Samsa 'plan B' for Fiennes

2013-02-25 21:58
British explorer Ranulph Fiennes on board the polar vessel SA Agulhas in Cape Town before setting off on the \The Coldest Journey\. (AP)

British explorer Ranulph Fiennes on board the polar vessel SA Agulhas in Cape Town before setting off on the \The Coldest Journey\. (AP)

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Cape Town – The South African Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa) is working round the clock with maritime experts to evacuate British explorer Ranulph Fiennes to Cape Town.

Fiennes has suffered a severe case of frostbite after removing his gloves while trying to fix a ski binding using his bare hands in temperatures around -30°C.

Samsa CEO Tsietsi Mokhele says the rescue service operations centre is putting into a motion a plan B in case a planned air evacuation proves impossible. Exploration vessels in the area which have hospital facilities on board are being contacted and put on standby. It takes around 2 weeks to sail to Cape Town.

The 68-year-old and his five-member team had hoped to conquer what has been called one of the last great polar challenges - traversing nearly 4 000km in a place where temperatures often dip as low as minus 70°C.

While training he suffered 2nd degree burns as a result of the earlier damage to his hands on a previous expedition during which he lost some fingers. The frostbite damage becomes cumulative and could lead to Fiennes losing more fingers.

Fiennes is being transported by skidoo to the Princess Elisabeth Station about 70km away from his current position near Crown Bay, from where he may be flown to Novo to get a connecting flight to Cape Town, if it can be arranged.

“This plan is currently being hampered due to a blizzard at their present location,” Anton Bowring, co-leader of the expedition, The Coldest Journey, said. “The expedition will continue”, he said adding the decision had not been taken lightly.

“Ran is very upset. He feels his time and energies will now be better spent promoting the wider aims of the project which include scientific research, education and fund-raising for the charity Seeing is Believing,”  Bowring,  in charge of ship logistics, said from London.

The remaining expedition members, under the experienced leadership of the Traverse Manager, Brian Newham, have unanimously elected to continue with the winter crossing of Antarctica and will undertake the scientific and educational aspects of the project as originally planned, with its humanitarian benefits.

Samsa CEO Commander Tsietsi Mokhele said on Monday: “We are concerned about the condition of Sir Ran and offer our assistance in whatever way necessary to ensure his safe return to Cape Town from where he will be given medical attention. ... the team is working towards evacuating Sir Ran from Antarctica. It is not an easy task due to hazardous weather. ... We remain on standby to assist.”

The expedition is trying to raise $10m for the charity "Seeing is Believing," which seeks to prevent blindness.

Read more on:    ranulph fiennes  |  antarctica  |  maritime
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