British explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes is preparing for the expedition of a lifetime. The famed adventurer, who has already visited the North and South Pole, climbed Everest and ran seven marathons on seven continents in seven days, will soon undertake his most difficult journey of his illustrious career. In 2013, the 68-year-old will lead a team that will attempt to become the first to travel on foot to the South Pole, and back to their starting point, in the dead of winter.
The expedition will begin on March 21 of next year, when Fiennes and another skier, along with their support crew, will be dropped off on the Ross Ice Shelf to begin their journey to the South Pole. That date will mark the start of the Antarctic winter when daylight is practically non-existent and the temperatures can plunge to as low as -130°F. The plan is for Fiennes and his unnamed companion to ski to the Pole, flanked by two snowcats that will carry all of the gear and supplies necessary for a prolonged self-supported journey. The entire expedition is expected to take upwards of six months to complete and cover approximately 2000 miles.
Extreme cold and weeks of darkness aren’t the only challenges the explorers will face. High winds and intense storms could also hamper progress and they’ll begin the journey by making a slow, steady climb up to the Antarctic Plateau, a vertical gain of over 9800 feet. Surface conditions could also be problematic as large crevasses can sit hidden under the snow and ice. To help the support vehicles avoid those hazards, the skiers will drag ground-penetrating sonar behind them at all times. The sonar units will then relay information back to the vehicles, raising alarms to any danger that may lie ahead.
Many explorers consider an Antarctic winter expedition to be amongst the last big adventures that have yet to be accomplished and it is far from a foregone conclusion that Fiennes and company will succeed. This isn’t dissuading him from trying, however, as he hopes to use this endeavor to raise $10 million for Seeing is Believing, an organization dedicated to tackling avoidable blindness around the globe.
[Photo Credit: PA]