Plucky 20 year-old Belinda Baron had to abandon her attempt to be recognised as the youngest person to reach the South Pole on skis, after becoming cut off from all social networks for nearly 72 hours. Baron described the experience as 'chilling', claiming she hadn't experienced such feelings of isolation since switching her phone off on the flight out.
Baron had spent months planning her expedition, and took advice from Ranulph Fiennes. “Ranulph is a lovely man, and has a lot of experience at failing to get to the Poles”, said Baron, “he was very generous with his time. We spent over a month together training, by the end of it I almost felt like I knew him, despite him not having a Facebook account.”
Baron partly blames Fiennes for her failure, as she heeded his advice to undergo the expedition in Summer. “The 24 hour glare of the Antarctic Summer sun made it almost impossible to see the screen on a smart phone”, complained Baron. “No wonder nobody lives there. After the first day, I’d only covered 60 metres. Having to pitch my tent three times an hour just to try and see if Stephen Fry had tweeted about me was exhausting. And I couldn't even update my status with a frowny face.”
Mobile data signals are notoriously weak in the South Pole, but that didn’t stop Baron from fiddling with her phone almost constantly. “I was very keen to tweet my progress, but I never saw more than one bar, all the time I was there”, she confided. “Fortunately, that didn’t stop me from playing Angry Birds.”
The record for the youngest expedition to the South Pole was set by Andrew Cooney in 2003, at the tender age of 23. Few think his achievement will ever be bettered. “Cooney set his record almost a year before the launch of Facebook, and a full three years before Twitter”, confirmed Ben Fogle, who completed the inaugural 2009 South Pole Race, with only a full BBC film crew to show off to.
“Cooney’s planning was meticulous, he even managed to get out there before MySpace”, enthused Fogle, “It’s hard to understand where he got his motivation from. When we look back at his achievements we can only imagine the hardships he put up with, although he did keep a very detailed diary. I doubt we’ll ever see that sort of attention span again.”
Baron hasn’t given up yet, and is planning a second attempt before time runs out. “I really want to do something with my life, something that will make people sit up and take notice, and inspire them to follow me on Twitter”, said Baron, as she distractedly held her mobile above her head, and squinted at it. “The signal in here is rubbish. I’m just going outside, I may be some time.”