Explorer drops out of Antarctic journey

LONDON — British explorer Ranulph Fiennes on Monday pulled out of an expedition to cross Antarctica during the region’s winter after developing frostbite — a bitter disappointment for an adventurer who had spent years preparing for one of the last great polar challenges.

The 68-year-old and his five-member team had hoped to traverse nearly 2,500 miles in a place where temperatures often dip as low as minus 94 degrees. The expedition, dubbed “The Coldest Journey,” will continue without him.

“The condition is such that he has very reluctantly decided … to withdraw from Antarctica while the possibility to do so still exists, before the onset of the Antarctic winter,” the expedition said.

Fiennes, who has been going where others fear to tread for decades and in 2009 became the oldest person to summit Mount Everest, already is missing parts of his fingers on his left hand because of frostbite suffered on a North Pole expedition a decade ago.

“This will be my greatest challenge to date,” he had said on his website before the journey began. “We will stretch the limits of human endurance.”

The polar trek is especially dangerous because no aircraft can travel inland in the winter due to the darkness and risk that fuel will freeze. That means that there would be virtually no chance of a search and rescue operation if disaster strikes.

The team is working toward evacuating Fiennes from Antarctica, but that evacuation is being hampered by a blizzard. The team said he was transported by snowmobile to the Princess Elisabeth Station, about 45 miles from his current position. From there, he will be flown to Novo to get a connecting flight to Cape Town in South Africa.

But he will be unable to leave until there is a let-up in weather conditions. The remaining members of the team plan to start the crossing as scheduled March 21.

“This decision has not been taken lightly and it is, naturally, a huge disappointment to Fiennes and his colleagues,” the group said.

The expedition is trying to raise $10 million for the charity “Seeing is Believing,” which seeks to prevent blindness.

Polar adventurer and balloonist David Hempleman-Adams, who walked unsupported to the South Pole in 1996, said he believed the winter crossing would be unprecedented.

“The crossing’s definitely been done before,” he said. “However that was very different. That was in summer months. And that was hugely supported with aircraft and things like this. As far as I know this will be the first winter crossing.”

The team has been outfitted with high-tech equipment that prompted comparisons to the preparations for a flight into space, including special breathing apparatus. The expedition will use 20-ton tractors to transport sledges with mounted living quarters and fuel that is designed not to freeze in the extreme temperatures.

More in Local News

Herald photos of the week

A weekly collection of The Herald’s best images by staff photographers and… Continue reading

This week’s Herald Super Kid is Nathan Nicholson of Snohomish High School. (Dan Bates / The Herald)
‘The future is biotech,’ but for now he’s busy with everything

Snohomish senior Nathan Nicholson is a student leader and media master.

Longboarders from near and far hit the trail in Arlington

The Centennial Sk8 Festival was serious competition for some and just for fun for others.

Council passes six-month moratorium on safe injection sites

Proposal by County Councilman Nate Nehring passed unanimously.

Terrace woman held following collision in Everett

The three occupants in vehicle were transported to a local hospital in serious condition.

Information sought on drive-by shooting in Everett

Debris from an apparent crash, evidence of gunfire found in the 2800 block of California Street.

Crews recover body of man who fell over Wallace Falls

The area where the man fell is called Sky Valley Lookout, 2.4 miles from the parking lot.

Big fire destroys building on Broadway in Everett

A person was rescued, but there were no immediate reports of injuries.

Luring attempt reported in Mountlake Terrace

The driver allegedly instructed a boy to get in the truck and help grab a scooter he was giving away.

Most Read