The independent - Sir Ranulph Fiennes


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The independent - Sir Ranulph Fiennes

  1. 1. Sir Ranulph Fiennes to attempt recordwinter Antarctica expeditionCahal Milmo, Monday, 17 September 2012It is testimony to Sir Ranulph Fiennes and the scale of his previous triumphs that inorder to achieve his next - and possibly final - exploration first he will have to spendfour months skiing in the dark in -70C of cold followed by two 20-ton bulldozersdragging 140 tons of supplies.The 68-year-old adventurer today unveiled his plan to lead the first team acrossAntarctica during the southern winter, describing it as the last milestone in explorationin an era when “everyones grandmother goes up Mount Everest at the weekend”.In order to achieve the 2,000 mile crossing of the polar continent in among the mostinhospitable conditions on the planet, Sir Ranulph and his team of five will mount anextraordinary expedition based on guiding across Antarctica a life support system in theshape of two caterpillar-tracked earth movers.The bulldozers will drag behind them customised sledges fitted with pods to provideshelter as well as holding the equipment and fuel necessary for the six-month trek whichis due to begin next March after the team leave London by ship this December.The expedition, which departs in the centenary year of Captain Scotts death in theAntarctic after he and his team became trapped in the southern winter, was firstcontemplated by Sir Ranulph 25 years ago but dismissed by him as “impossible”. It hasonly become thinkable now because of recent technological advances.Speaking at the Royal Society in central London, which has a 200-year history ofinvolvement in polar exploration, Sir Ranulph, who has survived cancer and a heartbypass operation in recent years, swatted aside any suggestion that his advancing yearsmade the journey too risky.He said: “We heard a rumour that Norwegian explorers were contemplating this, so werealised we were going to have to have a go.”You just must not think about getting old. If you still are lucky enough to be able towalk around not stooped, no crutch, no Zimmer frame then you might as well go for it.“It is the last really big expedition in these days where everybodys grandmother goesup Mount Everest at the weekend.”
  2. 2. In his 40 years of exploration, Sir Ranulph has racked up a series of iron-willedachievements, including the first circumnavigation of the globe on its polar axis, andoften travelled unsupported.But such are the extreme conditions created by the Antarctic winter, that his latestendeavour - entitled The Coldest Journey - can only be undertaken with considerablehardware. The two Caterpillar bulldozers will drag with them 155,000 litres of fuel andenough supplies to ensure that the expedition, which will be beyond reach by rescuers,can survive unaided.Sir Ranulph and a colleague will ski in front of the vehicles, dragging a ground-penetrating radar to spot crevasses which could imperil the convoy, for up to eight hoursa day, covering an average of 35km. The lack of winter sun on the south pole meansthat four of the six months will be spent in permanent darkness.In order to overcome temperatures which can freeze human flesh within minutes, theteam will use technology including battery-powered boot warmers and a giant “sleepingbag” for the bulldozers to prevent the machinery from seizing during stops.Experts said that even with the latest equipment, the £6m expedition, which will alsoconduct a series of scientific experiments in areas from global warming to the existenceof cold-resistant bacteria, was not guaranteed success.Anton Bowring, who has worked with Fiennes for 30 years and organised the SouthAfrican government-owned ice breaker that will transport the expedition, said: “It is amajor and risky attempt on something that hasnt been done before. It is an enormousundertaking.”If all goes to plan, the expedition, which is being sponsored by Standard Chartered bankand aims to raise £10m for a blindness charity, will arrive at its destination by 21September 2013. Even then the difficulty of travel means the team will have wait untilJanuary 2014 to start its journey back to Britain.Source: