Sir Ranulph Fiennes Drops Out Of Antarctic Trek Due To Frostbite
[WATCH VIDEO: Cold Journey Team - Not Going Anywhere]
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
An ambitious expedition to become the first human to walk across Antarctica during the winter has ended for one brave adventurer. Sixty-eight-year-old Sir Ranulph “Ran” Fiennes, the “World’s Greatest Living Explorer,” as dubbed by Guinness World Records, has bowed out of his bid to walk more than 2,000 miles across the frozen wasteland due to injury.
The BBC reported today Mr. Fiennes had forfeited his attempt after receiving severe frostbite during a training exercise.
Fiennes arrived on Antarctica at the end of January with five other team members. They had planned to embark on the 2,400-mile trek beginning March 21, when the Autumnal Equinox begins on the southernmost Continent. The trek was scheduled to take 6 months and could have seen the men battling temperatures in excess of -90 degrees Fahrenheit.
However, Fiennes fell during a routine training exercise and reportedly broke part of his ski. In order to fix the issue, he had to remove his gloves, exposing his bare hands to temperatures hovering around -22F.
The expedition team plans to evacuate Fiennes to South Africa for treatment, but currently he remains at the Antarctic base due to a blizzard. Fiennes said he is “gutted” that he had to pull out of the attempt, but maintained his teammates plan to continue on without him.
The dangers of such a trip were well-known and expected from the start. Before they even made landfall, co-leader Anton Bowring predicted something bad would happen, as reported by Business Insider.
One of the crew members of the team, Ian Prickett, posted a video (viewable above) Friday highlighting the seemingly inhospitable conditions the expedition team will likely face for the next six months.
With Fiennes on the sidelines, the team will still have his support. He said he would continue to support the effort through fundraising. The team is raising money for the Seeing is Believing charity, which tackles avoidable blindness.
In a statement talking about Fiennes injury, the charity, as cited by The Telegraph, said, “The condition is such that he has very reluctantly decided with the support of the team doctor and in the interests of the success of the expedition and its associated aims, to withdraw from Antarctica while the possibility to do so still exists, before the onset of the Antarctic winter.
The decision, as hard as it was, is the best for Fiennes and the team. Once the weather clears, he will be transported by snowmobile to the Princess Elisabeth Station some 40 miles away. From there, he will be airlifted to Novo and then on to Cape Town, South Africa.
For the rest of the team that continues on with the journey, the chances for failure become more and more risky with each new day. Once they set out on March 21, there will likely be no turning back. They will be forced to endure six months of biting cold temperatures, freezing winds and possibly blinding snow. While historically there is little snowfall in Antarctica’s central regions, the outer coastal regions have been known to receive storms with upwards of 4 feet of snowfall in a relatively short time.
During the long trek, two team members will lead a pair of tracked vehicles pulling sleds carrying fuel, supplies, food and shelter. The teammates will take turns leading the pack during the 2,400-mile journey. If they are successful in their bid, they will become the first humans to ever cross the continent on foot during the winter season.
Expedition member Brian Newham has been unanimously elected to take over the reigns as leader in Fiennes absence.
Fiennes holds numerous adventuring records, including becoming the first person to travel by land across both the North and South Pole in 1979 and crossing the Antarctic unassisted in 1992 (summer trek). He also became the oldest Brit to reach the summit of Mt. Everest in 2009. He was 65.
For Fiennes, frostbite is usually just a small roadblock on the road to a successful expedition. In 2000, during a North Pole expedition he developed frostbite on the tips of his fingers while trying to pull supplies out of the sea. After being told he should wait months to see a medical expert for a safe amputation, he bought a saw from a local shop and removed the dead fingertips himself, according to The Guardian.