Adventurer’s emergency call to Portsmouth after getting stuck on Icelandic glacier

EXPLORER Alex Hibbert
EXPLORER Alex Hibbert
Portchester Fire Station

UPDATE: Six crews put out house fire in North End

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AN ADVENTURER phoned his dad in Portsmouth for help after he got stuck on a glacier.

Alex Hibbert, 25, rang father Richard for help after experiencing difficulties whilst on an expedition with his friend Finn McCann in Iceland.

Battered by 80mph winds, Mr Hibbert - who completed the longest unsupported polar journey in history aged 22 - described their tent as ‘a tiny tomb’.

In -10 degrees Celsius temperatures, the tent collapsed and its poles snapped, forcing the pair to wrap the canvas around them to keep warm.

As they became increasingly worried for their safety and with their satellite phone almost out of battery, Mr Hibbert decided to call his father in Old Portsmouth to get help.

Commodore Richard Hibbert, a Royal Navy officer, then called the local Solent Coastguard, based in nearby Lee-on-Solent, Hants, at 12.09am yesterday.

Mr Hibbert, who has a CBE, reported that the pair’s tent was damaged and they were in trouble.

Solent Coastguard passed the information on to Falmouth Coastguard, Cornwall, who deal with international issues, and they contacted coastguards in the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik.

From there, local teams were co-ordinated during a five-hour rescue in the dark to reach the beleaguered pair from the Vatnajokull glacier.

Today his father said: ‘In the space of a few hours the storm had whipped up very quickly and the situation was very harrowing.

‘We had been in touch with them for the whole trip so Alex knew if he called us he would definitely get a response and we would be able to summon help.

‘When he phoned he was very calm, he had been through a lot on his expeditions so he’s learnt to keep focused during emergencies.

‘I told him we would get help and called the local coastguard, who were very understanding and set the wheels in motion for a rescue.

‘The tent had been shredded to pieces by the storm and once you have no shelter there is no way you can continue with an expedition.

‘By the end they were just wrapping themselves in the tent to keep warm.

‘The rescue went smoothly and when I spoke to him last night he was just about to enjoy a well deserved hot bath.’

Mr Hibbert had outlined the pair’s worsening predicament on Twitter.

On Monday he posted: ‘pinned down in storm. tent damaged but both safe. more tomorrow’

This was followed on Tuesday by: ‘still unable to move in storm. so close to edge of icecap!’

As things got hairier, he then tweeted: ‘Tent damaged In Storm. 120kph plus storm forecast so getting skidoo. so close!’

This was followed by: ‘Assessing the damage to tent and kit. grim. that was quite a wind. tent like a tiny tomb inside.’

Speaking today from Iceland, Mr Hibbert, from Battersea, London, said:

‘We had travelled around 50km across valleys and lava fields over nine days to the edge of the icecap.

‘Winds became especially high at around 100kph and despite well rehearsed precautions to protect the tent, part of it collapsed and snapped.

‘I decided it wouldn’t survive another massive storm and as we were only two days from the planned end point we decided we needed help.

‘My family were part of my home team and helped to transmit details due to limits to my satellite phone power supply.

‘We reinforced the tent defences to stop any further damage while we waited 24 hours for the skidoo rescue team, who were brilliant guys.

‘We were disappointed to miss the final few miles and I’ll certainly return for another go.’

Coastguard spokesman Fred Caygill said: ‘At 12.09am Wednesday, Solent Coastguard was contacted by a man reporting his son and friend were experiencing difficulties on their expedition in Iceland.

‘The father reported that the two young men had experienced damage to their tent and were expecting more bad weather.

‘We are pleased that we could assist in the rescue of these two British men from their situation.

‘People who are considering this type of expedition, should avail themselves with contact details of emergency services in the country they are exploring.’

In 2008 Mr Hibbert broke the world record, along with teammate George Bullard, for the longest unsupported polar journey in history.