Peter Hillary makes it to the South Pole; hope he's downwind


Hauling 395-pound sleds, Peter Hillary, son of Mount Everest conqueror Sir Edmund Hillary, reached the South Pole with two other ski trekkers yesterday after an 800-plus-mile Antarctic journey beset by blinding blizzards, illness and frostbite. Hillary and his father, who was also part of a trans-Antarctica expedition in the 1950s, are the first father and son to reach the bottom of the world.

"Now that I've got here, everything seems worth it," Peter Hillary said after his team reached the United States' Amundsen-Scott base. "I wouldn't want to be anywhere else." The New Zealander and his two Australian companions had hoped to ski-trek from the Antarctic coast to the South Pole and return without airdrops or outside support, but the trip took so long, they had to receive food by helicopter and have opted to fly home.

"One of our greatest apprehensions in arriving here at the South Pole station has been that you've got a whole lot of people here who are well washed," said Hillary, "and we haven't washed for 84 days."

QUOTABLE: "Don't feel guilty. The rich will marry somebody. Why not you?" -- Ginie Sayles, teacher of "How To Marry the Rich," an adult-education class offered in New York City.

CHARGED: Gary Busey was arrested after his wife told Malibu, Calif., sheriff's deputies that he wrestled her to the floor during an argument. The actor, who received an Oscar nomination for 1978's "The Buddy Holly Story," was booked for misdemeanor battery and released early yesterday.

POP POPE: Pope John Paul is set to make his pop debut on a CD blending live recordings of his prayers, sermons and chants with contemporary music. "Abba Pater," to be released March 23, is jointly produced by Vatican Radio and religious publisher Audiovisivi San Paolo.

PLANE TRUTH: Singer John Denver died in an airplane crash because he took off with too little fuel in one tank, had trouble switching to his backup tank and inadvertently put his plane into a roll while his attention was diverted, the National Transportation Safety Board concluded yesterday. The board also blamed a builder's decision to relocate the fuel-tank-selector handle, an absence of markings on the handle and fuel gauges, as well as Denver's lack of training in his new plane. It crashed Oct. 12, 1997, off Pacific Grove, Calif.

POLLOCK SURVIVES: One of Italy's most persistent art vandals attacked a Jackson Pollock painting yesterday, scribbling on it with a gray marker until he was grabbed by guards. Officials at Rome's National Gallery of Modern Art said the damage inflicted on Pollock's 1947 "Watery Paths" wasn't serious. The suspect, Piero Cannata, 52, broke a toe off Michelangelo's David in 1991 and defaced a Filippo Lippi fresco two years later. He spent time in mental hospitals after both incidents.

NET BYTE DU JOUR: Find dog parks at http: //www.dogpark. com/parkusa.html.

Today's birthdays

Musical conductor Skitch Henderson is 81. Singer Bobby "Blue" Bland is 69. Actor Troy Donahue is 63. Actor James Cromwell is 59. Rock musician Nick Mason (Pink Floyd) is 54. Rhythm-and-blues singer Nedra Talley (The Ronettes) is 53. Ballet star Mikhail Baryshnikov is 51. Country singer Cheryl White is 44. Country singer-musician Richard Young (The Kentucky Headhunters) is 44. Actress Mimi Rogers is 43. Rock singer Margo Timmons (Cowboy Junkies) is 38. Actress Bridget Fonda is 35. Country singer Tracy Lawrence is 31. Rock singer Mike Patton (Faith No More) is 31. Blues musician Jonny Lang is 18.

Pub Date: 1/27/99

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