Antarctic rescue on track

2013-02-27 00:00

CAPE TOWN — Thanks to co-operation between South Africa, Belgium and the British project team, Sir Ranulph Fiennes could be back in Cape Town this afternoon.

The adventurer had to withdraw from his bid to lead an expedition across Antarctica in the winter, dubbed The Coldest Journey, because of severe frostbite.

“The Belgian Antarctic Project is going to fetch Ran with a caterpillar vehicle from his camp about 70 km from the Belgian base Princess Elisabeth,” Anton Bowring, co-leader of the expedition, said yesterday.

“Then he will travel with the Belgian researchers to the Russian base at Novolazarevskaya and from there take a flight on the Alci air service to Cape Town.

“The Belgians have been great.”

The flight costs about R80 000 one way. The Coldest Journey is picking up the cost.

The departure of the eight-hour flight will depend on the weather, but according to Bowring, it should arrive in Cape Town today or tomorrow morning.

A snowstorm has been raging around the team’s camp for two days, which meant they needed a plan B.

The South African Maritme Safety Authority (Samsa) helped negotiate with ships in the area to offer their co-operation if the weather remained too bad for a flight.

“There are still a lot of other ships in the area,” said Ayanda Mngadi, head of corporate services at Samsa. “We are in contact with some of them.”

According to the Antarctic Mesoscale Prediction System, the wind should begin to drop to about 20 knots (about 37 km/h) in the area today. This means there is less blowing snow, which would increase visibility and making a flight possible.

“Samsa, and all the South Africans, have been fantastic,” said Bowring. “We are very grateful.”

The expedition travelled to Antarctica on the SA Agulhus supply ship, which is currently operated by Samsa.

Bowring said he doesn’t know what Fiennes’s further plans are, but he will probably return to London as soon as possible to continue raising funds for Seeing is Believing, the organisation that is supporting the expedition, as well as to speak at schools about the undertaking.

“Frostbite takes weeks to heal. He would have had to spend the rest of the expedition in the bulldozer,” Bowring said. “And he’s a very bad passenger — he would have driven us all mad!”

Fiennes previously lost the tips of his left hand fingers to frostbite in the Arctic.

The five remaining members will continue the trek, setting out on March 21.

Sir Ranulph Fiennes het vriesbrand opgedoen nadat hy tydens ’n ski-oefening sy handskoene uitgetrek het om sy toerusting reg te maak.

“Vriesbrand vind plaas wanneer ’n gedeelte van die liggaam so koud word dat spiere en weefsel vries en liggaamselle beskadig word,” het dr. Abi Paton, wat ’n jaar in Antarktika deurgebring het by die Suid-Afrikaanse basis, gesê.

Sy het verduidelik vriesbrand tree baie vinnig in wanneer jy sonder handskoene met iets soos metaal werk. “Metaal word besonder koud en die hand verloor onmiddellik sy hitte as jy daaraan raak.”

Sir Ranulph het al die vingerpunte aan sy linkerhand in 2000 verloor weens vriesbrand.

Hy het tydens sy solo-ekspedisie na die Noordpool gegly en van sy voorrade het in die yswater beland. Hy het sy handskoen uitgetrek om die slee uit die water te trek.

“In retrospek sou ek beter daarvan afgekom het deur die handskoen aan te hou, maar ek moes onder die water probeer voel vir die tou,” skryf hy in sy boek, Beyond the Limits, oor die voorval.

Hy het uiteindelik mediese behandeling in Kanada gekry en toe huis toe gegaan waar sy dokter aanbeveel het dat hy sy dooie vingerpunte los sodat die gesonde weefsel eers kan herstel.

’n Ongeduldige Fiennes het egter self ’n figuursaag gekoop en die vingerpunte by sy huis afgesaag. – Marelize Potgieter en Annelie Maré

Bronne: www.randulphfiennes.co.uk, www.maxadventure.co.uk, The Guardian

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