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Commonwealth team to attempt the last remaining polar challenge

18 September 2012
Sir Ranulph Fiennes announces first winter crossing of Antarctica

British adventurer Sir Ranulph Fiennes will lead a team of explorers in an attempt at the first ever winter crossing of Antarctica, where temperatures will reach minus 90 degrees Celsius.

‘The Coldest Journey’ will involve a six-month trek of nearly 4,000km across the polar ice cap, mostly in complete darkness.

The Commonwealth-flagged adventure is considered the last remaining polar challenge. The team will be entirely self-sufficient as there are no search and rescue facilities available due to the darkness and risk of fuel freezing in winter.

The team will begin their remarkable journey on 6 December 2012 when they set sail from London to reach Antarctica to start their trek in March 2013.

While on the ice, the group will conduct a series of scientific experiments and generate diverse, engaging and real-time educational content for schools through an online workspace, competitions and curriculum modules.

Sir Ranulph is the first person to have crossed both polar ice caps, and the only living man to circumnavigate the world along the polar axis (with the late Charles Burton)

Sir Ranulph said: “It is a unique opportunity to carry out a number of scientific tasks in the extreme polar environment, which will make a significant contribution to our understanding of the true effects of global warming on the Antarctic continent.”

Speaking at the London launch on 17 September, Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba said: “One of the things that has really excited us about this programme is that it brings science to life.

“What happens now is that young children and students across the Commonwealth can see science and physics in particular in action. Hopefully we will have more young children and more young girls picking up physics and science as a way of doing business.”

Scientists on board the expedition’s ice-strengthened research ship, SA Agulhas – supplied by the South African Maritime Safety Authority – will provide unique data on marine life, oceanography, and meteorology on behalf of a number of research bodies around the world.

The Coldest Journey will also aim to raise US$10 million for 'Seeing is Believing', a global initiative led by Standard Chartered and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness to tackle avoidable blindness in developing countries.

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