(Correne Coetzer) Ranulph Fiennes set sail on the South African Polar ship, the SA Agulhas, from Cape Town, South Africa, to Antarctica at 8 am, January 7th. On board are his polar expedition team, 50 sea cadets and more than 100 tons of equipment.
The ship left London on December 6th and docked in Cape Town on December 28th, where Fiennes and the ice team members joined the ship for their final leg to Antarctica to attempt a winter South Pole crossing.
Brits and Norwegians
In a very early morning farewell ceremony at the V&A; Waterfront in Table Bay Harbor, with the keynote speaker the South African Deputy Minister of Transport, Fiennes told the press and delegates, among them the Navy, that he has been planning this for the past 5 years as this is the last great challenge for competitive polar people. He said their "Norwegian friends" would definitely try to do it.
The Brits left London under a lot of press coverage; Fiennes explained they have to "make a lot of noise" about their expedition because that is what their sponsors want.
In June 1910 Robert Scott's ship, the Terra Nova, set sail from the UK, with a team who wanted to discover the South Pole. They too set sail "making a lot of noise" about their expedition, and their leader, Scott, also joined the ship only in Cape Town.
Little did those Brits know that Roald Amundsen also set off from Norway in June 1910. Amundsen's ship, Fram, belonged to his mentor, Fridtjof Nansen. Most of the crew was under the impression that they were going to the North Pole, but Amundsen had set his target on discovering the South Pole. In the process they left Norway quietly and Scott only discovered that there was a race for discovering of the South Pole when he received a telegram from Amundsen in Melbourne, Australia.
Upon arrival in Cape Town last month, and with their Norwegian friends on their mind, Fiennes and team got "quite frightened" when they saw a Norwegian boat, Dr Fridtjof Nansen in Cape Town harbor, said Ran to the audience.
Their first thoughts were that the Norwegian boat might be disguising something and therefore they sent over two men to investigate, said Ran. He ensured the audience that there were no Norwegian friends on board.
Extreme low temperatures
Fiennes' lifelong polar partner, Mike Stroud, was also present to see them off. Among their expeditions was a summer South Pole traverse from Berkner Island to the Ross Ice Shelf, pulling sleds and using parasails. This time, said Fiennes to ExWeb, they are not going to pull sleds unless really necessary.
Fiennes said to the audience they can't afford to make any mistakes in the expected temperatures of -70°C (without the wind). He and Stroud experienced hypothermia at -30°C and this time it will be much colder. In particular the two mechanics, he said, who are responsible for the two bull dozers pulling the caboose with the living quarters and the fuel bladders, may not get frostbite and blisters on their fingers.
There is a big degree of "uncertainty" about the expedition as they don't know everything about the conditions, Ran says. "Some people will say it is irresponsible to go unless you know everything, in which case the Americans would never have gotten to the moon. If humans are going for something new, then unfortunately there are bound to be some gray areas," he told the media.
The team looks strikingly thin for a polar team; as most skiers try to gain a few kilograms bodyweight before an expedition. ExplorersWeb questioned Anton Bowring, co-expedition leader, about it and he said their clothes will be warm enough. They will have battery heated mechanisms in their clothes and special breathing apparatus.
As for Bowring himself, he told ExWeb, he is so lean because he had stomach cancer and has no stomach anymore; therefore he can't eat. Despite his medical condition he has decided to live life to the fullest.
Ranulph Fiennes and team plan to start on March 21st, 2013 at Crown Bay, Queen Maud Land, near the Russian coastal base, Novolazareskaya and cross via the Geographic South Pole (90°S), down the Leverette Glacier to the Ross Ice Shelf and end six months later at Robert Scott's 1911-13 hut.
Ice Team: Ranulph Fiennes (co-leader & ice team), Richmond Dykes (mechanic), Rob Lambert (doctor), Ian Prickett ice team), Brian Newham (traverse manager) and Spencer Smirl (mechanic). Biographies of extended team.
The South Pole winter 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; 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 20th, 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 the beginning of the polar day. They received one food, fuel and gear resupply by air.
Ran Fiennes winter South Pole ski: ship setting sail from London
South Pole anniversary 100 years ago: Three bodies in a snowed-up tent
Life in The Freezer: Amundsen Frozen in Time
The Coldest Journey website
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