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Crossing the Antarctic during the polar winter

  • The journey from Crown Bay to Captain Scott’s base at McMurdo Sound, via the South Pole, will take six months – mostly in complete darkness – and will cover more than 2,000 miles.
  • Antarctica is the coldest place on Earth in the winter, with the lowest recorded temperature anywhere on the planet at -89.2°C. The winter temperature is frequently as low as -70°C or colder.
  • The Foreign & Commonwealth Office has never before granted a permit for a winter expedition in Antarctica. The expedition has had to prove that it meets stringent environmental and planning criteria.
  • The expedition team will have to be entirely self-sufficient. There will be no search and rescue facility available as aircraft cannot penetrate inland during winter, due to darkness and risk of fuel freezing.
  • Crossing the Antarctic in winter is widely regarded as the last great polar challenge. Previous milestones are: 1958: First crossing of the Antarctic; 1969: First crossing of the Arctic; 1979-82: First and only ground-based circumnavigation of the globe on its polar axis. Achieved during the Transglobe Expedition led by Sir Ranulph Fiennes; 2010: First winter crossing of the Arctic, completed by Norwegian expedition; Winter crossing of the Antarctic never yet attempted.
  • The expedition, led by Sir Ranulph Fiennes, departs from London in the centenary year of Captain Scott’s death in the Antarctic in 1912.
  • The crossing will start on 21 March 2013 and finish by 21 September 2013. However, due to the difficulty of reaching the coast in winter the team will not be able to begin the journey back to Britain until January 2014, arriving there in March 2014 (TBC).

Charity Facts

  • Seeing is Believing, a charitable initiative that raises money to prevent and treat avoidable blindness, is a collaboration between the International Agency for Prevention of Blindness (IAPB), Registered Charity No: 1100559 and Standard Chartered, the lead sponsor of the expedition.
  • Standard Chartered is aiming to raise $100m for Seeing is Believing by 2020. All donations will be matched dollar for dollar, pound for pound until the goal of USD100m is achieved.
  • Every five seconds, someone in the world goes blind.
  • 39 million people around the world are already blind; without effective intervention this will rise to 76 million by 2020.
  • An additional 246 million people are moderately or severely visually impaired.
  • 80 per cent of blindness is avoidable and can be prevented or treated.
  • Every minute another child goes blind and only 10 per cent of blind children are in school.
  • One year’s protection from Vitamin A deficiency per child (a leading cause of childhood blindness) costs just USD1.
  • Just USD 30 can pay for a sight restoring cataract operation.
  • Just USD16 can buy a pair of eye-glasses (allowing a child to get one with her studies).
  • This is the first time Sir Ranulph Fiennes has raised money for a charity outside of cancer.
  • Sir Ranulph Fiennes’s charitable endeavours have raised a total of £15m to date.

Education Facts

  • The Commonwealth is a major supporter of the expedition. The entire ship’s crew, scientists, engineers, operations team and expeditionaries are all from among its 54 countries.
  • Over 100,000 schools around the world have the opportunity to interact with the expedition, reaching millions of children and parents.
  • The expedition will have far-reaching educational value and study opportunities encompassing maths, history, geography, biology and physics for the next generation of explorers and researchers.
  • The Commonwealth has partnered with Microsoft to build an educational sub-site featuring a wealth of tailored resources, tasks and live content delivered via bespoke cloud technology.
  • The Commonwealth accounts for about one third of the world’s population.

Scientific Facts

  • A total of five international scientific projects will be carried out by the Ice Team during The Coldest Journey.
  • Data and samples will be collected by trained members of the team using the expedition’s science workshop housed in a 27ft insulated container in the second caboose. These will then be sent on to a number of respected research institutes for analysis.
  • The projects were chosen following call-out and receipt of proposals by international scientists organized by Dr. Tim Cullingford, and a selection process by the Expedition Science Committee chaired by Sir Peter Williams (Former Vice President, Royal Society) and Dr Dougal Goodman (Foundation for Science and Technology and former Deputy Director of British Antarctic Survey).
  • The expedition Ship Team will undertake a number of scientific tasks to provide unique data on marine life, oceanography and meteorology.


Technology Facts

  • Two Caterpillar D6N track-type tractors will pull two specially converted and sledge-mounted shipping containers (known as cabooses) – which will house the Ice Team and science equipment – as well as all of the fuel, food and additional equipment required for the trip.
  • The 20-tonne D6Ns are being specially modified by Finning UK Ltd to prevent fuel freezing, batteries losing power and drive belts snapping in the extreme cold.
  • The Ski-Team, which will walk ahead of the D6Ns, will drag a ground-penetrating radar to identify the lethal perils of chasms and crevasse fields.
  • High-tech, battery-powered heating elements will be worn by the Ice Team to help keep their extremities from getting too cold, enabling them to survive and operate in temperatures below -70°C:
  • A special ice-strengthened supply ship from South Africa – the SA Agulhas – will transport the expedition team and all of its equipment.
  • Bespoke cloud and satellite technologies provided by Microsoft and Iridium will enable real-time updates on the expedition’s progress and communications with the ship and Operations HQ in London.
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