alpine skis for cross country skis and bought a sledge.

In 2019, Marthe crossed the Greenland ice cap, and her growing addiction to long ski excursions became a fact. During the pandemic, she found her skiing adventures at Finnmarksvidda and Hardangervidda – the two largest mountain plateaus in Norway.

Regardless of the situation, her camera is a constant companion, and she looks forward to unleashing her creativity with like-minded people in Antarctica. When Marthe is not out looking for good snow and ice, it is not uncommon to find her lost in a book – usually about adventures or computers.

She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Digital Forensics and works as an analyst for the Norwegian Maritime Cyber Resilience Centre, deploying her curiosity in tracking cybercriminal threats. Before her studies, she spent several years in the Norwegian Armed Forces. Marthe also enjoys hiking, running and cycling.

Mike Dawson

35, Tauranga New Zealand

Mike is a retired New Zealand representative athlete with over 15 years’ experience in the high-performance sport environment as an athlete, advisor and coach. He is a double Olympian in canoe slalom, and a New Zealand Olympic Ambassador, inspiring young New Zealanders and sharing the Olympic values of respect, friendship and excellence. Mike is currently the coach of the New Zealand canoe slalom team.

He is internationally renowned for his extreme kayak feats, having won a slew of titles in some of the biggest rapids on the planet, and through his expedition paddling.

Mike had been selected as the videographer for this expedition. He is the founder of Kiwi Creations, a New Zealand-based film production company. His latest film Kwanza – The Drowning Diamond of Angola is an award-winning documentary showcasing the first descent of the Kwanza River in Angola.

Mike is a keen back-country skier, climber, hiker and multi-sport adventure race participant. He has previously been involved as a mentor with the Trust.


Nigel Watson

Antarctic Heritage Trust Executive Director

Nigel is the Executive Director of the Antarctic Heritage Trust. The Trust cares on behalf of the international community for the first expedition bases left in Antarctica’s Ross Sea Region. These include iconic huts left by the Captain Robert Falcon Scott, Sir Ernest Shackleton, Carsten Borchgrevink and Sir Edmund Hillary.
Nigel conceived and has overseen the Ross Sea Heritage Restoration Project – the world’s largest cold-climate heritage conservation venture. He has led expeditions to Antarctica over the last two decades. With a background in mountaineering and skiing, he has skied the Shackleton route across South Georgia Island, skied to the North Pole, traversed the Greenland ice cap, and climbed Mt Scott in Antarctica.
Nigel is passionate about sharing the legacy of early polar exploration with a new generation of young explorers, with the hope that they will in turn share their own experiences to inspire others.

Bengt Rotmo


Bengt`s impressive CV of successful skiing (+ canoeing and hunting) expeditions has has truly proved his skills in the cold.
He has crossed the Greenland icecap five times, two times skied the Northwest passage (1120km) and led a 1200 km unsupported expedition with clients to the South Pole. He has also led several unsupported crossings of the Northern Patagonia Icefield and Finnmarksvidda. And he has also led last – degree expeditions to the Geographic North Pole. His broad network and work as a expedition coordinator ensures first hand – up to date information about everything that has to do with polar expeditions.




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