Last updated on April 16, 2014 at 1:21 EDT

Veteran Explorer to Attempt the Coldest Journey on Earth

September 17, 2012

LONDON, September 17, 2012 /PRNewswire/ –

Veteran polar explorer, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, will take on one of the last remaining
polar challenges by attempting to cross Antarctica in winter – the coldest journey on
Earth – with five colleagues and with the support of the Commonwealth and a number of

On 6 December 2012, on board the expedition’s South African ice-strengthened research
ship, ‘SA Agulhas’, the expedition team – led by Sir Ranulph – will leave London, bound
for Antarctica. Their aim is to complete ‘The Coldest Journey’ – the first-ever
trans-Antarctic winter expedition. The Coldest Journey will also attempt to raise USD10
million for Seeing is Believing, a global charitable initiative to fight avoidable
blindness. During their sea voyage, the team will undertake a number of scientific tasks
to provide unique data on marine life, oceanography and meteorology. Using the very latest
technological innovations, this epoch-making journey will pave the way for a new dawn in
Antarctic, year-round exploration.

On 21 March 2013, the equinox, the six expedition members will begin a six month
journey to reach the Ross Sea. Their route from the Russian base of Novolazareskaya
(‘Novo’) to Captain Scott’s base at McMurdo Sound – via the South Pole – will test the
limits of human endurance. During this six month period the expedition team will travel
nearly 4,000 kilometres, mostly in complete darkness in temperatures as low as
-90degree(s)C. The expedition team will have to be entirely self-sufficient and there will
be no search and rescue facility available, as aircraft cannot penetrate inland during
winter, due to darkness and risk of fuel freezing.

Previously, the furthest any expedition has ever ventured into Antarctica during the
winter is 60 miles. On this forthcoming journey, Sir Ranulph and his team will aim to
cover 2,000 miles in six months, crossing the polar plateau at an average height of
10,000ft above sea level.

With a winter crossing of the Arctic having recently been completed by a Norwegian
expedition, this is the first ever attempt at an Antarctic winter crossing and one of the
last remaining polar challenges.

Of the Antarctic traverse, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Expedition Leader of The Coldest
Journey, said: “This will be my greatest challenge to date. We will stretch the limits of
human endurance. Britain and the Commonwealth has a strong heritage of exploration, from
Captain Cook 300 years ago to the present day. As such, it is fitting that a Commonwealth
team should be the first to fulfil this last great polar expedition.

“It is a unique opportunity to carry out a number of scientific tasks in the extreme
polar environment, which will make a significant contribution to our understanding of the
true effects of global warming on the Antarctic continent.”

As well as conquering this final frontier of polar exploration, the expedition also
aims to make a decisive contribution to our understanding of the effect of climate change
upon the poles. CryoSat-2 (an environmental research satellite launched by the European
Space Agency in April 2010) is designed to track changes in the mass of the polar ice caps
by measuring the distance to the surface of the ice to within half an inch. Year-round
calibration on the ground is the only way to validate this data, so the readings taken by
trained members of the Ice Team will form a vital part of this research. This work is one
of five international scientific projects which have been selected by the Science
Committee, including mapping the height of the landmass using new GPS techniques and
taking core samples to establish the water flow from the ice sheet. The Ice Team will also
be sampling for cryo-bacteria capable of withstanding the extreme cold conditions.

In addition, scientists on board its ice-strengthened Antarctic supply and training
vessel, SA Agulhas – a ship generously provided by the South African Maritime Safety
Authority – will make detailed oceanographic, marine biological and meteorological
observations on behalf of a number of research bodies around the world.

Anton Bowring, Co-leader of The Coldest Journey, with responsibility for the marine
activities of the Coldest Journey said: “As well as conquering this final frontier of
polar exploration, the expedition also aims to make a decisive contribution to our
understanding of global climate change and its impact on the polar ice caps. In addition
we will use this great opportunity to increase our knowledge of the marine and polar
environments and the impact on them by natural and man-made factors.”

While the ultimate objective is to complete The Coldest Journey, the exploration team
intend to raise USD10 million for Seeing is Believing (SiB) – a global initiative led by
Standard Chartered and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) to
tackle avoidable blindness in developing countries. Since its launch in 2003, the
programme has reached over 28 million people. Eighty per cent of the world’s blindness is
avoidable – meaning it can be prevented or treated. For as little as USD30 a person’s
sight can be restored, allowing them to get back to work or school. Yet 39 million people
are currently blind and without effective intervention, which is expected to rise to 76
million by 2020.

A further 246 million people are either moderately or severely visually impaired,
simply for the lack of a basic pair of eyeglasses. Every dollar raised for SiB is matched
by Standard Chartered, doubling the impact the organisation can make on the ground.

Sir Ranulph’s charitable endeavours on past expeditions have raised a total of GBP15m
to date.

Sir Ranulph added: “I have been on some amazing expeditions and seen many of the
beautiful and unique sights the world has to offer. When I discovered Seeing is Believing,
what it stood for, and understood how easily avoidable blindness could be prevented, it
inspired me and my colleagues to undertake this challenge. It is a fantastic cause and I
would urge everyone who follows our progress to donate to it via

The expedition also offers a unique opportunity to generate diverse, engaging,
real-time educational content for schools. The expedition will have far-reaching
educational value and study opportunities encompassing maths, history, geography, biology
and physics, there to inspire young people in the possibilities of high achievement.

Microsoft has developed a bespoke password-protected platform for this purpose that
will be continually updated using cloud technology, for a modest donation this will be
accessible to more than 43,000 schools in the UK and hundreds of thousands of schools
throughout the Commonwealth which accounts for approximately one third of the world’s

Students will be able to follow the expedition’s progress, take part in competitions,
and study fully integrated curriculum modules. These courses are currently being developed
by Durham’s Education Development Service – one of the UK’s leading education resource
providers – in partnership with Sir Ranulph and the expedition scientists, engineers,
mechanics and ship’s crew and training officers.

Sir Ranulph’s attempt to complete The Coldest Journey is the latest in the long line
of record-breaking achievements that have seen him become the first man to reach both
Poles by surface travel. It also follows his hike to the summit of Everest, where he
became the oldest Briton ever to do so. The Coldest Journey represents what may be Sir
Ranulph’s final expedition, and one which despite being aged 68, he could not have
undertaken any earlier in life.

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office has not previously granted permits for winter
expeditions in Antarctica as they are deemed too dangerous; a testament to the
sophistication of the technology required for this traverse. Sir Ranulph and the
expedition team will be equipped with high-tech equipment, including battery-powered
heated clothing and specially designed breathing apparatus to enable them to survive at
-70degree(s)C and possibly at -90degree(s)C.

Finning, one of the world’s largest distributors of Caterpillar(R) equipment and
powers systems, are providing customisation solutions and modifying two D6N track-type
tractors to tow two specially engineered cabooses (sledges mounted living quarters) for
scientific work, accommodation and storage, and sledges designed to carry 155,000 litres
of special fuel designed not to freeze. The D6Ns have also been designed to cope with the
extreme temperatures and harsh Antarctic environment. The 20 tonne vehicles will be
equipped with radars to identify the lethal perils of crevasse fields. Bespoke cloud and
satellite technologies provided by Microsoft and Iridium will enable real-time updates on
the expedition’s progress.

The expedition departs from London in the centenary year of Captain Scott’s death in
the Antarctic in 1912.

SOURCE TAWT Trust Limities

Source: PR Newswire