Historic Antarctic Expedition's Nightmare Scenario Almost Came True

The Coldest JourneyAnton Bowring (right) with expedition leader Ranulph Fiennes in Cape Town.

Photo: The Coldest Journey

Last month, a group of explorers set off on an expedition to be the first to cross the Antarctic during winter. A six-man Ice Team, led by legendary British explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes, will travel more 2,000 miles across a polar plateau in mostly permanent darkness and temperatures that regularly dip to minus 76 degrees Fahrenheit.  

63-year-old Anton Bowring is the expedition’s co-leader. He won’t take part in the actual crossing, but accompanied the Ice Team to Crown Bay in Eastern Antarctica aboard a polar ship called SA Agulhas. 

The ship made landfall on Jan. 22 and has spent the last week unloading around 90 tons of heavy equipment. 

Writing from the ship, Bowring tell us that the biggest risk happens before the proper journey even begins. 

The worst possible scenario is that “we lose a vital piece of equipment as we unload onto the ice shelf,” Bowring says.

The SA Agulhas has been sitting with her nose in a 13-foot high ice edge as a big crane moves equipment from the ship to land, including two heavy snow vehicles, sledges, shelters, jet fuel and food.

“If the ice broke away, we could lose one of these items and the expedition would be scuppered!” 

There was at least one point during the unloading process when it seemed like Bowring’s nightmare scenario was about to come true. 

A large rubber bladder for storing fuel fell off a pallet as it was being craned from ship to shore. 

“It looked as though it was going to land in the sea, but, thankfully it dropped into soft snow on the edge of the shelf ice and lodged there,” Bowring wrote in a blog post. A team member lowered himself down with ropes and a harness to rescue the bladder. “We have no spares. To lose it would have been a disaster.” 

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