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Saturday, 01 November 2014

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-90°C here I come! Cumbrian man ready to join Sir Ranulph for coldest journey on Earth

The ship that will carry a Cumbrian explorer off on the world’s first attempt to cross the Antarctic in winter has set sail.

Brian Newham photo
Brian Newham

The SA Agulhas was given a royal send-off by the Prince of Wales, patron of the Antarctic Winter Crossing Expedition 2012, as it headed to Cape Town, in South Africa, where it will be met Sir Ranulph Fiennes and his six-strong team early next year.

Among them will be Brian Newham, from Uldale, near Caldbeck, who is joining what Sir Ranulph has described as “the last great polar challenge”.

They are embarking on a six-month 2,000-mile polar expedition, travelling across the most inhospitable wilderness on the planet in almost permanent darkness where temperatures can plunge as low as -90°C.

Brian, 54, said he had thought things through before agreeing to go.

“Ran looked at me and I looked at him and we bounced things around before agreeing in principle,” he said.

“You have got to be sure you can live with the people you are going to be with.”

Brian, his partner Jo Hardy and their collie dog, Binsey, live in a converted barn, where the garage has housed the food for the expedition.

“Psychologically, I think it is a lot easier now than it would have been 30 years ago because of the communications we have,” Brian said.

He has worked in the Arctic and Antarctic for 30 years.

“You are a lot less isolated now, you can email, get on the internet, listen to and watch the news.

“When I first went down there in 1983, you would get 200 words a month on a fax.”

On this expedition, the team will be expected to Tweet, blog, Skype, conference call and more.

The journey across the Antarctic has never before been attempted during the winter but a Norwegian exploring team recently crossed the Arctic during the summer months.

Sir Ranulph explained that friendly rivalry between the two nations had been a factor in driving him to complete the coldest journey on Earth.

He said: “The Norwegians do consider the polar regions to be theirs, and not for the Brits or the French and that to muck around in.”

At 68, Sir Ranulph has been described by The Guinness Book of Records as “the world’s greatest living explorer”.

The team will set off in March and undertake a number of scientific tasks to provide unique data on marine life, oceanography and meteorology.

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