Photo: The Coldest Journey
Sir Ranulph Fiennes and his team of explorers have been at sea for eight days. They left the South African port city of Cape Town last Monday aboard a polar ship called SA Agulhas.
The crew aims to be the first to make the 2,400-mile trek across Antarctica in the winter.
Still a few weeks away from reaching the icy continent, the team is already battling unpleasant conditions as they cruise the South Atlantic.
Geoff Long reports from the SA Agulhas that air temperatures are only a few degrees above zero and wind gusts have hit up to 63 mph. It’s impossible to hang out on the ship’s deck without throwing on multiple layers and gloves.
The three, hour-long birdwatching sessions continue unabated every day, despite the increasingly inhospitable conditions on the monkey deck, a place where a few days ago flip-flops were de rigueur, but now a no-go area unless you are wearing multiple windproof layers and several pairs of gloves. There Adrian McCallum braves the elements as he heads up a core group of hardy spotters that continue to support his scientific endeavours as they get thrown around by wind and waves. With eyes watering and binoculars shaking in the wind, they peer through the foam and spray to identify incredibly similar shapes darting rapidly through the air at some distance – my thoughts go out to them as I sit here in the relative comfort of my cabin and see waves rising well above where I’m standing as I look out of the window.
The crew should consider this good practice ahead of the frigid journey on land, during which temperatures can dip as low as minus 130 Fahrenheit. The expedition begins on March 21, and if everything goes as planned, should wrap up in September.
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