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.)
Figure 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.
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:
Now, 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:
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.”
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,