THE co-leader of Sir Ranulph Fiennes’ historic expedition to the coldest place on Earth has predicted that "something bad" will happen on the journey.
The adventurer and the rest of his six-member team set sail from Cape Town in South Africa yesterday and began the voyage to Antarctica, where they hope to become the first to cross the continent during the Southern Hemisphere’s winter.
But as the expedition got under way, the reality of the dangerous project appeared to hit the team.
Co-leader Anton Bowring reported “apprehension” among members, writing on his blog: “It will be extraordinary if something bad doesn't happen during the crawl across 2,400 miles of ice in temperatures of -70°C and perpetual darkness where crevasses can swallow up a 25-ton bulldozer in the blink of a frosted eye.
“Biting winds and piercing blizzards will replace the balmy splendour of the South African summer. This was the moment that the stark reality suddenly sank in.”
The adventurers were also confronting the possibility that they would not make it.
Mr Bowring, 63, told the Daily Telegraph: “It is a journey into the unknown.
“For the next 12 months anything could happen and almost certainly something unpleasant will.
“Leaving Cape Town is a bit like plunging into a strong tide. You know where you are going but you don't know what state you'll be in when you get there - if indeed you do."
The team expect to encounter their first iceberg within days and to hit pack ice in just over a week.
The Antarctic has the lowest recorded temperature on Earth, of nearly minus 90 degrees Celsius (-130 degree Fahrenheit).
Temperatures of around minus 70 are expected during the six-month crossing, which will take place largely in darkness.
So far the furthest winter journey in Antarctica was in the early 20th century, covering only 60 miles.
But the actress Joanna Lumley, a trustee for the trip they are calling The Coldest Journey, expressed her faith in the explorers to achieve their goal.
In a message to the team she said: “I think for most people the idea of what lies ahead would be simply petrifying.
“But having spoken to Ran and the others, I know they are all raring to go.
“They are a fine bunch of men and if anyone has the spirit to carry out what any normal person would think was impossible, then these are the ones to do it.”
The team hopes to reach Antarctica in about two weeks’ time, but the length of the journey will depend on the sea ice conditions and where they can land on the continent.
They will prepare to set off on their crossing in March, and will not be able to be rescued once on the ice, unlike in other expeditions.
They hope to raise $10 million (£6.15m) for the Seeing Is Believing blindness charity.
By Rosa Silverman Telegraph.co.uk