Explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes Will Attempt First Antarctic Winter Crossing

The trip will be one of the most ambitious ever undertaken

Antarctica can be an unforgiving place in the best of circumstances. In the dead of winter, it's one of the most hostile places on Earth. While there have been plenty of expeditions during the summer, no one has attempted to cross the continent in the winter, until now.

Adventurer Sir Ranulph Fiennes, considered the world's greatest living explorer, has assembled a team and plans to trek from one side of the continent to the other during the winter, a journey of more than 3,200 km or 2,000 miles.

The only other winter expedition was in the early 20th century and only went about 100 km or 60 miles.

The expedition has been in the works for five years and is one of the most complex and expensive undertaken by the highly experienced team.

The team is sailing from Cape Town today and will arrive in Antarctica later this month. The actual trip will begin in March, just as the Antarctic winter begins to set.

The temperatures will drop and there will be little daylight. Eventually, the perpetual night sets in and the team has several months of trekking in the dark.

The six-member team is taking on equipment and supplies for a year. Two skiers will ride in front, equipped with ground-penetrating radars to spot crevices.

Two tractors will pull two containers converted to endure the winter conditions which will house the other members of the expedition and all the equipment.

The conditions will test the limits of both man and machine. Temperatures are expected to drop to -90 Celsius, -130 Fahrenheit and will average around -70 Celsius, -94 Fahrenheit.

Fuel for the tractors has been specially designed to withstand the temperatures, but there are many unknowns.

Rubber and plastic don't behave well in those conditions and the team is even worried about the welding on the tracks of the tractors.

The main leg of the journey will be from the Russian Novolazarevskaya base, through the South Pole, to Captain Scott's base at McMurdo Sound.

There's no chance of escape, rescue or help during the winter, most bases are abandoned and no craft will fly in the total darkness and frigid temperatures.

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