The Coldest Journey Gets Colder


Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

I was saddened to get the news that Sir Ranulf Fiennes, OBE, has gotten frostbitten. As a result, he has been forced to give up his dream of a winter crossing of Antarctica, an expedition entitled The Coldest Journey. His public support of CO2 alarmism has led to perhaps somewhat deserved public laughter at the idea of someone worried about global warming suffering frostbite, and to be sure there is the aura of the “Gore Effect” about it. (The “Gore Effect” refers to the oddity that many times when Al Gore has gone to speak somewhere, it has been unseasonably cold, and sometimes unreasonably so.)

roald amundsen 1Figure 1. Roald Amundsen, who imitated his beloved Eskimos of the Arctic in dress, style, and methods to lead the first team to the South Pole in 1911-1912. Check out the man’s eyes …

Fiennes is the oldest Briton to summit Everest, he’s a “because it’s there” kind of guy. I like to see that, I’ve taken on physical challenges to measure myself against the real world. It’s worth doing, although I prefer physical challenges that make me money instead of costing me money, but that’s just me.

I bring this up for two reasons. First, it appears that the man they call “Ran” suffered the frostbite as a side effect of incipient adult-onset diabetes … ironic given his lean physique. And for this man, as for Roald Amundsen, his hands and feet are more than just where he hangs his shoes and gloves. In some sense they are also where he hangs his life. So cut him some slack, send him some good wishes for his life and limbs …

The second reason is a bit more complex, and involves climate science.

Let me compare and contrast Amundsen’s exuberant dash to the South Pole with the current Fiennes expedition.

amundsen plus dogs

The photo above of a member of Amundsen’s expedition illustrates the following.

• For clothing Amundsen and his men used what the Eskimos used—a cunning, specific combination of different types of furs and other materials which allow heavy exertion in sub-zero weather without becoming encased in dangerous frozen sweat.

• For materials transport they used what the Eskimos used—dog sleds and sled dogs.

• For human transport they used what the Eskimos used—skis.

• For energy for materials transport they used what the Eskimos used—frozen seals.

• The only difference was, for energy for cooking, they used kerosene.

On the other hand, from The Coldest Journey’s web site, here’s their plan:

coldest journey machinesNow, I can understand why they are taking the vehicles. No way you’d live through all those Antarctic winter nights in some pathetic tent, not happening. But that puts the fuel use into the stratosphere. You need to tow a big fuel tank, here’s the full rig:

landtrain the coldest journey

The proposed trip is about 2,000 miles. That crawler probably burns eight gallons per hour. Here’s their estimate from their site:

An estimated 20,000 litres will be required during the initial static phase at Novo, and 26,000 for cargo work, setting up the camp and establishing a fuel depot at 75°S. A further estimated 100,000 litres will be required for the traverse itself for the static phase at the end of the traverse. [total 39,000 gallons]

Then there’s the ships and planes to transport them and all of their gear and about forty thousand gallons of fuel to Antarctica and bring them back. By the end they will burn well over their estimated forty thousand gallons of eevil fossil fuels on the expedition, hundreds and hundreds of times what Amundsen used per man … and for what?

They give two answers: charity, and science. They’re looking to raise bucks for charity, perhaps they will, perhaps not. But under that rubric you can justify anything, as if the ends really did justify the means.

And they also claim that there will be valuable scientific measurements taken, although that seems like a bridge too far to me. According again to their web site, their plan is to take elevation measurements and snow samples … be still, my beating heart.

So I don’t buy it at all when Ranulph says:

“The science content of the Expedition is unique, global and genuine. The thought that we will be potentially doing something ground-breaking in man’s attempts to understand climate change is, for me, one of the most exciting and rewarding aspects of The Coldest Journey.”

Sir Ranulph Fiennes OBE

A string of one-off elevations and snow samples taken at a certain place and time are certainly unique, no doubting that.

And I suppose they’re genuine, in that they are real samples and elevations.

But “global”? “Ground-breaking”?? Don’t make me laugh. It’s a paltry handful of observations in one of the most atypical places on the planet. In the world of climate science, that’s neither global nor ground-breaking.

Here’s my problem. I have no difficulty with someone burning thousands and thousands and thousands of gallons of fuel on a dangerous publicity stunt. That’s their business, and I wish them well. I have no problem with CO2.

But my goodness, if you’re going to do that, if you plan to burn huge quantities of fossil fuels doing something totally un-necessary just because it’s there, then don’t lecture me about climate change!

And in particular, don’t try the bogus justification that your expedition is going to provide some kind of valuable contribution to climate science.

Amundsen was the first to the South Pole, and he and his men surveyed and measured and took temperatures, he did real science that was of value for his time. It was ground-breaking, with global implications.

In this expedition, a few elevation measurements and snow samples by some dilettantes a century too late, after weather and snow and elevations have been measured all over Antarctica for decades, are nothing of the sort.

I have no problem with the expedition, it sounds like fun, heck, I’d go. And they can burn all the fossil fuel they want, also no problem for me.

It’s the moralizing and the bogus justification that ring false. I don’t need them telling me it’s OK that they burn tens of thousands of gallons fossil fuel because they’re doing “global, ground-breaking” climate science work. That’s both untrue and it’s special pleading, and I find it ugly and base in an adventurer like Sir Ranulf Fiennes, OBE.

I didn’t need any such justification for Sir Ranulf’s expedition to climb Everest, nor apparently did he. I’d suggest he do the same here, tell people he wants to make a midwinter Antarctic crossing simply because it’s there.

And above all, I wish him a speedy and complete recovery from the frostbite.

Regards to all,

w.

 

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121 Responses to The Coldest Journey Gets Colder

  1. Hari Seldon says:

    Well said Wills. It sounds as if time has finally caught up with ‘Ran’ as it has and will to all.

  2. Espen says:

    For those who haven’t noticed: There have been several crossings of Antarctica on skis only – even without dogs for the sledges. For instance, Liv Arnesen skied as the first woman solo and unsupported to the South Pole in 1994, and in 2001 she crossed the whole continent together with Ann Bancroft.

  3. John Trigge says:

    This is the same hypocritical “Do as I say, not as I do” that Al, Patchy, Film Flannery and co constantly espouse with no indication that any of them have the sense to see the disconnect.

    Perhaps the UN could ban the importation of these enormous quantities of fuel (pollution?) to this pristine environment.

  4. Brian Johnson UK says:

    Some people just don’t know when to say ” I think I might finally stop making a compete arse of myself!”

    Brave man, full of derring do but you can’t beat Old Father Time RF….. You have done more than most in pushing the limits of exhaustion.

    A picture of RF alongside the ‘ground breaking’ bulldozer isn’t going to capture hearts and minds.

  5. UK Sceptic says:

    I’m not as magnanimous as you, Willis. I’m afraid I’m with the serve the campaigning prig right group. What diabetes sufferer in his or her right mind would travel hundreds, maybe thousands of miles beyond medical assistance and risk frostbite to limbs that can quickly turn gangrenous thanks to poor circulation? Or did he have a MASH unit in tow too?

    I think “Ran” has seriously lost the plot. It seems to be a major character flaw with warmists.

  6. Kurt in Switzerland says:

    Well put, Willis!

    I wish Sir Ranulph a quick recovery from his frostbite, but more importantly – a return to realistic assessment of climate projections vs. actual measurements.

    Kurt in Switzerland

  7. Robertv says:

    One of Britain’s leading polar explorers has told Sky News that decades of campaign efforts to get people engaged with climate change have failed.

    Robert Swan, who was the first man to walk to both the North and South poles, was speaking in Argentina on the eve of the launch of his latest expedition to Antarctica – one which he hopes will help turn the tide of public apathy towards green issues.

    Mr Swan will be leading a group of 80 young people from 28 countries across the world to the Antarctic Peninsula.

    http://news.sky.com/story/1059311/uk-explorer-green-campaigning-has-failed

    Antarctic Peninsula Brilliant idea

    Antarctic Peninsula Brilliant idea

    ftp://sidads.colorado.edu/DATASETS/NOAA/G02135/south/daily/data/SH_seaice_extent_nrt.csv

  8. Willis Eschenbach says:

    UK Sceptic says:
    March 4, 2013 at 12:47 am

    I’m not as magnanimous as you, Willis. I’m afraid I’m with the serve the campaigning prig right group. What diabetes sufferer in his or her right mind would travel hundreds, maybe thousands of miles beyond medical assistance and risk frostbite to limbs that can quickly turn gangrenous thanks to poor circulation? Or did he have a MASH unit in tow too?

    From what I understand, he knew that he had incipient diabetes but had never had any circulatory symptoms. The frostbite was totally unexpected, usually that kind of circulation impairment doesn’t show up until much later.

