Veteran polar explorer, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, will take on one of the last remaining polar challenges by attempting to cross Antarctica in winter – the coldest journey on Earth.in this, the centenary year of Captain Scott’s death in the Antarctic in 1912.
The expedition will also attempt to raise money for Seeing is Believing, a global charitable initiative to fight avoidable blindness
On 6 December , on board the ice-strengthened research ship, ‘SA Agulhas’, the six man expedition team – led by former SAS man Sir Ranulph – will leave London for Antarctica.
During their sea voyage, the team will undertake a number of scientific tasks to provide data on marine life, oceanography and meteorology.
On 21 March 2013, the six expedition members will begin a six month journey to reach the Ross Sea. Their route from the Russian base of Novolazareskaya to Captain Scott’s base at McMurdo Sound – via the South Pole – will test the limits of human endurance. During this period the team will travel nearly 2,500 miles, mostly in complete darkness in temperatures as low as -90°C at an average height of 10,000ft above sea level.
The expedition will have to be entirely self-sufficient and there will be no search and rescue facility available, as aircraft cannot penetrate inland during winter, due to darkness and risk of fuel freezing.
Previously, the furthest any expedition has ever ventured into Antarctica during the winter is 60 miles. This is the first ever attempt at an Antarctic winter crossing – one of the last remaining polar challenges.
The Foreign Office has not previously granted permits for winter expeditions in Antarctica as they are deemed too dangerous; a testament to the sophistication of the technology required for this traverse. Sir Ranulph and the expedition team will be equipped with high-tech equipment, including battery-powered heated clothing and specially designed breathing apparatus to enable them to survive at -90°C .
Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Expedition Leader said:
“This will be my greatest challenge to date. We will stretch the limits of human endurance. Britain and the Commonwealth has a strong heritage of exploration, from Captain Cook 300 years ago to the present day. As such, it is fitting that a Commonwealth team should be the first to fulfil this last great polar expedition.
“It is a unique opportunity to carry out a number of scientific tasks in the extreme polar environment, which will make a significant contribution to our understanding of the true effects of global warming on the Antarctic continent.”
The expedition also offers a unique opportunity to generate educational content for schools. Students will be able to follow the expedition’s progress, take part in competitions, and study fully integrated curriculum modules.
Sir Ranulph’s attempt to complete “The Coldest Journey” is the latest in the long line of record-breaking achievements that have seen him become the first man to reach both Poles by surface travel. It also follows his hike to the summit of Everest, where he became the oldest Briton ever to do so but this latest expedition may be the final adventure for Sir Ranulph, now aged 68.
Sir Ranulph’s charitable endeavours on past expeditions have raised a total of £15m and the exploration team also intend to raise £6 million for Seeing is Believing – a global initiative led by the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness to tackle avoidable blindness in developing countries.
Since its launch in 2003, the programme has helped over 28 million people.
Sir Ranulph said:
“I have been on some amazing expeditions and seen many of the beautiful and unique sights the world has to offer. When I discovered Seeing is Believing, what it stood for, and understood how easily avoidable blindness could be prevented, it inspired me and my colleagues to undertake this challenge. It is a fantastic cause and I would urge everyone who follows our progress to donate to it via www.thecoldestjourney.org.”