The Coldest Journey to focus on research
The Coldest Journey expedition has covered over 300km and climbed from sea level to almost 3000m up to the polar plateau since the five man team set out on 21st March this year. This is the furthest distance and longest period that any expedition has travelled in the polar winter months. Lumie has provided light therapy during the near-permanent darkness and -50C conditions that the team have been navigating through.
Throughout the journey the team have faced and overcome dangers and obstacles, including one which left Sir Ranulph Fiennes forced to abandon his attempt to ski the 2,400mile winter journey home from Crown Bay to McMurdo Sound via the South Pole. There are no search and rescue facilities in Antarctica during winter and as temperatures have dropped the incidence of technical problems has increased to the point where a fundamental decision has had to be made.
"None of us wants to contemplate the thought of not completing the challenge of crossing Antarctica in winter," said leader Brian Newham from Antarctica. "However, we have reached an unexpected crevasse field which, from satellite images and our own local survey using ground penetrating radar, we believe could extend up to 100km to our South. The crevasses are certainly bigger and deeper than any we have previously encountered. They could easily swallow our vehicles and are deceptively hard to spot in the darkness and snow cover: dark and difficult conditions. In my judgement there is no real choice, I believe it would be reckless and irresponsible to press on and risk the obvious dangers while incurring excessive fuel consumption. The greatest success can now be achieved by completing the scientific studies with which we have been tasked."
In addition to attempting the first crossing of Antarctica in winter, the expedition team were undertaking an important programme of scientific and medical studies never previously researched due to the inhospitable conditions. Under the circumstances, and against their instincts, it has been agreed by the expedition team and their supporters that they should set aside their attempt to cross Antarctica and concentrate upon their scientific work. Lumie will continue to offer support to Sir Ran and his team and hope that our knowledge of circadian rhythms and light therapy can be of use.
Brian Newham, Ice Team Leader: "Lumie lights are in daily use in our Living Caboose".
"We all feel very supportive of the unbelievably difficult decision that Brian and his colleagues have made," said Sir Ranulph. "We have commitments not only to research organisations but also to schools across Britain. The communications from the team to schools will help children understand how different the Antarctic is to what they see around them and how observations of extremes help scientists to understand how the global system works. The time it has taken to both ascend to the plateau and negotiate horrendous crevasse terrain now renders it virtually impossible to complete a continental winter traverse. Moreover, if they continue South, they will have to commit their time exclusively to safe travel through continuing crevasse territory and this will have a very detrimental effect on their ability to collect data. The science will provide a lasting legacy. The first winter crossing, while very much our original aim, will not."