    I wouldn’t mind seeing him get his comeuppance from the Gore Effect if there were no physical impairment … but I’m sad that he’s gotten frostbite. My grandmother had it in both feet, and it caused her pain for years. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, and particularly on an active outdoorsman like Fiennes, regardless of their view on climate.

    w.

  9. Patrick says:

    Interesting article. And what’s more interesting is the number of sponsors that are involved with supplying technology that uses energyor fossil fuels directly. But one that made me laugh was “Warmawear”.

    “Warmawear are a leading worldwide manufacturer and supplier of heated clothing. The Warmawear range has been developed to gently circulate heat around the body using the latest battery technology. Our heated insoles and glove liners will be adapted to run off a strong central battery unit which will help to protect the explorers during the expedition.”

    No kidding!

  10. Joe Public says:

    Oh the irony.

    The Nature Geoscience report:

    “Central West Antarctica among the most rapidly warming regions on Earth”

    http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v6/n2/full/ngeo1671.html

  11. J Broadbent says:

    Could have sat in a cold room and read ‘Crevasse Roulette’ , Jon Stevensons account of the Fuch expedition in 1956.
    Saved fuel and learnt about the traverse at the same time.

  12. Sera says:

    Sponsored by: Fluorocarbon Co., Arctic Trucks, British Airways, Coleman®, Fuel Proof, Holdan UK, MHB Motorcycles, Millers Oils, Plastic Extruders Ltd., TATA, and the list goes on. Of course, I am sure that these have nothing to do with ‘Evil Oil’ in any way.

  13. Willis Eschenbach says:

    J Broadbent says:
    March 4, 2013 at 1:03 am

    Could have sat in a cold room and read ‘Crevasse Roulette’ , Jon Stevensons account of the Fuch expedition in 1956.
    Saved fuel and learnt about the traverse at the same time.

    Thanks, J, that’s interesting … not much new under the sun, here’s what the Fuchs expedition used:

    except that Fiennes planned to do it during the (six month) night, not during the day.

    w.

  14. “For human transport they used what the Eskimos used—skis”.

    I don’t think Amundsen consulted the Eskimos about skiing. He didn’t have to look far. Skiing has deep roots in Norway, and had become an important part of Norwegian identity in the late 19th century. When Norway got a king again in 1905, a Danish prince, Nansen’s advice to the new king was to ski regularily in order to win the hearts of the Norwegians. So the royal family did, and it worked.

  15. Patrick,
    “Warmawear’ wouldn’t have its batteries recharged by solar, by any chance? ;-)

  16. Looks like “Gaia” gave Sir Ranulf Fiennes a slap on the wrist. I hope he’s paying attention.

  17. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Steinar Midtskogen says:
    March 4, 2013 at 1:30 am

    “For human transport they used what the Eskimos used—skis”.

    I don’t think Amundsen consulted the Eskimos about skiing. He didn’t have to look far. Skiing has deep roots in Norway, and had become an important part of Norwegian identity in the late 19th century. When Norway got a king again in 1905, a Danish prince, Nansen’s advice to the new king was to ski regularily in order to win the hearts of the Norwegians. So the royal family did, and it worked.

    True that, and at that time, the Norwegians in general and Amundsen and his team in particular were among the best skiers on the planet.

    w.

  18. Bruce Robbins says:

    Ran is one of my heroes so I’m going to cut him some slack. He’s achieved some significant successes man-hauling massively laden sledges across snowy wastes much in the style of Amundsen and so has proved he can do it the hard way. He is, I think, a member of the UK Independence party and a libertarian. He’s also a brilliant and canny fundraiser for his expeditions and I’m wondering if his warmism isn’t just a ruse to tap into a deep funding seam. From reading his books, it’s clear that the personal challenge is always what has driven him with scientific/charity work taking a back seat.

  19. DirkH says:

    Joe Public says:
    March 4, 2013 at 1:01 am
    “Oh the irony.
    The Nature Geoscience report:
    “Central West Antarctica among the most rapidly warming regions on Earth””

    That looks like the paper manufactured to vindicate Steig, where the researchers “corrected” data from a broken sensor with what they thought could have been the data, and arrived at TWICE the warming Steig got from A SINGLE THERMOMETER.
    “In early 2013, David Bromwich, a professor of polar meteorology at Ohio State University, and a team including Antarctic weather station experts from the University of Wisconsin, published a paper in Nature Geoscience showing that the warming in central West Antarctica was unambiguous — and likely about twice the magnitude estimated by Steig et al. The key to Bromwich et al.’s work was the correction for errors in the temperature sensors used in various incarnations of the Byrd Station record (the only long record in this part of Antarctica); miscalibraiton had previously caused the magnitude of the the 1990s warmth to be underestimated, and the magnitude of the 2000s to be overestimated. The revised Byrd Station record is in very good agreement with the borehole temperature data from nearby WAIS Divide.[16]”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antarctica_cooling_controversy

    So, they doubled the bogosity of Steig which is quite an achievement.

  20. UK Sceptic says:

    Willis Eschenbach says:
    March 4, 2013 at 12:54 am

    Willis, my elderly mother has Type II diabetes and is very susceptible to low temperatures. She, and many others like her, are struggling to cope with spiraling energy bills because of crusading fools like Fiennes. Some have already fatally succumbed to hypothermia. So no, I’m not inclined to sympathise with his misfortune. I hope he learns a valuable lesson from it though. Cold is a killer.

  21. David Chappell says:

    Bernd Felsche says:
    March 4, 2013 at 1:31 am

    Patrick,
    “Warmawear’ wouldn’t have its batteries recharged by solar, by any chance? ;-)

    Piped down from the Arctic, presumably

  22. View from the Solent says:

    “As a result, he has been forced to give up his dream of a winter crossing of Antarctica, an expedition entitled The Coldest Journey.”

    Willis,
    You seem to have overlooked that February is the height of summer in the southern hemisphere.

  23. Phil Ford says:

    Personally, I’m happy to see this ill-advised, shamelessly self-serving expedition fail. Yet another lunatic who hides behind the window dressing of CAGW to justify his incipient egomania and raise huge amounts of money…because, ‘science’, right?

    Hopefully this is the last time we might see such blatant grandstanding in the name of ‘man-made climate change’, but I doubt it very much, indeed…

  24. Geoff Barnes says:

    Duh! I don’t know about you, but I think you’ll find it’s been summer in Antarctica for a few months now!

  25. son of mulder says:

    Not to worry, he will be back soon to get the team more publicity and the other team will be able to explain how anthropogenic CO2 is causing an increase in frostbite.

  26. a jones says:

    What fascinates me is the protective clothing. You might assume, I did, that modern materials and techniques are far better than those of yesteryear. Not so apparently, a while back a practical trial was done to compare current types with those of a hundred years ago, and found there was very little difference in terms of protection, weight and convenience: good tweed it seems is quite a match for the modern stuff. Sorry I can’t seem to find the link.

    Note too how far back the art of protective clothing goes. Otzi, the iceman preserved in the alpine ice for over five thousand years was superbly equipped to handle the conditions: from his leaf cloak to his birchbark gloves and his shoes about which there is some debate. However quaint it might seem today his clothing was the product of a very technically advanced civilisation as were his tools and weapons, note particularly he carried different weights of arrows, light ones for small game heavier ones for bigger animals etc.

    Indeed being old fashioned I wear tweed suits for the countryside although after some experiments I now have mine made with a Goretex interlining which works very well once my tailor had discovered how to sandwich the Goretex between very light rayon to stop the crackly, rustling noise. Protection against even the heaviest squall is superb. Even better than Drizabone.

    Needless to say I have no connection to either manufacturer.

    Kindest Regards
    .

  27. Rupert Bravery says:

    And why did he get diabetes we all wonder? Look no further than the Guardian….

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/sustainable-business/blog/diabetes-diseases-climate-change-inequality

  28. Hector Pascal says:

    Good point about the clothing and sweating, Willis. Getting wet in sub-zero temperatures can be deadly. Also dehydration. Your nose/lungs use water to heat the incoming frozen air, then you breathe the moisture out. Doing work you get dehydrated very quickly. Read any account of early polar/Everest expeditions and any time spent not-moving/sleeping was spent melting snow.

  29. johnmarshall says:

    I do wish RF well though at his age something gentler may be better. The only real payback is Cat getting information about their equipment working at -80C and high altitude. And how these ”snowflake” samples will travel is a big question, unless research is carried out in situ.

  30. Willis Eschenbach says:

    View from the Solent says:
    March 4, 2013 at 2:07 am

    “As a result, he has been forced to give up his dream of a winter crossing of Antarctica, an expedition entitled The Coldest Journey.”

