The Coldest Journey
At Revells, we like to support worthwhile activities. As movers and storers, our primary interest is in supporting humanitarian causes where our services can be of use in cases of need. However, we also like adventure! The account below is of our most recent involvement with an extraordinary expedition:
In January 2013 six men set out from Cape Town on board the South African Maritime Safety Authority's ice-strengthened cadet training ship SA Agulhas. They were bound for Crown Bay, Antarctica. Under the leadership of veteran explorer, Sir Ranulph Fiennes and known as "The Coldest Journey", their mission was to be the first team ever to cross Antarctica in winter. The 4,000 km journey across the continent via the South Pole would take 6 months in some of the harshest conditions on Earth. Included in their ambitions was a comprehensive science programme which required the collection and recording of data on glaciology, meteorology and the physiological and psychological effects of solitude on the team members themselves.
The expedition’s co-leader, Antony Bowring of Revells, had the responsibility for shipping the team and all their equipment, stores and fuel from London to Antarctica via Cape Town. During the 5 years of preparation and training, including field testing equipment in Lapland, the Revells team supported the expedition with the transport of the precious cargo of stores from around Britain to Lapland and to the expedition’s warehouse in London’s West India Docks. Following negotiations with the owners of SA Agulhas, the expedition members were delivered to Antarctica together with a support team of helpers, technicians and scientists.
However, having arrived in Crown Bay, Antarctica, in late February 2013, while laying depots of supplies in readiness for the crossing, Sir Ranulph Fiennes suffered severe frostbite damage to one hand. Such was his condition that it became clear he would need immediate expert treatment and reluctantly, he left his colleagues and took the last flight of the season out of Antarctica. For the next 9 months, no facilities existed to rescue or repatriate the remaining five team members, who continued under the leadership of Brian Newham, a man with over 20 years of experience working in Antarctica. Using two 25 tonne Caterpillar bulldozers and hauling sledges loaded with their accommodation modules, science equipment and stores, they set out from the coast and climbed up to the polar plateau at 3,500 meters above sea level. On their way they encountered many uncharted crevasses and progress was slow. Despite the best local knowledge, conditions required extreme caution as darkness approached and the temperature dropped. Danger faced the team continuously as they crawled onwards and upwards. By June, having struggled to the plateau, so appalling were the conditions they faced and with an indication of at least a further 100 kms of crevassing ahead of them, a point was reached where it became clear that they had neither adequate fuel to complete their journey nor the time remaining to achieve a truly 'winter' crossing. Despite the strong desire to press on, it would have been fool hardy to do so and the decision was made to focus their attention on their scientific work and abandon the attempt to cross the continent in winter.
For the remainder of the year, the team remained completely isolated high on the plateau camped in their modest accommodation unit. Modern technology enabled them to have global communications and, over the months, they attracted many thousands of followers around the world via their website (www.thecoldestjourney.org) including a growing number of schools. They completed their research work and collected data commissioned by scientific institutions from around the world which, among other things, it is hoped, will contribute to the knowledge of the extent and rate of global warming. They are the first team ever to camp throughout the Antarctic winter in the permanent darkness and temperatures as low as -60⁰ C. And, they achieved one of the longest Antarctic journeys in winter. In addition, through their association with the international charity Seeing is Believing, which is committed to eradicating avoidable blindness in the developing world, the expedition has raised over US$2 million which is being matched dollar for dollar by Standard Chartered Bank.
On Thursday 21st November, Brian Newham and his colleagues Ian Prickett, Dr Robert Lambert, Richmond Dykes and Spencer Smirl returned to Cape Town. Revells is proud to have had such an important role in this historic event.
BAR member no: RO77