Cape Town, South Africa, February 28, 2013 – British explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes who journeyed to the Antarctica on the South Africa Maritime Safety Authority’s Agulhas vessel earlier this month, was on his way back to Cape Town last night after having suffered a case of frostbite on his expedition with the Coldest Journey team.
Fiennes finally, with the assistance of the Belgian International Polar Foundation managed to reach the Ice Train at around 8am (GMT) yesterday morning, a task made impossible in the past few days because of the weather. He was scheduled to depart Princess Elisabeth with the Belgians who intended to fly to Russian-run Novolazarevskaya Station (Novo), an Antarctic research station which has an airstrip, yesterday.
Co-leader of the expedition Anton Bowring confirmed in London today all being well, the group was scheduled to arrive in Cape Town last night. Upon arrival in Cape Town the priority will be for Fiennes to receive medical treatment for his frostbite injury, before he flies back to the United Kingdom
SAMSA was on hand last night to provide support to ensure a smooth evacuation of Fiennes from the Antarctica upon receiving news of his accident.
SAMSA CEO Commander Tsietsi Mokhele said the organization’s Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre worked closely with the Coldest Journey team and Belgian team in ensuring a safe and smooth evacuation.
“In line with SAMSA’s mandate of ensuring safety for all human, maritime and environmental property at sea, the organization undertook to providing assistance and resources. We have prioritized Sir Ran’s safety to ensure he is brought to Cape Town for medical attention.
“We have received much appreciation by the Coldest Journey team who have been a consistent and strong partner in their partnership with SAMSA.”
The team travelled from London to South Africa and to Antarctica on the Agulhas last year, and with young marines where they became a “family”, Mokhele said. “Our around the clock monitoring of the situation through our MRCC team is a testimony of the confidence we have in the work of the Coldest Journey team.”
SAMSA will ensure that on arrival in Cape Town, the necessary medical facilities will be made available for Fiennes and that his medical condition is attended to promptly upon arrival.
Traverse Manager Brian Newham said that the rest of the team would do everything in their power to make Fiennes proud of them by becoming the first people in history to cross the Antarctic in winter.
He said: “All of us here know that without Ran’s vision, commitment, hard work and years of effort that none of us would be here now. We are as determined as ever to move forwards and to push the boundaries and while we do so we hope that we will continue to inspire and to draw attention to our chosen charity of Seeing is Believing.
“It is now only a few hours since we said our difficult farewells but we are already moving south and are poised to gain the polar plateau. Onwards.”
SAMSA requests that Fiennes be afforded the space and time he needs to recover in medical care. When appropriate an update on his condition will be issued to the media.