As if walking across Antarctica isn’t challenging enough, a group of intrepid British explorers has decided to do it in the winter, which has never been done. Antarctic expeditions are summer affairs and for good reason. In the winter the sun is extinguished from the sky, the continent plunged into 24-hour darkness and temperatures drop to -90 Celsius. Their 3,200 km trek across Antarctica, The Coldest Journey, has been called one of the last remaining polar challenges and the team hopes the “expedition’s success will reassert Britain’s status as the world’s greatest nation of explorers”.
So far, it’s been a tough go. The team left London on Dec 6 in the SA Agulhas, a 112 meter polar research vessel that used to train South African marines and service their Antarctic research stations. They arrived in Cape Town on Dec 27th and left 11 days later, reaching Antarctica Jan 20th. The next three months were spent preparing and on the equinox, March 20, when the polar winter began, they began their overland journey.
The team used skidoos to reach the edge of the ice shelf from their camp near Crown Bay. Conditions delayed their start and the seven days later they were again halted by a blizzard. Even when the conditions were favourable they ran into troubles with their machinery and had to take valuable time out for repairs. They are carrying a mountain of equipment, ferrying it forward with Cats and that takes time especially over technical section. Another setback came when their expedition co-leader, the legendary Sir Ranulph Fiennes, suffered frostbite in his already frostbite-damaged left hand and had to withdraw from the expedition.
These challenges have put the team 7 weeks behind schedule but they are continuing forward, pushing through blizzard condition, unimaginably cold temperatures and endless challenges. Their motivation comes not only from the challenge but their goal to raise 10 million dollars for the charity Seeing is Believing. It’s a fascinating journey to follow and will make you feel especially cozy and warm no matter where you are. Follow the expedition at The Coldest Journey.