    Willis,
    You seem to have overlooked that February is the height of summer in the southern hemisphere.

    Geoff Barnes says:
    March 4, 2013 at 2:11 am

    Duh! I don’t know about you, but I think you’ll find it’s been summer in Antarctica for a few months now!

    I’m a fool, guys, but I’m not stupid. Not only that, I know a bit about preparing for a difficult journey.

    What you seem to have overlooked is that if you want to make a winter crossing of Antarctica, and you need to pre-position forty thousand gallons of fuel, and test your machines and all the rest … you better not start on the first day of winter …

    Please read the links I provide, folks, this is all explained on the Expedition’s web site, they have a timeline there.

    They plan to leave on March 21st, the fall equinox in the Southern Hemisphere. They plan to arrive at the opposite coast six months later, on September 21st, the spring equinox in the Southern Hemisphere.

    I call that a winter crossing … what do you call it?

    w.

  31. J Broadbent says:

    Willis
    Love your stories and Joi de vivre.
    The tractor photos are I believe, The Kiwi Sir Edmund Hillary’s expedition to set up supply dumps for the International Geophysical Year’s Bombardiers & Snowcats doing the crossing. Stevenson was part of the team that set up supply points from the other direction. This included the use of dog teams. These teams over-wintered in preparation for the traverse. A great read!

  32. Paul M says:

    I saw an interview with Ranulph Fiennes on the TV just before he left. I wasn’t paying close attention but I am sure that he said that the tractor and the shelter that it is pulling were imposed on them by the British Government as conditions for getting permission to cross the Antarctic in winter. I’m not sure we they need permission but he had wanted to do it on foot.

    Their crossing will start on 21st March and a winter crossing has never been attempted before. Temperatures can drop as low as -90C and the average temperature is -49C.

  33. mikemUK says:

    I may be mistaken, but I seem to recall that RF had previously suffered frostbite, with a loss of fingers, on an earlier expedition; no one can say he’s not intrepid, even if misguided on science!

  34. tty says:

    “I don’t think Amundsen consulted the Eskimos about skiing. ”

    True. Amundsen was one of the best long-distance skiers in Norway (=World) long before his arctic travels. But he did stay an extra winter during his voyage through the Northwest passage in 1903-06 in order to learn more about Eskimo techniques (dog sleds, hunting, clothing, igloo-building etc) from the Netsilingmiut who were, even then, the only Eskimos that were completely uninfluenced by Europeans. Incidentally Eskimos historically have used snowshoes, not skis, presumably because there is no wood suitable for making skis where they live. Skis are an invention of the taiga-dwelling peoples of northern Eurasia.

    As for modern arctic clothing not really being superior to traditional ones it is worth noting that Nordenskiöld brought wolf-fur jackets for the voyage through the Northeast Passage in 1878-79, but found that they were really to warm to use, even in winter in northeastern Siberia.

  35. Caleb says:

    At the end of his life Mark Twain was a bit cynical, but retained his sense of humor, when he said, “You cannot outrun death.”

    However that may not be the coldest journey, if fraud concerning the hockey stick winds you up in the place ending in double hockey sticks.

  36. An article says they are planning to go on without Fiennes. Scary thing is that they are using Cat D6 tractors -, diesel engines in Antarctica. Diesel fuel gels at temperatures a lot higher than they’re going to encounter. Taking precautions against it, but still rolling the dice.

  37. Luther Wu says:

    “I call that a winter crossing … what do you call it?”
    w.
    ____________
    Fiennes’ Folly?

  38. Jimbo says:

    I hope Fiennes has a plan to offset his King Kong sized carbon footprint. It’s odd that as they worry about the ice they spew out all the black carbon which isn’t too cool for the ice.

    Now, what I want to know is if he does get “unique” samples / research then what will it be compared to that will help climate scientists?

    Having never been attempted, the expedition will also provide unique and invaluable scientific research that will help climatologists, as well as forming the basis for an education programme that will reach up to 100,000 schools across the Commonwealth.

    These people are hell bent on showing a problem in Antarctica while its extent laughs in their faces.

    Imagine this today. Ngashing and grinding of teeth would occur.

    The Telegraph-Herald – Dec 15, 1959
    “……And Antarctica is seemingly warming up, at least at Little America. Average temperature there is about five degrees warmer that 45 years ago.

    If all this ice melted, oceans would rise 200 feet or more, drowning great seaports, towns and hamlets around the world…..”

    http://tinyurl.com/c7zcxf7

  39. Patrick says:

    “Bernd Felsche says:
    March 4, 2013 at 1:31 am”

    After wading through the list of sponsors, I could not be bothered looking any further at Warmawear, well not beyond their “mission statement” anyway. And as David Chappell says @ March 4, 2013 at 2:07 am, the sun would have to be piped down from the Arctic (LOL). But it would be rather hillarious if that was one of their product lines. Or will they do what they do (Did?) in Spain with solar power at night and use diesel powered generators?

  40. Patrick says:

    “Mike McMillan says:
    March 4, 2013 at 3:20 am”

    Indeed it does. In fact diesel froze in injectors in the UK cold winter of 1982/83 as I recall. Still am sure they can use their “Warmaware” solar powered tank warmers.

  41. Tim Groves says:

    If Sir Ranulph sets off on this winter crossing, I fear there’s a good chance of him having a “just going outside and may be gone some time” moment.

  42. Bojan Dolinar says:

    =According again to their web site, their plan is to take elevation measurements and snow samples … be still, my beating heart.=
    I’ve just read the Science section on their website and I find the planned science impressive and much needed. It’s ok if some technicalities, e.g. Cryostat 2 and IceSat calibration, don’t give the author arrhythmia. We’re not all scientific minded. But why that kind of attitude should deserve a place on a scientific blog completely beats me. This is scientific blog, right?

  43. Jakehig says:

    I too admire RF’s spirit but find this latest venture pure PR.

    For my money, in this context, nothing beats “The Worst Journey in the World”. It is Cherry Apsley-Guise’s account of a journey by 3 members (he was one, on his first polar trip) of the last Scott expedition. They went out for 6 weeks in the depths of the Antarctic winter to find the rookery of the Emperor penguin and bring back some eggs. They succeeded despite temps down to -70C, permanent darkness, blizzards, etc..
    That said, accounts of the Shackleton expedition are equally enthralling and astounding.

    Amundsen was a total professional, acquiring the skills and knowledge he needed over years. It is bitterly ironic that his team got back from the Pole in good shape, indeed some were heavier, where Scott and his men were mainly doomed by starvation and malnutrition. On the other hand, Scott’s expedition did produce extensive reference material on many aspects of Antarctica, far more than Amundsen. As reflected in the famous quotation:
    “Scott for scientific method, Amundsen for speed and efficiency but when disaster strikes and all hope is gone, get down on your knees and pray for Shackleton”.

  44. Sigmundb says:

    To elaborate on Midtskogens comments (sorry, saw tty’s to late):
    Norwegians ski, eskimoes used snow shoes or stood on the sled.
    Amundsen learned a lot from the inuit People during his previous expedititons to the Arctic but in the end a lot was his own adaptations. He made his own pemmican (main expedition food) recipee and used antarctic seal blubber/meat for dog Food. Since he travelled light and fast he was not troubled by scurvy and didn’t need fresh meat to prevent it (Vitamine C was not indetified back then). The English competing expeditions, without skis and pulling the sleds themselves, by design combined scurvy and backbreacking physical work.

    My understanding is dogs are no longer allowed in the Antarctic since they represent an forreign/invasive species. That means you nowadays either fly, drive or ski to the south pole. During the Antarctic winter you don’t get there, it’s so cold and windy there are no flight in and out of the US base on the pole. The novelty of the Fiennes expedition must have been traversing the antarctic continent during this period. Just getting him of the continent and back to proper care in a reasonable time will be a challenge. I would not wish this on my worst enemy and any hint there is some poetic justice in this is just cruel. Political differences aside we should all hope for the best for him.

  45. Amos McLean says:

    Yes, Fiennes has lost parts of his fingers to frost bite – he cut the ‘stumps’ off himself on a previous expedition. This time I understand he took his gloves off to adjust straps on his skis or snow-shoes because he couldn’t do it with his gloves on. It goes to show even the most experienced ‘explorer’ can make mistakes.
    As for the expedition, it seems they will carry-on, but I do wonder how they are going to tow their containers etc.. across ravines, not too mention cope with winter storms. I don’t thing Antartica has taken much notice of the “rampant global warming” that we are supposed to be sufferring from!
    Sadly it has all the hall marks of a tragedy waiting to happen.

