A builders merchant in Derbyshire is helping explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes attempt to make the first ever winter crossing of Antarctica where temperatures can plunge to minus 90deg C.
The 14 special steel sledges (‘skoots’) that will carry vital supplies of fuel to power the expedition’s two giant caterpillar-tracked bulldozers on the 2000-mile epic journey have been designed and built by steel specialists at William Twigg Matlock Ltd.
Twigg’s director, Richard Tarbatt, said: “We are thrilled to have been asked to play a key role in such a prestigious expedition. It speaks volumes about the reputation of the company and the skills of our designers, platers and welders who will build the skoots.”
Each sledge is over six metres long, three metres wide, weighs two tons and will carry a rubber ‘bladder’ containing 8000 litres of special diesel. In Antarctica, the sledges will be fastened together three-abreast with steel ropes and clips to form a ‘skoot train’.
Sir Ranulph, also known as ‘the world’s greatest living explorer’, will attempt to cross Antarctica’s icy wastes from the Russian base at Novolazarevskaya to Captain Scott’s base at McMurdo Sound via the South Pole.
It will take the team about six months and has been described as “the coldest journey on earth”.
Much of the journey will be made in complete darkness and the expedition team will have to be completely self-sufficient. No search and rescue facility will be available since aircraft cannot penetrate inland during winter due to the darkness and the risk of fuel freezing.
Sir Ranulph and his companions plan to leave the Russian base in March 2013 and hope to reach McMurdo Sound in September.
Along the way, they will undertake a number of tasks which, said an expedition spokesman, would provide unique data collected for the first time during the winter months. The expedition is also designed to raise much-needed cash for Seeing is Believing, a global initiative to tackle avoidable blindness in developing countries.