Cookstown man bound for Antarctica

<<enter caption here>> on December 6, 2012 in London, England.
<<enter caption here>> on December 6, 2012 in London, England.

A COOKSTOWN man is hoping to complete the first ever trans-Antarctic crossing during the polar winter.

Richmond Dykes will be part of the Coldest Journey expedition, led by one of the world’s greatest living explorers Sir Ranulph Fiennes.

He will be part of a six-man team covering nearly 2,000 miles in six months, mostly in complete darkness and in temperatures reaching minus 90°C.

The team not only hope to complete the mammoth challenge but also raise a massive 10 million Dollars for charity.

It all begins shortly after Christmas when the team departs South Africa aboard the expedition ship, the SA Agulhas, bound for Antarctica.

Money raised from the icy challenge will go towards Seeing is Believing, a charitable initiative tackling avoidable blindness around the world. All donations will be matched by expedition sponsor, Standard Chartered.

The expedition team will be entirely self-sufficient, as search and rescue capabilities will be inhibited in hostile winter conditions.

“I’ve never been to Antarctica before – the coldest place I’ve been before now is probably Colorado so I’m really excited about getting down to Antarctica and starting the expedition,” said Richmond.

“I’m looking forward to all aspects of the expedition and I’ve enjoyed all of the preparation so far – the design, build and logistics around the Cats, and all of the cold weather training.

“I’m the support equipment technician on the expedition and my role on the ice is to operate the second Cat and assist with planning our daily travel strategy, and carrying out vehicle maintenance.”

The team will depart South Africa on 2 January 2013 aboard the SA Agulhas, and travel for almost two weeks before reaching Crown Bay, Antarctica, where the expedition equipment and supplies will be off-loaded.

They will then be left on the ice as they carry out their final preparations before beginning the expedition at the winter equinox on 21 March.

Their route from the Crown Bay, Dronning Maud Land, to Captain Scott’s base at McMurdo Sound – via the South Pole – is a significant challenge.

Sir Ranulph will complete the expedition entirely on skis and will be accompanied by alternate members of the Ice Team. Whilst traversing the continent the team will conduct a number of scientific experiments including helping to measure the effects of global climate change on the polar ice caps during Antarctic winter. The research will, among other things, measure the thickness of the ice, map features of the ice during winter, and sample for bacteria to see what can survive in the extremely cold temperatures.

The expedition received a send-off from Royal Patron HRH The Prince of Wales, who visited the expedition ship, the SA Agulhas, before she left London on 6th December.

Expedition trustee, Joanna Lumley, also attended the send-off event.

“This is a dream come true for Ran, and has been five long years in the planning. I am proud to be involved with the expedition and with Seeing is Believing which is a fantastically worthy charity.”

The group hope to complete the expedition on September 21st.