  46. tgmccoy says:

    Willis said:
    “But my goodness, if you’re going to do that, if you plan to burn huge quantities of fossil fuels doing something totally un-necessary just because it’s there, then don’t lecture me about climate change!”
    Well said..
    I might believe Al Gore when he trades the jet in for a Clipper Ship…
    Or John Kerry trades the ”Flying Squirrel ” for a Conestoga.
    (the Airplane that is..)

  47. Annie says:

    Absolutely brilliant Willis. You have put, far better than I ever could, exactly how I feel about this expedition. Each time I have seen anything to do with this expedition, my reaction has been ‘Flaming hypocrites!’. Like you I wish Fiennes a good recovery.

  48. Annie says:

    To those who commented on the season in the Antarctic, yes, it has been summer. However, he was in training for the winter ahead.

  49. Robertv says:

    And if something goes wrong who is going to save them?

  50. Jenn Oates says:

    As someone who has the same last name as a famous Antarctic explorer (hey, reflected glory is better than no glory at all, right?!), I say hear hear, Willis! As Glenn Reynolds is wont to say, I’ll believe it’s a crisis when they start acting like it’s a crisis.

  51. Jeremy says:

    I just wonder if they’re planning on taking their measurements within range of the exhaust of their diesel, in the finest tradition of USHCN quality control.

  52. mfo says:

    OT but I’ll jot it down anyway. Catlin, the largest insurance syndicate in the Lloyd’s market, made a profit of $339 million last year due to lower natural catastrophe claims.

    Its last major loss was around $125 million and resulted from Japan’s Tohoku earthquake. It expects to have to pay out around $225 million for claims due to Sandy making landfall in New York and $51 milion for the Costa Concordia shipwreck.

    The reason I mention Catlin is that they used to sponsor polar adventurer Pen Hadow, but withdrew sponsorship after Fukushima even though they made a profit of $71 million in 2011.

    Pen Hadow has used global warming science as a reason for his polar trips and has been trying to find a new sponsor for another trip to the Arctic since Catlin withdrew funding. However no major sponsor has come forward making any further polar trips by Pen Hadow very unlikely.

    Many large companies pay lip service to AGW, but are aware of people like Mann, Gleick, Lewandowsky, Climategate etc and no longer give much credence to anything such scientists say. They know that scientists like Mann have lost credibility with other scientists and the public so the more circumspect are becoming reluctant to be associated with climate science

    It’s just as well Fiennes did not follow the advice of his extremely tough and good humored but rather reckless friend, Charlie Burton, who accompanied him on their Transglobe expedition in 79-82. Burton suggested a second expedition on foot and with no support. Fiennes said it was impossible. Burton replied: “Balls, Captain Scott was absolutely right in reckoning manpower to be the efficient method. Our journey will prove it.”

  53. Jeff Alberts says:

    Amundsen doesn’t get nearly the credit he deserves. If you can find the video, grab a copy of “The Last Place On Earth”, excellent BBC (I think) series about the race to the South Pole.

    Amundsen was a true hero. He died during a search and rescue of another Polar explorer (Nobile, I think).

  54. Austin says:

    Great, a trailer park on ice.

  55. Silver Ralph says:

    .
    They are milking the Green ‘climate change’ meme for everything its worth. Why else would the sponsors of this private-schoolboy jape want to get involved, if it were not to salve their Green credentials?

    Sponsor list.

    http://www.thecoldestjourney.org/home/sponsors

    Which means that this is simply another Green tax on all of us. Corporate sponsorship is not free – you pay for it, in the cost of the products you buy.

    .

    As to frostbite, I thought that Fiennes had already lost his fingers in his Arctic adventure (and cut them off with an electric hacksaw). So what else has he got, to contract frostbite in?

    Oh, no – that would be too cruel, surely……

    .

  56. Steven Mosher says:

    I would imagine that the field measurements taken would be just the kind of thing folks would demand to calibrate a satellite. Especially snow depth versus ice depth.
    Note: I don’t know that is their plan for the measurements, I’m merely pointing out that the measurements could be important and that some skepticism about the lack of their importance is warranted. In order words, do you really think its settled that these measurements are unimportant.

  57. Silver Ralph says:

    Jenn Oates says: March 4, 2013 at 7:19 am
    As someone who has the same last name as a famous Antarctic explorer.
    _______________________________

    I will wait for another post from you later – but I expect you may be gone for some time……..

    .

  58. Jenn Oates says:

    “I will wait for another post from you later – but I expect you may be gone for some time……..”

    Bwahahahahahah!

    Okay, off to first period with a smile on my face. :)

  59. Ian Hoder says:

    They posted pictures of his frostbitten hand and it looks painful. I don’t have much sympathy for someone getting frostbitten on an ill advised journey to draw attention to “Global Warming”. I do wish him a speedy recovery though.

  60. O Olson says:

    Bruce Robbins says:
    March 4, 2013 at 1:43 am
    “Ran is one of my heroes so I’m going to cut him some slack. He’s achieved some significant successes man-hauling massively laden sledges across snowy wastes much in the style of Amundsen and so has proved he can do it the hard way.”
    This is NOT what Amundsen did and so is NOT in his style. This is Scott’s style and look where it got him. Amundsen traveled light using skis, dogs, and his brain. Scott man-hauled a sledge with rocks on it to the bitter end, even after it had to be painfully obvious he would die doing it. I for one cut no slack for Scott or those like him. They get themselves, and unfortunately others, killed doing stupid things.

  61. Barry Cullen says:

    So we’re talking about these ego maniacs burning an average of ~145 (uS) gal/day of (gelled) diesl fuel and traveling ~11 mi/day or <1 mph w/ 12 hr/day traveling window. Sigh!

  62. rogerknights says:

    The headline missed this phrase: “cold feet”.

  63. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Bojan Dolinar says:
    March 4, 2013 at 5:30 am

    =According again to their web site, their plan is to take elevation measurements and snow samples … be still, my beating heart.=

    I’ve just read the Science section on their website and I find the planned science impressive and much needed. It’s ok if some technicalities, e.g. Cryostat 2 and IceSat calibration, don’t give the author arrhythmia. We’re not all scientific minded. But why that kind of attitude should deserve a place on a scientific blog completely beats me. This is scientific blog, right?

    So … that comment is long on passion, Bojan, but very short on data. Just what are you saying they will be doing in addition to taking elevations and snow samples? I saw nothing more than that, and you list nothing further.

    Next, I have no problem with them doing science. I just think that the proposed science is a) not “ground-shaking” or “global” as they try to hype it, and b) a pathetic excuse for burning all that fuel. I have no problem with them burning it … but I don’t want them telling me that it’s worth burning all that fuel to get those paltry scientific results. Either burning the fuel is a real danger to future climate as they claim, and thus they shouldn’t do it … or it’s not a real danger.

    w.

  64. 3x2 says:

    40,000+ Gallons of fuel to demonstrate that using fossil fuel is just wrong. There really is no point in suggesting that one just couldn’t make this stuff up.

    Let’s hope they can keep the number of Antarctic expeditions promoting the dangers of fossil fuel reliance to a minimum this season.

    @Robertv
    Mr Swan’s campaign is known as 2041 – a reference to the year when the international community could begin to re-evaluate the international treaty and environmental protocols which currently ban all exploitation of Antarctica’s natural resources.

    Exploitation like having to build an Oil Refinery Crown Bay just to cope with the sheer volume of ‘environmental campaigners’ arriving. Jeez – the place is going to look like Las Vegas by 2041

  65. Severian says:

    I agree, if he wants to do something like this, more power to him, just knock off the self righteous moralizing.

    But, as for equipment, I find it interesting that apparently the human race has gotten to the point where they immediately look to technology to support something like this and at the same time demonize technology. But hey, can’t actually use animal skins, there’d go the PETA support for the mission! It still shows a basic arrogance that seems to flow from the core of the environmental movement, we humans are so powerful we can casually destroy the planet, and when we want to do something dangerous, we turn to technological overkill as something simple and natural surely can’t work. It’s an arrogance that assigns humans godlike power for everything good or bad. I’ve seen this conceit many times in engineering, new is always better, ignoring the benefits of old tech, and the ingeniousness of the people who came up with it.

    Doing this kind of crossing in mid-winter reminds me of an old science fiction story, Bright Side Crossing, in which a group of adventurers decided to do the first ever crossing of Mercury during perihelion, pole to pole. This was back when Mercury was assumed to not rotate. Was a rousing good scifi story, tractors disappearing into pools of molten lead covered by a thin crust, blinding light, etc.

