Sir Ranulph Fiennes is one the most accomplished adventurers in history. He led the first hovercraft journey up the Nile during the 60s, the first journey round the world crossing both poles in the 70s and 80s, and ran seven marathons on seven continents in seven days in the first decade of this century. Now he wants to become the first man to ski to the South Pole.
So why, at 68 years old, attempt such a difficult journey, during the coldest time of the year in the coldest place on earth?
“We heard a rumor that Norwegian explorers were contemplating this,” Fiennes told the BBC. “We realized we were going to have to go.”
During the trip, Fiennes and a partner will battle temperatures that could go lower than -100°F. Average lows for Antarctic winters (which begin in March) hold at around -75°F. So while Fiennes will be accompanied by two bulldozers and 140 tons of supplies, including living quarters, the expedition could still fail if the temperatures stay below -76°F (the freezing point of gasoline) for too long.
If the machinery survives the journey, the human side of the equation will still have to contend with frostbite, hypothermia, and all the other negative side effects of being in the coldest place on earth.
To accomplish the more than 2,000-mile ski trip Fiennes will ski as many as 8 hours a day, during a 24-hour-a-day darkness, for six months— the vast majority of which will be spent beyond the range of any available rescue attempt.
“We looked at this 25 years ago,” Fiennes explained to the BBC, “and realized it was impossible.”
Fiennes hopes that advances in technology have changed the reality of that assessment. His attempt begins at the start of the Antarctic winter, March 21, 2013.
Image courtesy Kuno Lechner on Wikimedia Commons