(Newsdesk) The South Pole winter has started today with the equinox. The last days of the Antarctic summer have given the British winter crossing team a taste of what lies ahead during the fierce winter. The team was grounded on their way back to their coastal start point after making a fuel depot inland. Strong winds and snow have covered the two bulldowsers, cabooses, fuel scoots and sledge.
A few minutes ago the home team reported, "Just heard from Brian Newham and he has confirmed that the expedition will begin today. The weather there is fine, with little cloud and light winds."
"The plan is not for the Ice Team to get to the coast and mark the start at 1200GMT. In the meantime, the team are doing all the preparatory work which the four days of bad weather have prevented them from doing."
"There is a small chance that a bank of low stratus cloud which is sat off the coast could cause issues. If that starts to invade the coast the team will head down straight away and begin whilst the visibility is still good."
"Whatever happens, today is the day!!"
Yesterday the team reported that the wind has dropped off and the sun has come out. "We are currently digging the Ice Train out - it's a big job. Cabooses are out as is the ISO and 2 x fuel scoots. The Belgian Lehmann [sledge] is next but I'm not joking when I say you can't see it and there is two metres of snow on top of it. Soon we will be unpacking and sorting the 2 x ISO and that is likely to take the rest of the day. Travel to the coast is now possible but we are concentrating on the digging at the moment."
Late yesterday they reported everything was back on the surface except a couple of fuel scoots which will be dragged out from the snow when the Ice Train is assembled and ready to depart. "If the good weather continues then all hopes are on a start some time tomorrow."
Leader Ranulph Fiennes aborted the expedition due to frostbite on his finger 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 plans to start on March 21st, 2013 at Crown Bay, Queen Maud Land, near the Russian coastal Science 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 - aborted), 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.
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