  66. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Jakehig says:
    March 4, 2013 at 5:40 am

    … On the other hand, Scott’s expedition did produce extensive reference material on many aspects of Antarctica, far more than Amundsen. As reflected in the famous quotation:
    “Scott for scientific method, Amundsen for speed and efficiency but when disaster strikes and all hope is gone, get down on your knees and pray for Shackleton”.

    Thanks, Jake, and I’d lay odds it was a Briton who said it … Scott’s scientific results? Scott was a rank amateur who lugged a few rocks halfway to the pole and back and died in the process. Some of his men did some scientific work, but Scott? His arrogance and stupidity killed good men, the adulation and claims of scientific merit showered on him were a peculiarly British thing, they love their noble losers and will gladly accept such pathetic excuses for their losses.

    Scott thought it was more manly and noble and British to man-haul the sledges rather than use dogs, he refused to use skis, he outfitted with the wrong clothing, he didn’t mark his camps properly … and he killed his men doing it, with nothing to show for it.

    Take a read sometimes of “The Last Place On Earth” if you want a real analysis of Scott’s actions, scientific and otherwise—neither his actions nor his science have stood the test of time.

    w.

  67. mosomoso says:

    Oh, this is good. But what beats deep green Woody Harrelson having his favourite vegan belt and shoes flown by private jet from California to Cannes? It was for a Charity Poker event, Woody’s a funny guy, and needs to keep his pants up like the rest of us, but…

    You know, I’m starting to think that every time I hear that word ACTIVIST I need to run shrieking in another direction. And yes, the shrieking is called for, and one should really run, not just, you know, jog away. We need to send one of those “clear messages” which our Green Betters are always sending to us.

  68. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Steven Mosher says:
    March 4, 2013 at 8:16 am

    I would imagine that the field measurements taken would be just the kind of thing folks would demand to calibrate a satellite. Especially snow depth versus ice depth.
    Note: I don’t know that is their plan for the measurements, I’m merely pointing out that the measurements could be important and that some skepticism about the lack of their importance is warranted. In order words, do you really think its settled that these measurements are unimportant.

    Mosh, the measurements could be important, I didn’t say otherwise. Please respond to what I say and not what you might think I said.

    I said they were neither “global” nor “ground-shaking” as the hype claims. Nor are they particularly unique or unusual. They could much more easily be taken in the summer, or in winter at one of the permanently inhabited bases, without burning fifty thousand gallons of fossil fuels in the process.

    I also said that my objection is not to the science. I objected to their hyping of some scientific measurements that could easily be done in other ways at much less cost and trouble, in order to justify their fuel use.

    w.

  69. jorgekafkazar says:

    Steven Mosher says: “I’m merely pointing out that the measurements could be important and that some skepticism about the lack of their importance is warranted. In order words, do you really think its settled that these measurements are unimportant[?]”

    Well, I do, now, Mosh. Thanks for your PostNormal redefinition of skepticism.

  70. O Olson says:

    Willis Eschenbach says:
    March 4, 2013 at 9:41 am
    Jakehig says:
    March 4, 2013 at 5:40 am
    Thanks for this Willis. It really needed to be said but I didn’t have the courage to say it. And nobody could have said it better than you anyway.

  71. Kaboom says:

    Burning the whole rig and fuel before shipping them off to Antarctica and taking pictures of how the smoke rises and gets distributed by the wind is probably of more scientific value than the whole harebrained expedition they plan to do with it.

  72. sean.fr says:

    They should have sent Hugh Rowland from the Ice road truckers.

  73. Richard G says:

    Why not be honest and call it what it really is: an attempt to to be the first to drive a bulldozer across Antarctica. It’s a guy kind of thing. A heavy construction fantasy camp kind of thing. Pretty cool if that is your thing I guess, but it has a really high *Tar Head Rating* for an environmentalist minded type.

    * Tar head rating varies according to how much petroleum is consumed to engage in the activity. Includes indirect energy expenses such as clothing, food, transport and infrastructure. Every activity has a Tar Head Rating. Examples: High THR: Nascar racing. Low THR: barefoot naked marathon running.*

    More CO2=More Sugar

  74. mwhite says:

    “It’s worth doing, although I prefer physical challenges that make me money instead of costing me money, but that’s just me.”

    Ranulph Fiennes does not do this for nothing

    http://www.ranulphfiennes.co.uk/page/global-presentations

    Motivational speaking makes money

    Remember Lewis Pugh, canoe to the north pole

    http://lewispugh.com/speaking/

  75. u.k.(us) says:

    Is it just me, or does driving around the Antarctic with “The two 20-tonne D6Ns have been modified by expert mechanics at Caterpillar and Finning UK to help cope in the extreme weather conditions.”, sound more like a crevasse/snow bridge hunting operation than anything.
    Does ground penetrating radar work there ?, I’d want one.
    I sure as heck wouldn’t be roped in to either of those “20-tonne” explorers.

    It is a given, when ice fishing, that the heaviest person goes out first, but this is ridiculus.

  76. Richard G says:

    Sigmundb says:
    “My understanding is dogs are no longer allowed in the Antarctic since they represent an foreign/invasive species.”
    Quaintly ignoring the Homo sapiens involved in the equation. ROFLOL.
    The amount of environmental misfeasance committed in the Antarctic is staggering but unpublicized.
    Years ago there was an attempt to sample the pristine waters of an icebound lake that was isolated from any modern pollution by it’s icecap. Apparatus was built to sample the lake by melting down through the ice using heated glycol. It sprang a leak and dumped the glycol into the lake. Oops!

  77. Bob Kutz says:

    Just a couple random thoughts; there is certainly something questionable about using that machine for the purpose of crossing the antarctic. It appears to be a Cat D4 dozer, maybe rigged with some odd undercarriage, can’t really tell from the photos. Could be a D5 or D3, without more photos it is difficult to be certain.

    Anyway; there are certainly faster and more fuel efficient means to accomplish what they are attempting. All-Track makes a machine that’ll run twice as fast, exert half the ground psi and use considerably less fuel per mile traveled than will the dozer. Further, the undercarriage on a dozer is not designed for long-distance travel like that. It will wear out very quickly and will be unlikely to survive a 2700 mile journey. Good luck working on that thing in arctic conditions. Like I said, maybe its got some exotic undercarriage for just such a purpose, but it’s still not anywhere near the best tool for the job.

    I don’t know much about life in the antarctic, but D4’s and Cat dozers I know about. They are horrible in the cold, not designed for snow and ice, and difficult to work on in outdoor conditions, especially cold.

    The AT-150, or other such similar machine, designed to run at a really low ground psi and at higher speeds over difficult terrain (owing to a christie type suspension, as opposed to the cat which has no suspension) would be much more suitable for the task at hand and use about half as much fuel.

    I don’t know why experienced expedition people would make that mistake.

  78. Billy Liar says:

    Jakehig says:
    March 4, 2013 at 5:40 am

    … “The Worst Journey in the World”. It is Cherry Apsley-Guise’s account of a journey …

    Nice try! The guy’s name was Apsley Cherry-Garrard:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Worst_Journey_in_the_World

  79. Silver Ralph says:

    .

    At least when BBC Top Gear went to the ‘North Pole’ they had the honesty to say it was just for fun. However, there was a sub-scrip to this comedy escapade, in that they were taking the Micky out of the Greens.

    .

  80. Gary Hladik says:

    “Let’s row to the north magnetic pole!”
    “Why?”
    “Because it’s never been done before!”
    “That’s just silly. Let’s do something worthwhile, like crossing Antarctica in winter!”
    “Why?”
    “Because it’s never been done before!”
    “Wait, I have an even better idea! Let’s do it…(wait for it)…on POGO STICKS!”
    “Why?”
    “Because it’s never been done before!”
    “Wait, let’s apply our talent, determination, and knowhow to something useful for a change!”
    “Can’t.”
    “Why not?”
    “Because we’ve never done that before!”

  81. Ken Harvey says:

    I have long regarded Fiennes as simply a successful showman – nothing more, nothing less. However I don’t usually give voice to my sentiment which would make me no friends. What you say needed saying Willis, but you are tilting at a god, particularly in Britain. I hope that any adverse re-actions are few and moderate.

  82. Gary Hladik says:

    Richard G says (March 4, 2013 at 11:15 am): “The amount of environmental misfeasance committed in the Antarctic is staggering but unpublicized.”

    That reminds me of the “Footsteps of Scott” expedition in 1985-86. The polar party went to great lengths to avoid contaminating the pristine environment, even to the extent of manhauling their own waste all the way to the pole. Commendable, no?

