After years of preparation with his team to become the first explorers to cross the Antarctic in winter, famed adventurer Ranulph Fiennes has pulled out.
According to The Daily Mail, the 68-year-old was injured after suffering a ski fall while training at base camp in Antarctica. "He developed frostbite after using his bare hands to fix a ski binding in temperatures of around minus 30C (minus 22 degrees F)," the report states.
The frostbite is of such severity that Fiennes has been forced to remove himself from the expedition — a decision that's not without its own complications as winter descends on the continent.
"Right now the team is working towards evacuating Fiennes from Antarctica," reads a statement on The Coldest Journey website. "He will be transported by skidoo to the Princess Elisabeth Station about 70km away from his current position, from where he will be flown to Novo to get a connecting flight to Cape Town. This plan is currently being hampered due to a blizzard at their present location which is making the first stage of the evacuation impossible. Until there is a let up in the weather conditions, Fiennes will be unable to leave."
Naturally, everyone is disappointed that Fiennes will not be able to participate, but his remaining five team members have all elected to continue the 2,000-mile, six-month journey.
"The expedition has reached the point where they can readily establish a supply depot on the Antarctic plateau," the statement continues. "This puts them in an excellent position to start the crossing as scheduled on 21st March."
Once underway, two team members on skis will carry ground-penetrating radar to detect dangerous crevasses ahead of the expedition's two 20-tonne tractors dragging industrial sledges. "Inside three containers on the sledges will be their living quarters, supplies, and a science lab," the site reports. "Dragged behind this will be the fuel they need."
As for Fiennes, he will continue to help the team reach its $10 million goal for Seeing Is Believing, a charity that works to cure blindness around the world.
"I have been on some amazing expeditions and seen many of the beautiful and unique sights the world has to offer," he said last year. "When I discovered Seeing is Believing, what it stood for, and understood how easily avoidable blindness could be prevented, it inspired me and my colleagues to undertake this challenge. It is a fantastic cause and I would urge everyone who follows our progress to donate to it via www.thecoldestjourney.org."
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