19 Sep

It is depressing that Sir Ranulph Fienne’s expedition across Antarctica has not succeeded. The point about the expedition was that it was manhauling in the Antarctic winter. This has not been done since Edward Wilson’s ‘Worst Journey in ther World’ of 1911 The group approached the continent from the Weddell Sea area and aimed to cross via the Pole in the winter months.

Sir Ranulph himself did not get onto the continent because of badly  frost bitten fingers. The remaining group of five managed 200 of the 2000 (plus) miles and are now marooned in a ‘sea container’ in the punishing conditions of the Antarctic winter –darkness, winds and temperatures down to – 70C. They continue their psychological and physiological experiments, I imagine the results will be particularly interesting because of the disappointment they must be feeling.

There was an auction of Antarctic artifacts  at the Royal Society to raise money to help bring the explorers back. Among the items were Sir Ranulph’s skis. There were non Antarctic items including Frankie Dettori’s riding breeches (these seem to come up fairly often, I won a pair at an auction)!

This means that Edward Wilson’s shorter, but equally horrible five week journey to collect Emperor Penguin eggs in 1911, is the last successful manhauling midwinter expedition. The continent was crossed for the first time by Vivian Fuchs in the 1950s. He travelled with difficulty (and with tractors) to meet Edmund Hilary, who had come to the Pole from the Ross Sea. The two then returned to the Ross Sea.

With all the scientific advances of the last 100 years this demonstrates the terrifying power of nature


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