    Then the expedition’s ship was sunk by pack ice, sending tons of ship, fuel, and rubbish to the pristine bottom. *sigh*

    http://www.nytimes.com/1986/01/14/science/south-pole-expedition-loses-ship-to-pack-ice.html

  83. Billy Liar says:

    Just to put the 40,000+ gallons of fuel that will be used by the expedition into context and to give you some idea where the particulate carbon found in the Arctic may be coming from, the CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent, one of Canada’s heavy icebreakers carries 1,056,688 gallons of fuel and uses it at the rate of 7,925 gallons per day. So, Sir Ranulph Fiennes’ expedition will use about the same amount of fuel as 5 days one Arctic icebreaker’s operation. No wonder the Arctic is melting!

    The Louis St Laurent isn’t the only heavy icebreaker that charges around the Arctic burning prodigious amounts of high-sulfur diesel fuel. She has a sister ship the CCGS Terry Fox and there are American, Russian and German icebreakers which regularly make trips to the North Pole.

    From Wiki:

    By September 2007 the North Pole had been visited 66 times by different surface ships: 54 times by Soviet and Russian icebreakers, 4 times by Swedish Oden, 3 times by German Polarstern, 3 times by USCGC Healy and USCGC Polar Sea, and once by CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent and by Swedish Vidar Viking.

    The Arctic is being researched into submission.

  84. Roger Tolson says:

    Re. The English “thing”
    Shackleton was roundly criticized by the the English establishment for turning back on his last expedition instead of carrying on and dying, but being a sensible Irishman he ignored them.
    He also bedded his sponsors wife which probably met with disaproval and short of funds but he went with a smile on his face !

  85. Another Ian says:

    Bob Kutz says:
    March 4, 2013 at 11:22 am

    http://www.redpowermagazine.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=77953

    Links to

    “Ultimate road trip
    South Pole traverse covers 3,500 miles during the 2012-13 season
    Posted February 15, 2013
    Talk about the ultimate road trip. The primary South Pole operations Traverse (SPoT) spent nearly 100 days away from McMurdo Station during the 2012-13 season, traveling more than 3,500 miles across the Ross Ice Shelf and East Antarctica. SPoT is a tractor train that hauls supplies and fuel using sleds in lieu of aircraft. The traverse stopped twice at the South Pole Station , delivering about 140,000 gallons of fuel. The SPoT team also drove more than 800 miles roundtrip to an abandoned field camp to remove 80,000 pounds of cargo. On the homestretch, the team even picked up a science instrument nearby its route on the ice shelf that had flown around the continent aboard a high-altitude balloon. All that driving around saved the U.S. Antarctic Program an estimated 65 LC-130 flights. That makes those planes available for other missions around the continent, as well as saves fuel and carbon footprint.”

    http://antarcticsun.usap.gov/features/contenthandler.cfm?id=2814

  86. Lars P. says:

    Silver Ralph says:
    March 4, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    Silver, you should watch this russian self-made car, it is better for a drive to the north pole:

    http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=917_1357759795

  87. Lyle says:

    Good stuff Willis
    Re: Bob Kutz’s and u.k. (us) comments:
    I had lots of experience with cat trains hauling fuel, etc. in Canada’s central arctic (the same area where Amundsen gained experience from the Eskimoes (Inuit). Dozers worked well for me although they are slow and don’t float worth a damn when you stumble through thin ice.
    That looks like a Ground Penetrating Radar rig mounted on the dozer blade.and it is, presumably, intended to warn of crevases in the glaciers. But mounted that close would most likely deliver the warning to the cat skinner as he was headed down the hole.

  88. Mike Borgelt says:

    AFAIK jet fuel is used instead of diesel. Lower freezing point although in Antarctica in winter you’ll need fuel tank heaters.

  89. Jakehig says:

    BillyLiar; thanks – I always get that damned name wrong and I have the book almost in sight!

    Willis; from your comments I guess it may have read as if I was promoting Scott. Far from it. I agree with your views. He took skis and co-opted a trainer to teach his team “on the job”! He grudgingly took some dogs together with ponies and a couple of prototype tractors with no prior testing or training of any of these transport options.
    However he – or more probably his backers – did make quite an effort on the science side. The team included experts in biology, geology, physics and meteorology.
    As to the subsequent idolation: one major reason was the government’s need for propaganda heroes once WW1 started. So the expedition was depicted as the spirit of sacrifice, duty, bravery etc which they were keen to encourage.

  90. Olaf Koenders says:

    “..take elevation measurements and snow samples..”

    With all their self-aggrandising and fanfare, you’d think they were going to the moon. This sounds like an excuse to get away from the missus on a beer trip with the buddies. If they wanted to understand climate change, they could simply look out the window (often not even that) like Mann et. al.

    There’s an idea, take Mann and Hansen along with them. I’m sure the seals are hungry.

  91. DavidG says:

    Well said.

  92. Crispin in Waterloo says:

    @Bob

    “I don’t know much about life in the antarctic, but D4′s and Cat dozers I know about. They are horrible in the cold, not designed for snow and ice, and difficult to work on in outdoor conditions, especially cold.”

    As a Canuk it is a yuk to see how these guys choose equipment. People of all stripes routinely move around the Great White North and about the last thing they would pick to drive is a Cat. Un-frigging believable. Are they planning to snowplough their way to the Pole?

    As for traditional clothes it is quite correct that each portion of each item of clothing has centuries of optimisation built into it. Everything from wolverine for around the face (moisture/ice from the breath doesn’t stick to it) to mukluks – that are only useable (at all) until it is below -20 C – is chosen for perfection.

    They should get some giant Skidoos with 20 ft toboggans such are used in Canada for the runs of several hundred kilometers to visit family for a week. Noble? It is noble when you get home safe and the kids think nothing of one day doing it themselves.

  93. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Bob Kutz says:
    March 4, 2013 at 11:22 am

    Just a couple random thoughts; there is certainly something questionable about using that machine for the purpose of crossing the antarctic. It appears to be a Cat D4 dozer, maybe rigged with some odd undercarriage, can’t really tell from the photos. Could be a D5 or D3, without more photos it is difficult to be certain.

    I don’t know why experienced expedition people would make that mistake.

    My guess is that Cat is one of their sponsors and gave them the Cat, haven’t checked the site, hang on … yeah, Cat/Finning is one of the sponsors.

    As you say, there are all kinds of better machines for the job than a modified bulldozer …

    w.

  94. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Another Ian says:
    March 4, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    … The primary South Pole operations Traverse (SPoT) spent nearly 100 days away from McMurdo Station during the 2012-13 season, traveling more than 3,500 miles across the Ross Ice Shelf and East Antarctica. SPoT is a tractor train that hauls supplies and fuel using sleds in lieu of aircraft. The traverse stopped twice at the South Pole Station , delivering about 140,000 gallons of fuel. The SPoT team also drove more than 800 miles roundtrip to an abandoned field camp to remove 80,000 pounds of cargo.

    Call me crazy, but it seems like the science those guys are planning to do (snow samples, elevations) could be done much more easily and cheaply on one of the regularly scheduled fuel and supplies runs …

    w.

  95. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Jakehig says:
    March 4, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    … Willis; from your comments I guess it may have read as if I was promoting Scott. Far from it. I agree with your views. He took skis and co-opted a trainer to teach his team “on the job”! He grudgingly took some dogs together with ponies and a couple of prototype tractors with no prior testing or training of any of these transport options.
    However he – or more probably his backers – did make quite an effort on the science side. The team included experts in biology, geology, physics and meteorology.
    As to the subsequent idolation: one major reason was the government’s need for propaganda heroes once WW1 started. So the expedition was depicted as the spirit of sacrifice, duty, bravery etc which they were keen to encourage.

    I can’t disagree with any of that, Jake, thanks for the clarification. I would add that the science by and large was not done during the trip to/from the pole, but by the men of the support party.

    w.

  96. Power Grab says:

    Considering the temps and lack of amenities in the locale, shouldn’t a project like this be sponsored by folks who are intending to go to Mars?

    Or is this meant to be a sort of Stuff-You-Don’t-Want-To-Use-On-Mars mission?

  97. agimarc says:

    The Norwegians and the Arctic natives were the local experts when Amundsen did his expedition a century ago. I might suggest that the current experts on a motorized trip might be the Iron Dog guys that run yearly up here in Alaska. Iron Dog is a 1900+ mile snow machine race done in two pairs of vehicles and sleds for safety purposes. It runs from Big Lake north of Anchorage to Nome to Fairbanks. Winning time has been under 40 hours. It also parallels the race path for the Iditarod sled dog race for over half of it. Weather that time of the year has been in the -30 – 50 degree F below, though this year was much nicer. Like the Iditarod, they do pre-stage consumables along the race site and both races do go thru a number of villages in the Bush. Iron Dog finished a week or so ago. Iditarod kicked off Sunday and will be about 8 days on the 1100 + mile trail to Nome for the eventual winner. Nothing is complete without web sites:

    http://www.irondograce.org/

    http://iditarod.com/

    Cheers –

  98. trafamadore says:

    willis says: “For human transport they used what the Eskimos used—skis.”

