Within the last few minutes, Sir Ranulph Fiennes said at a press conference that he was “very frustrated” at being back in the UK six months before the Ice Team was even meant to finish the first winter traverse of Antarctica.

“But I am not good at crying over spilt milk – or spilt fingers,” he said. “It is extremely frustrating. I have been working on this full time and unpaid for five years.”

Sir Ranulph told members of the press gathered at the Sofitel Hotel at Heathrow Airport that he would make the most of this unfortunate turn of events by putting his full attention to making sure the expedition succeeded in all of its aims.

“I am very pleased and proud of the team,” he said. “Everything is going totally on schedule as of today.”

Sir Ranulph said the only thing which had changed following his return to the UK was the fact that no-one would be skiing across Antarctic, and now the crossing would be solely a mechanised effort.

The “intense science” programme, the education package and the aim to raise $10m for Seeing is Believing would continue unhindered by his premature return.

Ran’s plane arrived from Cape Town, South Africa, at 6.30am today. He was then ushered from the tarmac into the Windsor Suite to meet with members of the extended expedition team for a friendly welcome over a cup of coffee, before heading on to the Sofitel Hotel nearby to freshen up ready for the press conference.

Joanna Lumley, Trustee, opened the conference saying that it was a strange day, but nonetheless an exciting part of this extraordinary adventure.

It is now more than a week ago since the incident occurred about 200km south of Crown Bay in Antarctica.

The Ice Team is currently heading towards the end of its fuel depot run, after which they will return to Crown Bay for the start of the traverse on March 21st.

By Hugh Bowring