One of the most difficult and demanding expeditions we have seen in a very long time is set to get underway today as the members of the Coldest Journey team prepare to embark on their epic trek. As you probably recall, this is an attempt to traverse Antarctica, via the South Pole, in the dead of winter – something that has never been accomplished before. The men are preparing to face horrendous weather conditions, including extreme cold and incredibly high winds, as they get ready to embark. But true to form, Mother Nature isn’t exactly cooperating, so they may have to delay their launch by a day or two.
For the past four days a blizzard has raged around the team, which is in place and ready to go. They’ll begin at Crown Bay and plan to cover approximately 4000 km (2485 miles) before ending on the far side of the continent along the Ross Ice Shelf. They are predicting that it will take about 85 days to reach the South Pole and another 60 to get reach the finish line. That means nearly five months of travel in the harshest environment on the planet. Just how harsh? They expect temperatures to routinely hit -90ºC/-130ºF. Now that is cold. And if that wasn’t bad enough, most of the expedition will take place in complete darkness as there isn’t much light at the bottom of the world this time of year.
The members of the Ice Team, Spencer Smirl, Ian Prickett, Rob Lambert, Richmond Dykes and Brian Newham will be traveling on skis while motorized support vehicles follow along. Those vehicles will carry food, fuel and supplies for the journey, allowing the men to focus on simply moving forward. While this is a departure from what we’re use to seeing out of Antarctic skiers, most of whom drag sleds behind them with their gear, the only way this team could get insured for the expedition was to bring more reliable support with them.
The best known and highest profile member of the team was suppose to be Sir Ranulph Fiennes, but he was forced to pull out of the expedition after contracting frostbite while training last month. Ran is now back home in the U.K. and facing possible surgery on his injured left hand, but he’ll be following the expedition closely and providing advice for the five men who will carry on without him. Since having to leave Antarctica in late February, he has expressed his frustration with not being a part of the expedition.
While the start of the journey was delayed due to the weather, the latest update from the team says that the skies are clearing and conditions are improving. It now looks like the delay will be a brief one and they may still get underway today or tomorrow.
Expect to hear a lot about this expedition in the coming weeks. It is going to be an incredibly challenging excursion to say the least. This team hopes to make history, but ahead of them sits 4000 km of open, desolate landscapes and unforgiving conditions. Add in the fact that they won’t be able to call for a rescue and there is the potential for some serious drama here. Lets all with them some luck and hope all goes well.
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