    Eskimos used skis? I think not.

  99. D.B. Stealey says:

    trafamadore,

    Prepare to get educated. Again.

  100. P.G.Sharrow says:

    I don’t know about this guy. Dingbat! comes to mind. Crossing the antarctic in winter! for the hell of it. Just to gain bragging rights. Seems to me that he got off cheap with a little frost bite. May have saved his and a number of others lives. And what about others that would have to rescue him and his team WHEN they get into trouble in the dead of winter in the middle of the continuet. Fools like this get good men killed.
    I have lived and worked in arctic winter conditions for weeks. To live and work in antarctic winter conditions for months, unsupported. I think they give “Darwin Awards” for this sort of thing. pg

  101. Willis Eschenbach says:

    trafamadore says:
    March 4, 2013 at 5:42 pm

    willis says: “For human transport they used what the Eskimos used—skis.”

    Eskimos used skis? I think not.

    Trafamadore read the comments? I think not …

    We went over this upthread, you’re late to the party. The Norse people used skis, not the Eskimos, so rather than using what the Eskimos historically used, Amundsen used what the Norse people historically used. I admitted my error above when it was pointed out in a much more pleasant manner up above. The Norse people have been using skis for five millennia. My point remains—Amundsen used the ancient wisdom of people living where it’s cold. The current Coldest Journeyfolks … not so much.

    And for once, just once, couldn’t you at least try to move the discussion forwards, rather than doing your best to drag it downwards? Not every subsidiary detail of my work is always correct … so what? Doesn’t affect the issues …

    w.

  102. Coalsoffire says:

    These insane adventurers were exposed beautifully by Monty Python.

  103. Brett Keane says:

    Willis, it was found recently, from Scott’s records, that the temperature in those last days fell well below minus 60C. This was possibly unknown outside inland Siberia, to be cold enough for sled runners to be unable to melt and lubricate from the snow. Pressure-induced phase change. Amundsen was lucky to miss this. Scott nearly made it in spite of the supercold. Stratospheric, indeed, and they were all in similar danger to the space pioneers. All deserve respect, especially as they could not answer for themselves. But their science can still inform us if we are smart. Brett Keane, New Zealand

  104. mfo says:

    Willis: “….a peculiarly British thing, they love their noble losers and will gladly accept such pathetic excuses for their losses.”

    I Have lived in Britain for many years and have many British friends. Willis, whether past or present, I don’t recognize your stereotypical characterization of an entire race.

    Mockery, dry humor and caustic irony, is much more typical of the average Brit. It would be a mistake to confuse establishment propaganda with the views of most British people. You will usually find Brits making fun of fools as well those who consider themselves superior to others, often one and the same. Most of all the Brits seem to enjoy laughing at themselves.

    For Scott, this is just one example:

  105. suffolkboy says:

    “It’s the moralizing and the bogus justification that ring false”.

    But without that the fund-raising would be seriously compromised. “Give me £10 to go on a mad-cap expedition because it’s there” is not a £-winner.

    The system works just as well if you knock a few zeroes off. I am regularly approached by “Ranettes” or their mums wanting me to sponsor their daughters’ “trip to the Arctic to draw attention to climate change and polar bear extinction and to make valuable scientific measurements”. Basically I am subsidising Ranette’s holiday to a hotel in Svalbard and her side-excursion to a polar-bear photoshoot and keeping the adventure company in business. I don’t buy the scientific or environmental tag though I encourage travel in teenagers. It’s not so much a scam as a mutually acceptable (just) personal gift.

    Ran’s trip is thus Ranette’s operation, writ large and conducted at corporate level, but presumably funding WWF war-chests rather that Ranette’s father’s bank balance.

  106. Willis Eschenbach says:

    mfo says:
    March 5, 2013 at 12:50 am (Edit)

    Willis:

    “….a peculiarly British thing, they love their noble losers and will gladly accept such pathetic excuses for their losses.”

    I Have lived in Britain for many years and have many British friends. Willis, whether past or present, I don’t recognize your stereotypical characterization of an entire race.

    Take as an example the poem about the charge of the Lost Brigade into the valley of death, doomed by stupidity but ennobled by a dogged willingness to commit suicide in the service of England … in the US, we’re not that much into celebrating glorious losses like that.

    Scott was a stubborn, ignorant man unwilling to learn from the wisdom of thousands of generations of people living in the North. As a result of his pig-headedness, he killed himself and his men in the process of gloriously and nobly losing the race to the Pole. In the US we have a special name for a glorious noble suicidal loser … we call them a “loser”.

    And yet he was a British hero. Now he did indeed have the qualities for which he is revered … the dogged belief that British pluck and stubbornness and strength were enough to overcome all obstacles. He certainly had all of those qualities … but they were not enough to overmaster Nature, and he and his friends paid with their lives for his stupidity.

    You want to know dumb? All along, it was planned that there would be four men in the final push to the pole, Scott plus three others. All the supplies, all the rations, all the packing of the sleds was done with that in mind. A larger number of men accompanied Scott carrying supplies to the final forward camp before the dash to the pole, where they would bid the final team of four goodbye.

    And after they’ve gone all that way, Scott decides to take a fifth man along. They don’t have enough food for him, or enough kerosene, but Scott figures hey, we’ll just split things five ways instead of four, we’re tough, we can take it. They have to repack the sleds, they’re overloaded, and all along the way the food is screwed up. They’d packaged the rations in fours, but they needed fives, so they had to repack loose items each time. It was just one more thing that Scott thought they could brazen through… but they couldn’t take it, and instead the cold took them.

    If it were my brother who died on that trip, I’d call Scott a murderer, that’s criminal negligence … and yet, he’s still a British hero. That’s the curiosity I was referring to. No disrespect to the British, I have lots and lots of friends from the island, and to me it’s actually an endearing quality, not one that I’d change. I like that admiration for the quality and strength of the struggle regardless of the outcome …

    w.

  107. richard verney says:

    Patrick says:

    March 4, 2013 at 12:58 am

    Interesting article. And what’s more interesting is the number of sponsors that are involved with supplying technology that uses energyor fossil fuels directly. But one that made me laugh was “Warmawear”.

    “Warmawear are a leading worldwide manufacturer and supplier of heated clothing. The Warmawear range has been developed to gently circulate heat around the body using the latest battery technology. Our heated insoles and glove liners will be adapted to run off a strong central battery unit which will help to protect the explorers during the expedition.”

    No kidding!
    ////////////////////////////////////////////////////
    Why not have a space blanket suit, ie., a suit simply made out of a thin sheet of highly reflective material so all that back radiated heat keeps the wearer warm. Light and effective, hey??!!

  108. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Brett Keane says:
    March 5, 2013 at 12:03 am

    Willis, it was found recently, from Scott’s records, that the temperature in those last days fell well below minus 60C. This was possibly unknown outside inland Siberia, to be cold enough for sled runners to be unable to melt and lubricate from the snow. Pressure-induced phase change. Amundsen was lucky to miss this. Scott nearly made it in spite of the supercold. Stratospheric, indeed, and they were all in similar danger to the space pioneers. All deserve respect, especially as they could not answer for themselves. But their science can still inform us if we are smart. Brett Keane, New Zealand

    Thanks, Brett. I fully accept that Scott deserves respect for some things, but he wasn’t done in by supercold. It was cold, but not that cold, and that wasn’t Scott’s main problem. It was that he wasn’t prepared even for the normal cold.

    In the book The Last Place on Earth, there’s a lovely juxtaposition of the log books for a period of time when Amundsen and Scott were in the same weather conditions in the same area. From memory Scott’s log goes something like:

    Temperature -30°, wind 10-20 mph. We remain in the tents for the second day, hoping for a break in the weather.

    Amundsen’s log, on the other hand, says:

    Temperature -30°, wind 10-20 mph. Like yesterday, another great day for traveling, firm snow for the skis. We made nearly 20 miles before making camp for the night.

    I’m sure you can see the difficulty.

    Similarly, only Scott was in “similar danger to the space pioneers”. Amundsen was no stranger to the dangers of the trip, he had been in those conditions many times, and had learned from those who lived in those conditions year-round.

    For another example, when Scott was freezing to death in the supposedly unbearable conditions, Wikipedia reliably says:

    On the other hand, Cherry-Garrard had traveled nearly three hundred miles in the same area, at the same time period and same temperatures, using a dog team.

