The Guinness Book of Records named him the Greatest Living Explorer, now Sir Ranulph Fiennes is about to take on one of the last remaining polar challenges. Fiennes and his team will attempt to cross Antarctica during winter, something that has never been done before.
They will encounter extreme temperatures as low as minus -90°C and spend almost six months in the darkness of an Antarctic winter.
"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."
During The Coldest Journey, the team hope to raise $10million for 'Seeing is Believing', the global charity that helps fight avoidable blindness. Fiennes, who has experience of suffering from snow blindness, feels passionate about making a real impact towards the goal of eradicating avoidable blindness around the world.
Their journey begins, December 6th 2012, when they leave London on the ice strengthened South African ship 'SA Agulhas' to sail towards the Antarctic. During their sea voyage they will be collecting data on marine life, oceanography and meteorology. The expedition will provide unique scientific research that will assist climatologists as well as being the basis for an education programme that will be able to reach over 10,000 schools.
The start of Antarctic winter, on March 21st 2013, will signal the start of the team's 6 month journey to reach Ross Sea. They will travel from the Russian base, Novolazareskaya, to Captain Scott's base at McMurdo Sound via the South Pole.
If they are successful they will cover over 2,000 miles mostly in complete darkness.
5 Facts about crossing the Antarctic during the polar winter:
- Antarctica is the coldest place on Earth in the winter and has recorded the lowest temperature on the planet at -89.2°C.
- A permit for a winter expedition in Antarctica has never been granted before due to extreme concern about safety.
- There will be NO search and rescue facilities for the team. Aircraft fuel freezes in these conditions and the darkness also poses significant risks to flight.
- Sir Ranulph Fiennes leads the expedition by departing London in the centenary year of Captain Scott's death in the Antarctic in 1912.
- If successful, the winter crossing will start on March 21st 2013 & finish by September 21 2013. However, due to the extreme climate the team will not be able to begin the journey back to Britain until January 2014, arriving there in March 2014.
Although a Norwegian team has recently completed an Arctic winter crossing, Fiennes' team will be the first to attempt an Antarctic winter crossing.
"We are very excited to be part of this incredibly challenging expedition, which is going to push the boundaries of human physical and mental endurance. Hopefully, important information will be obtained which will increase our understanding of the limits of human performance, and in particular those which may be relevant for future trips to Mars." Professor Stephen Harridge, director of King's College London's Centre of Human and Aerospace Physiological Sciences (CHAPS), which is hosting the White Mars project.
In order to conduct this dangerous and hugely complex journey, Fiennes and his team mates will be using a variety of tools and equipment to ensure their survival.
Two Caterpillar D6N track-type tractors will pull two cabooses which will house the Ice Team and science equipment. They will also need to have sufficient space to store all the fuel, food and additional equipment required for the entire winter crossing. The tractors have been specially modified by Finning UK Ltd and are designed to prevent fuel from freezing, drive belts from snapping and batteries losing power in the severe cold. The Ski-Team must walk ahead of the tractors and drag ground-penetrating radar to ensure that they avoid lethal chasms and crevasse fields.
To prevent everyone from suffering from the effects of the severe cold, battery-powered
heating elements will be worn by the Ice Team. This is to help protect their extremities and allow them to work in temperatures below -70°C.
The scientific research projects organized by Dr. Tim Cullingford, to be carried out on the journey, were chosen after receiving a number of proposals by international scientists. The expedition's science workshop will be housed in a 27ft insulated container in a caboose pulled by one of the tractors. The data and findings will then be sent on to respected research institutes for analysis. The separate Ship Team will also be conducting a number of scientific investigations.
The entire ship's crew, scientists, engineers, operations team and expeditionaries are all from the 54 countries of the Commonwealth. It's hoped that over 100,000 schools around the world will have the opportunity to interact with the expedition, allowing millions of children, teachers and parents to actively follow The Coldest Journey. Sir Rannulph Fiennes and his colleagues hope to inspire the next generation of explorers and researchers.
"The conditions we will face may be nightmarish, they may from time to time be show-stoppers. Steel and rubber may crack up .. so may some of us. The members of the Team are the best from across the Commonwealth. No one has been paid a penny. All risk a lot." Sir Ranulph Fiennes, OBE.
Everyone at 3B Scientific would like to wish The Coldest Journey expedition the very best of luck. We hope your courage and dedication are rewarded with success and a safe return to your homes in 2014.