The ‘coldest journey’: British explorer embarks on Antarctica adventure

Updated 08 January 2013
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The ‘coldest journey’: British explorer embarks on Antarctica adventure

British explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes has embarked on an expedition that he describes as one of the last remaining polar challenges: crossing Antarctica during the region's winter.
Fiennes and his five-member team left Cape Town yesterday aboard a South African polar vessel for what they have dubbed “The Coldest Journey.”
In March, they plan to begin their continent-spanning journey via the South Pole. The plan is to traverse nearly 4,000 km, mostly in total darkness and with temperatures dipping as low as minus 90 Celsius.
Fiennes, 68, says he and his companions will stretch the limits of human endurance.
Fiennes earlier said his bid, with no option of rescue, would be a trip into the unknown despite his multiple record expeditions.
The intrepid adventurer became the oldest Briton to summit Mount Everest in 2009, according to his website. He has also crossed both polar ice caps and in 1992-93, he crossed the Antarctic unsupported.
So far the furthest winter journey in Antarctica covered only 60 miles, in the early 20th century.
“We've been doing expeditions for a total of 40 years. We've broken a great number of world records. In Antarctica we've got two huge records, one in 1979 and one in 1992, but they are all in summer,” Fiennes said.
“So we aren't any more expert than anybody else at winter travel. There is no past history of winter travel in Antarctica apart from the 60-mile journey. So we are into the unknown.”
The Antarctic has the Earth's lowest recorded temperature, and levels of around minus 70 are expected during the six-month crossing.
“This is the first time once we've gone out, all the aeroplanes, all the ships from Antarctica disappear for eight months, and we're on our own and then you're in a situation where you would die,” Fiennes said.
“That is why we have to try and take with us a whole year of supplies and a doctor and everything else like that, which makes it the biggest, heaviest expedition that we've ever been involved with rather than just man against the elements.”
The group will be led by two skiers carrying crevasse-detecting ground-penetrating radars and followed by two tractors pulling sledge-mounted, converted containers with the rest of the team, equipment, fuel and food.
“Anybody who leaves the vehicle and it goes out on skis has to accept the fact that if things go wrong, they will die like people did 100 years ago,” Fiennes said.
The team, which will be carrying out scientific research and wants to raise $10 million for the Seeing Is Believing blindness charity, have tested their clothing and equipment to minus 58 Celsius in Britain and minus 45 in Sweden.
Fiennes said that he and fellow explorers have never used hand-warming equipment on polar expeditions, but “this time we're using every device known to mankind to warm up our bodies, and we've got new breathing apparatuses.”


Riyadh's Al-Masmak fort stands guard over Saudi Arabia’s past

Al-Masmak fort. (AN photo)
Updated 51 min 13 sec ago
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Riyadh's Al-Masmak fort stands guard over Saudi Arabia’s past

  • The Al-Masmak fort is connected with the recapture of Riyadh in Jan.15, 1902, by the late king
  • The SCTH chief Prince Sultan bin Salman developed the exhibits in Al-Masmak Museum that was started in December 2011 to represent the story of its storming

RIYADH: The Al-Masmak fort in the heart of Riyadh holds a prominent place in Saudi Arabia’s history and — 150 years after being built — is telling the story of the Kingdom’s birth via a 3D virtual tour.

The fort is home to a museum that has become an important historical destination and focal point for state guests as well as foreign visitors and local residents.

“As it is a favorite tourist destination, not only the Saudis and expatriates living here appreciate the majesty of this vast architectural wonder, but it draws interest of visitors from outside the Kingdom as well, and most of the foreign guests who arrive on visit here toured the museum,” Majed Alshadeed, a spokesman for the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH), told Arab News.

“Masmak” in Arabic means the high, fortified, thick and huge — important qualities for a fort that witnessed King Abdul Aziz’s major initiatives in consolidating the Kingdom.

The Al-Masmak fort is connected with the recapture of Riyadh in Jan.15, 1902, by the late king.

However, the story of building Al-Masmak fortress dates back to the reign of Imam Abdullah bin Faisal bin Turki bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Saud, who began work on the fort in 1865. 

The use of the fortress changed after King Abdul Aziz recovered Al-Masmak fort in 1902. After its use as a warehouse for ammunition and weapons for two years, it was turned into a prison before being converted into a heritage landmark in the heart of Riyadh.

The the-then Riyadh Gov. Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz (now King) ordered its upkeep, maintenance and restoration in 1980.

As governor, he led the development of Riyadh from a mid-sized town into a major metropolis in the region and served as an important liaison to attract tourism, capital projects and foreign investment to the Kingdom.

After the proper work the fort was restored to serve as a museum and was inaugurated in 1995 as the Al-Masmak Historical Museum, which tells the story of the Kingdom’s unification and establishment by King Abdul Aziz.

The SCTH, led by Prince Sultan bin Salman, developed the exhibits in Al-Masmak Museum that was started in December 2011 to represent the story of the storming of Masmak and recovery of Riyadh by King Abdul Aziz.

Adding more value to the museum, the SCTH launched a smartphone app for “Virtual Tour via 3D images” of Qasr Al-Masmak or Al-Masmak Palace Museum in March 2016, conjuring up Saudi history digitally to show visitors how the late King Abdul Aziz founded the modern Kingdom. 

Now fans of Saudi tourism, heritage and history can make an online visit to Al-Masmak Museum through a virtual tour, navigating different halls and internal areas through 360-degree camera and 3D images.

The virtual tour allows visitors to view exhibits that highlight the cultural dimension of the Kingdom and its deep-rooted heritage, besides touring the different halls and viewing paintings and photos.

The museum contains photographs, maps, models, display cabinets, old weapons, traditional and heritage objects, exhibition and audiovisual halls.

Each month, the museum receives about 5,000 school students and visitors, with numbers increasing during school breaks.

Since its opening in 1995, more than a million people have visited the museum, according to officials.

Speaking to Arab News, Mohammed Zeyad, a student, said the museum was a special place for those who love history and heritage, and wanted to learn more about the country.

The museum recently hosted a workshop to promote patriotism by highlighting the historic and cultural values of the Kingdom.