    Cherry-Garrard was sent out to find and resupply Scott, they were within a hundred miles of each other … and the supernatural cold didn’t stop Cherry-Garrard.

    Scott was doomed by his insistence on things like ponies and wool coats and Army boots, not by some unbearable cold. One thing I learned in Alaska. There’s only two levels of clothing—Enough, and not enough, and the latter can kill you. Among many other deficiencies, Scott’s clothing was totally inadequate for the task.

    And when that is the case, even plain old garden variety Antarctic cold will kill you, doesn’t require supercold at all.

    w.

  109. Tony Mach says:

    One wonders what changes in diet could have lead to Ran’s diabetes and subsequent frostbite. Grains, (pasteurized) dairy and seed oil, per chance?

    From personal experience, I can only recommend looking into more traditional diets (and traditional food preparation methods) if you have health problem (or want to avoid some of them) – with the Paleo Diet maybe being the most traditional one.

    (Here I am, a self-declared progressive and card-carrying communist, recommending traditional diets – go figure.)

  110. Tony Mach says:

    Also: I would say Ran’ diabetes (though only a single data point) is living proof that an “active lifestyle” with lots of exercise won’t keep diabetes away.

    If I had to bet, I would bet on diabetes being caused by exactly those foods that are recommended by the ADA and AHA as “anti-diabetic” and “heart-healthy”. If I had to choose a single food causing diabetes, I would bet on seed oils causing diabetes.

  111. Bojan Dolinar says:

    =So … that comment is long on passion, Bojan, but very short on data. Just what are you saying they will be doing in addition to taking elevations and snow samples?=
    You guessed it, Willis. I am passionate about science. And why should I copy&paste all the section here when everybody can take a look? Everybody interested enough can take a look and see that you did not present a fair picture in your article.

    So they are only taking snow samples? I guess Bill Gates is only a multibillioner, then, and theory of evolution is only a theory. I am passionate about science enough to know that it is cumulative. I find their science much in need.

    But I see your need to downplay science and charity, since you need to play on ‘hypocrisy’ of burning fuel on nothing.

  112. Richard Barraclough says:

    “Temperatures close to -90 C” – sounds like a bit of marketing hype. Typical temperatures along their route in winter will be in the mid -60’s, and it rarely drops below -70. It’s like announcing that you’re going to London in the depths of winter, and expect to encounter temperatures “close to -25 C”

    The Russian base at Vostok, about 1000 miles away from their route, occasionally dips below -80 (-112 degrees F) and holds the world record of -89. Incidentally, it has just endured its coldest Februray since records began in 1958 with a mean of -48 C (-54 F), pretty much the same as the coldest parts of Siberia, and as already been pointed out – this is summer in the Antarctic, and Vostok has continuous daylight.

  113. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Bojan Dolinar says:
    March 5, 2013 at 4:01 am

    So … that comment is long on passion, Bojan, but very short on data. Just what are you saying they will be doing in addition to taking elevations and snow samples?

    You guessed it, Willis. I am passionate about science. And why should I copy&paste all the section here when everybody can take a look? Everybody interested enough can take a look and see that you did not present a fair picture in your article.

    So they are only taking snow samples? I guess Bill Gates is only a multibillioner, then, and theory of evolution is only a theory. I am passionate about science enough to know that it is cumulative. I find their science much in need.

    But I see your need to downplay science and charity, since you need to play on ‘hypocrisy’ of burning fuel on nothing.

    In other words, you agree with me that they are taking elevations and snow samples, but you don’t want people to know that? Am I reading this correctly?

    I mean, I asked what else they are doing … and you’ve provided absolutely nothing, just repeated your previous claims, waved your hands, and said you are passionate about science. Impressive …

    So what? Science is about facts, not passion, and you’ve provided exactly none so far.

    Your passion is doing you a DISservice, Bojan, if it leads you to make claims like you did and then be unable to sustain, support, or back them up …

    w.

  114. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Tony Mach says:

    One wonders what changes in diet could have lead to Ran’s diabetes and subsequent frostbite. Grains, (pasteurized) dairy and seed oil, per chance?

    and

    … If I had to bet, I would bet on diabetes being caused by exactly those foods that are recommended by the ADA and AHA as “anti-diabetic” and “heart-healthy”.

    If I had to bet, I’d bet that diagnosing the cause of someone’s illness from reading news reports is the action of a food fanatic … give it up, Tony. You don’t have a clue why Ran has diabetes, and trying to peddle your unsupported speculations regarding your own pet theories of how to eat, in a discussion of climate and cold, just make you look like an SIF …

    w.

  115. Don says:

    An excerpt re severe frostbite from the journals of Priddy Meeks, a Utah doctor of the latter 1800s, that may help some WUWT reader in the future (unless frostbite is going to be a thing of the past, ha!):

    (quoting) An incident took place in Parowan, Iron County, the same winter that Colonel Johnston came against Salt Lake City with the United States Army. There was a teamster by the name of James McCann, a young man, started to go back to the states by way of California. He reached Parowan with both feet frozen above his ankles. He was left with me to have both feet amputated as it was thought there was no possible chance to save his life without amputation. I was at my wits end to know what to do. I saw no possible chance for amputation. An impulse seemed to strike my mind as tho by inspiration that I would give him cayenne pepper inwardly and see what effect that would have on the frozen feet.

    I commenced by giving him rather small doses at first, about three times a day. It increased the warmth and power of action in the blood to such a degree that it gave him such pain and misery in his legs that he could not bear it. He lay down on his back and elevated his feet up against the wall for three or four days and then he could sit up in a chair. The frozen flesh would rot and rope down from his foot when it would be on his knee, clear down to the floor, just like a buck-wheat batter, and the new flesh would form as fast as the dead flesh would get out of the way. In fact the new flesh would seem to crowd the dead flesh out of the way to make room for the new flesh.

    That was all the medical treatment he had and to my astonishment and to every one else that knew of the circumstances, the sixteenth day after I gave him the first dose of pepper he walked nine miles, or from Parowan to Red Creek and back, and said that he could have walked as far again. He lost but five toe nails all told. Now the healing power of nature is in the blood and to accelerate the healing power of nature and I am convinced that there is nothing will do this like cayenne pepper; you will find it applicable in all cases of sickness.

  116. Tony Mach says:

    Willis, they might be speculations, but I don’t think they are unsupported. Let’s wait another couple of decades, then we know how diabetes (and all the other diseases considered to be “disease of civilization”) are caused.

    Doesn’t matter, I stated what I consider my informed opinion, take it, leave it, say diabetes does not have a cause, say diabetes is figured out already fully by medical science, say diabetes is caused by something else that I know nothing of – do as you wish, won’t change anything anyway.

  117. Tony Mach says:

    And after looking up SIF: Willis, was that necessary?

  118. Tony Mach says:

    One more thing, you once wrote: “My nose for numbers said that Hansen’s claims were way out of line.” Let’s say what I have learned from over the last two and half years tells me that the claims by the ADA and AHA with regards to healthy nutrition are way out of line. I think what the ADA and AHA (and all the others) do is wrong, and dangerously wrong, and that makes me a food fanatic? What are you then? A climate fanatic?

    I try to tell the truth as I see it, and I might be wrong – what’s the difference to what you do?

  119. Bojan Dolinar says:

    Willis, no need to spend so many words and assumptions. All I did was to spur other readers to check the Science section to see whether yours was a fair assessment:

    http://www.thecoldestjourney.org/home/science/

    Only one example: elevation measurements are very important for satellite calibration. Since they are used for ice loss/gain measurements I would certainly regard this as global.

    Yes, science is also about facts, but independent measurements are better than only one kind of measurements.

  120. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Tony Mach says:
    March 6, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    And after looking up SIF: Willis, was that necessary?

    Perhaps not necessary … but certainly accurate. Why else would you clutter up a thread about the use of climate hype to sell expeditions, with your very personal views on nutrition?

    w.

  121. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Tony Mach says:
    March 6, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    One more thing, you once wrote: “My nose for numbers said that Hansen’s claims were way out of line.” Let’s say what I have learned from over the last two and half years tells me that the claims by the ADA and AHA with regards to healthy nutrition are way out of line. I think what the ADA and AHA (and all the others) do is wrong, and dangerously wrong, and that makes me a food fanatic? What are you then? A climate fanatic?

    I try to tell the truth as I see it, and I might be wrong – what’s the difference to what you do?

    What’s the difference?

    The difference is, you want to do it on my thread, which about a totally different subject. I don’t clutter up your blog posts about diabetes and nutrition with my speculations about climate. That would be a hijack.

    All I ask is that you return the favor.

    w.

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