British explorer Ranulph Fiennes leaves Antarctic expedition after frostbite

Thursday, February 28, 2013

A file photo of Ranulph Fiennes.
Image: B Milnes.

After suffering severe frostbite the British explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes has decided to pull out from The Coldest Journey expedition across Antarctica. The 68-year-old was frostbitten whilst training at a base camp in Antarctica. He fell over and fixed a ski with his bare hands in roughly -30C temperatures.

He is now on his way to Cape Town after several days of blizzard conditions halted his evacuation. Despite his withdrawal, the expedition is to continue without him and his fellow team members are to trek the 2,000 miles (3,219km) across Antarctica from Novolazarevskaya Station (Novo) to the Ross Sea starting on March 21, at the autumnal equinox and approaching winter, taking six months. A team successfully travelled approximately 70km to transport him by snowmobile to the Princess Elisabeth Station. He is now to be flown on to Novo for a flight to Cape Town.

Organisers of The Coldest Journey expedition said in a statement, "The condition is such that he has very reluctantly decided with the support of the team doctor and in the interests of the success of the expedition and its associated aims, to withdraw from Antarctica while the possibility to do so still exists, before the onset of the Antarctic winter".

Expedition organiser Tony Medniuk told the BBC, "After five years of preparation, a small slip like this and a few moments can undermine the most meticulous preparation". Ian Prickett, a member of the team, said on Twitter "Sir Ran is leaving but we will carry on."

The team hopes to raise US$10 million (£6.2 million) for avoidable-blindness charity Seeing is Believing. This is to be the first time any human has walked across Antarctica during winter and the expedition team are bracing themselves for cold around -90C and near-permanent darkness.

Fiennes also suffered from frostbite whilst on an expedition to the North Pole in 2000 and, as a result, lost the tips of the fingers on his left hand.

Guinness World Records has called Sir Ranulph "the world's greatest living explorer". In the past he became the first person to reach both the North and South Pole by surface as well as the oldest Briton, at age 65, to reach the summit of Mount Everest in 2009. Another British explorer, Captain Scott, died a century ago on his Antarctic expedition after being caught out by the beginning of winter.