UK explorers aim for record polar expedition

    9:40 AM, Oct 3, 2013   |    comments
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    UNDATED (CNN) - Two British explorers will set off on Friday to make the first return journey to the South Pole on foot. Their mission is known as the "Scott Expedition", as it traces the footsteps of Captain Scott, who died making the same journey a century ago. If successful it will be the longest unsupported polar journey in history.

    Ben Saunders says, "I first heard of Scott and the Antarctic as a school boy. They died having covered nearly 1600 miles on foot and that remains in many ways the high water mark of human endeavor in one of the toughest places on the planet."

    What British explorer Captain Scott had hoped to do was become the first man to reach the South Pole. it was only when his team got there on January 17, 1912 they found they'd been beaten to it. Roald Amundsen had staked the claim 33 days earlier for Norway. Saunders says, "I can't imagine what their morale must have been turning around at the pole having found a Norwegian flag there having to walk all the way back to the coast."

    A century on, the two-man team of Ben Saunders and Tarka L'Herpiniere is setting off to finish what Scott did not: make the longest unsupported polar journey in history. Saunders says, "When I kind of realized that not only had this journey not been finished but no one has even attempted it in the 100 - 101 years since Scott it just seemed to be hanging out there as a journey that ought to be finished. I think there's a few reasons. It's a very long walk. It's still a genuinely a very challenging journey.

    An expedition 10 years in the making, these two British explorers are well prepared for what will be the longest unsupported polar journey in history. They've spent months at a time training on glaciers, climbing out of crevasses, and building strength and endurance.

    But their greatest advantage will be technology. Saunders says, "You are not going to have the same problem because you are not going to be left stranded because you will have communication and you have this back up - that's one fundamental difference. We have clothing equipment food and technology that Scott could never have dreamt of even though it sounds like a low tech undertaking we are on foot trudging along for 1800 miles it actually has more in common with space flight than guys dragging wooden sleighs around.

    One thing that probably hasn't changed is the boredom involved in these trips - Scott on the Bidmore glacier in 1911 September said we have slept in the slough of despond you are going to have the same psychological issues. "Again the technology can to a degree can help alleviate that without wanting to sound flippant we were training in Greenland earlier this year in a really bad storm and we were testing these laptops and we were able to watch a movie which was A first for me in more than 300 nights north of the arctic circle in a tent - we watched 'inception' lying in our sleeping bag," adds Saunders.
    Escapism from what Scott described on his ill-fated journey as "an awful place."

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