Ranulph Fiennes evacuated from Antarctic base

First video of Sir Ranulph Fiennes leaving Antarctic base after abandoning his polar mission

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Sir Ranulph Fiennes has begun his journey home after having to pull out of an expedition across Antarctica in winter because of frostbite.

He has been evacuated from the base camp to the Princess Elisabeth Station, after waiting days for the weather to improve.

From there the 68-year-old will fly to Novo before heading for South Africa later.

Once there he will be treated for frostbite, before returning to the UK.

A team from the Belgian International Polar Foundation reached Sir Ranulph at the Ice Station earlier on Wednesday, despite winds of around 20 knots and temperatures at -18C and moved him to the Princess Elisabeth Station some 70kms away.

Frostbite

Sir Ranulph Fiennes
  • Frostbite is damage to the skin and tissue due to exposure to freezing temperatures
  • It can affect any part of the body, but extremities like fingers, ears, the nose and toes, are particularly vulnerable
  • When it is cold the body diverts blood flow from the extremities to vital organs like the heart and lungs
  • As the blood is redirected, the extremities get colder and fluid in these tissues begin to freeze
  • Initially you may feel pins and needles and painful throbbing, but as the tissues freeze the area becomes numb
  • Ice crystals form, damaging cells, and the low blood flow starves the tissue of oxygen
  • If the blood flow is not restored soon enough the tissue will die and may need to be amputated
  • Almost all cases of frostbite can be prevented by wearing appropriate clothing and avoiding unnecessary exposure to cold

The team will fly him to the Russian-run Novolazarevskaya Station (Novo), an Antarctic research station, and from there to Cape Town on Wednesday evening.

The explorer was injured after a fall while skiing during training. He used his bare hands to fix a ski binding in temperatures around -30C.

The rest of the team will continue with their 2,000-mile (3,219km) trek as part of the "Coldest Journey" expedition as they aim to become the first people in history to cross the Antarctic in winter.

Traverse manager Brian Newham said: "Although Ran is no longer physically with us we carry his determination and incredible spirit forward and we hope that he will be proud of what we achieve.

"It is now only a few hours since we said our difficult farewells but we are already moving south and are poised to gain the polar plateau. Onwards."

Sir Ranulph had been due to lead the team from the front on skis, and had been practising his skiing in whiteout conditions when he fell.

The expedition - from the Russian base of Novolazarevskaya to the Ross Sea - is expected to take six months.

The journey will benefit Seeing is Believing, a charity which tackles avoidable blindness.

Map of expedition route showing where Fiennes was injured

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