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Antarctica Winter Trek Record Attempt by Sir Ranulph Fiennes
A new record attempt will take place in Antartica next year, with the hope of raising $10 million for charity Seeing Is Believing, who work around the work trying to tackle avoidable blindness. The challenge is to cross the length of the continent during the southern winter, a feat never achieved before and widely thought to be impossible.
This new record being attempted by Sir Ranulph Fiennes is a dangerous endeavour, but an experienced explorer like himself has the knowledge and experience to try it. The plan is to begin the expedition on the equinox of March 21st 2013, and from then he will have to quickly adapt to be successful at surviving polar temperatures. Dr Mike Stroud has been expeditions with Sir Ranulph before, and had this to say about the attempt. "The challenge is whether it is possible to operate and be out there in the coldest place on earth at the coldest time of the year.” Even for the boat journey to the Pacific coast of Antarctica Sir Ranulph will need special clothing designed for comfort at sea, but once on the icy continent this will not be enough. New equipment is being invented especially for the expedition, and is being tested using a cold chamber. The only problem is that even when equipment is tested, there is no knowing whether it will be work properly when out in the sub-zero temperatures of Antarctica.
The Man Behind the Expedition
Sir Ranulph Fiennes was the first man to cross the entire continent of Antarctica on foot, a record he set back in 1993 when he was 49. Now Sir Ranulph is 68, but his age is not going to stop him. As he put it, "You just must not think about getting old. If you still are lucky enough to be able to walk around not stooped, no crutch, no Zimmer frame, then you might as well go for it.”
He was born in 1944, and served for eight years in the British Army before turning all his attention to exploring. His list of records is far reaching and impressive, including being the oldest British person to ever climb Mount Everest. He is still the only person to have crossed both polar ice-caps and climbed the highest mountain in the world.
In 2000 he made a solo attempt to reach the North Pole unaided. Disaster struck when his sleds fell through thin ice, and he had to pull them out using his hands. All his fingers on his left hand were severely damaged by frostbite, and he had to abandon the attempt. Amputation of his fingertips was inevitable, but his surgeon told him to wait a few months to allow as much healthy tissue to grow back as possible. Sir Ranulph couldn’t wait, and instead used a fretsaw to carry out his own amputation.
When asked why he wanted to make this new record attempt, Sir Ranulph answered, "We do it because we like to break world records. Sometimes we don't succeed, but it's what we go for. It's our specialty.”
Taking on the Impossible
What lays ahead for Sir Ranulph and his team is a going to be an ultimate test of endurance and survival. The expedition is being called the Coldest Journey, and that it certainly will be. The expedition team will subjected to temperatures diving lower than -50 degrees Celsius, a deadly temperature if anything goes wrong during their record attempt. "There is a huge, blank knowledge of the winter of Antarctica, what is happening to Antarctica during a period when the scientists can't normally get out there,” said Sir Ranulph.
"We looked at this 25 years ago and realised it was impossible,” he added. Even though new technology is now available that will help the expedition achieve its goal, this was not the reason for the decision being made to attempt the winter crossing. "We heard a rumour that Norwegian explorers were contemplating this. We realised we were going to have to have a go,” explained Sir Ranulph.
Whether rivalry is a good reason to head to the coldest place on earth at the coldest time of year is up for debate, but the challenge has now been set, and only time will tell if Sir Ranulph can accomplish the extraordinary feat he has set himself. Good luck to him!