(By Correne Coetzer) Brian Newham, Ian Prickett, Richmond Dykes, Rob Lambert and Spencer Smirl, who are on a mission to cross Antarctica via the Geographic South Pole during the South Pole Winter/Night, had seen the last rays of the sun and has currently two to three hours of twilight a day. Trapped in a crevasse field, which they believe may extend for up to 100 km to the south of their present position, they were taking stock of their situation.
The terrain is a complex and uncharted mass of crevasses, which are hard to detect in the darkness, covered, as they are, by snow bridges, reported the home team. "The situation is made all the more concerning because the efforts required to navigate and haul their many tons of essential equipment and supplies through such treacherous terrain means that they risk forfeiting much of the unique scientific work which they have been commissioned to undertake throughout the winter months."
Lately progress has been painstakingly slow. During the past few weeks they got stuck several times, once up to 20 days in one spot. When traveling, distances covered in the crevassed terrain were in the region of 500 meters per day. Temperatures are down to -50°C.
The team announced that they made the decision to remain where they are and continue to undertake their science and medical work while developing a plan for the months ahead.
The latest reported position (June 1):
S72° 51′ 13.5″, E023° 33′ 50.2″.
The leader of The Coldest Journey, Ranulph Fiennes, aborted the expedition due to frostbite on his left fingers when he tied his boots without gloves. He has already lost fingertips on his left hand on a North Pole attempt, which he had reportedly cut off with a saw after he had learned the time it would take the doctors to do it and of the costs.
The Coldest Journey team started on March 21st, 2013 at Crown Bay, Queen Maud Land, near the Russian coastal Science base, Novolazareskaya and plans to cross via the Geographic South Pole (90°S), drives down the Leverette Glacier to the Ross Ice Shelf and ends six months later at Robert Scott's 1911-13 hut. The team travels with two cats, pulling two cabooses and fuel scoots.
Ice Team: Brian Newham (traverse manager,) Richmond Dykes (mechanic), Rob Lambert (doctor), Ian Prickett (ice team), and Spencer Smirl (mechanic). Biographies of the extended team.
The Antarctic Winter (Night) stretches from March 21st to September 23rd. The coldest temperature ever recorded on Earth, -89,2°C (-128 F), was recorded at the Russian science station, Vostok, July 21st, 1983. Vostok is located at 78°27′51.92″S 106°50′14.38″E.
At the Geographic South Pole, 90°S, the sun disappears below the horizon for the polar night/winter at around the March equinox, March 21th, only to appear again above the horizon, around the September equinox, September 22nd.
A winter South Pole expedition has never been attempted before. Twice a winter North Pole ski-and-swim has been done. Both expeditions departed from Russia (Cape Arktichesky, a distance of 980 km in a straight line).
In 2006 the Norwegian and South African duo, Børge Ousland and Mike Horn, attempted the North Pole in Winter, unassisted, unsupported; starting January 22 and arrived at the North Pole March 23; after 61 days on the ice and only two days after sunrise. They pulled all their food, fuel and gear with them from the start.
The Russians,Matvey Shparo and Boris Smolin, started their expedition on December 22, 2007, the day of winter solstice, from the Arktichesky Cape – the northern point of the Zevernaya Zemlya Archipelago. They reached the NP on March 14, 2008, after 84 days of traveling and one week before sunrise, the beginning of the Northern Polar Day. They received one resupply by air.