Inspirational Portsmouth police officer bags top award after travelling alone to the South Pole

PC Neil Hunter. Photo: Jason ByePC Neil Hunter. Photo: Jason Bye
PC Neil Hunter. Photo: Jason Bye
AN INTREPID Portsmouth police officer who defied all the odds to complete an incredible 730-mile solo journey to the South Pole has bagged a top award.

PC Neil Hunter, who works for the Ministry of Defence, became the first person with type two diabetes to complete the remarkable journey unassisted.

His expedition raised more than £3,000 for Diabetes UK, having previously rowed the Atlantic and trekked up mountains in Alaska and sledding across Greenland.

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Now his latest adventure has seen him winning a Defence Police Federation Inspiration Award.

PC Hunter said the nomination came out of the blue, almost two years after he completed his South Pole trek.

‘It’s very nice and it’s a bit of a surprise actually,’ he said. ‘I wasn’t expecting anything. I’m not really one for seeking plaudits but it’s always very nice to be recognised, especially from your peers as well.

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‘It’s quite satisfying knowing that I’ve done it. In the living room I’ve got a big map on the wall of the North Atlantic with our route when we rowed, I’ve got a big map of Greenland with the route, and I’ve got an Antarctica one which is yet to be framed to go up with it.

‘Those three together … I’m very proud of them all.’

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During the South Pole trip, PC Hunter had to compete with 24-hour sunlight, extreme temperatures and had to ski for 10 hours every day while pulling an energy-sapping 100kg sled.

However, his biggest worry on the three-month-long trip was ensuring his insulin levels didn’t get too low.

‘I kept my blood sugar levels slightly elevated the whole time because I didn't want to risk going too low and having a hypo on my own in the most desolate terrain on planet earth,” he said.

‘I feel I managed my diabetes well given the extreme conditions and returned home with a bit of frostnip on my fingertips and because my vision was affected while I was out there, I need new glasses.

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‘Only around 30 people have skied solo, unassisted and unsupported to the South Pole, so I was very happy and relieved to join this very select club of polar adventurers.’

PC Hunter, a former Royal Navy engineer, made it to the South Pole on January 15 2020 having left Antarctica’s Hercules Inlet on November 18 2019.

‘It was the experience of a lifetime – in the endless white landscape under perfect blue skies, I encountered crevasses, snowdrifts and the most beautiful wind-formed ice sculptures,’ he said.

‘I had three days of whiteouts which were pretty disorientating, but overall, the headwinds weren’t too terrible, and in that sense, I was lucky.’

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Eamon Keating, chairman of the Defence Police Federation said PC Hunter was a true inspiration and was very deserving of his award.

‘It’s quite humbling given the challenges he was up against on this incredible trek,’ he said.

‘PC Hunter clearly won’t let his illness stop him from fulfilling his dreams and to have raised so much money for such a good cause is testament to him and his drive and ambition.

‘We’re very proud to call him a colleague.’

PC Hunter will attend a glittering Awards Ceremony in Southampton on Wednesday where he will receive his accolade.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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