Transglobe Expedition 1979-82
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The Transglobe Expedition was conceived by Sir Ranulph Fiennes and his wife, Ginnie, in 1972. Planned as a bigger challenge than previous adventure training expeditions Fiennes had already mounted, the expedition aimed to circumnavigate the globe via the two Poles in a 37,000 mile round trip. It was sponsored by a wide range of commercial enterprises and comprised of a team of volunteers from a variety of different backgrounds. Advisors to the Expedition included Sir Vivian Fuchs, leader of the first expedition to cross Antarctica on foot, and Wally Herbert, who completed the first surface crossing of the Arctic Ocean. HRH Prince Charles was its patron.
Though primarily conceived purely as an adventurous exploit the Expedition was also tasked with completing a scientific programme of meteorological, magnetospheric and glaciological research, cardiology and blood analysis, as well as commissions from the Natural History Museum. Sponsorship and donations supplied much of the Expedition equipment which included the Benjamin Bowring, a 1,100 ton vessel built in 1952 to ship lead from Greenland to Denmark and suitably strengthened for icebreaking, and a Twin Otter aeroplane. After a seven year planning period, which included a four month failed attempt to reach the North Pole by Fiennes, Oliver Shephard and Charlie Burton in 1977, the Expedition set out from London in 1979.
A team of five, led by Fiennes, drove through Europe to Africa and then crossed the Sahara Desert to meet the Benjamin Bowring at Abidjan on the Ivory Coast. They then sailed to South Africa and from there to Antarctica, arriving at the South African National Antarctic Expedition base in January 1980. Setting up base inland, close to the Ryvingen mountain, three huts of corrugated cardboard were erected and supplies were shipped in using skidoos and the Twin Otter. Fiennes, together with Ginnie, Burton and Shephard stayed at the base until October when Fiennes, Burton and Shephard left for the South Pole. Travelling by skidoo and resupplied by the Twin Otter, they travelled the 1,000 miles to reach the Pole on 15 December. After a week at the American Base at the South Pole, Fiennes, Burton and Shephard continued across the Polar cap to reach New Zealand's Scott Base on Ross Island on 11 January 1981 where they rejoined the Benjamin Bowring. The Expedition members then sailed to New Zealand, Australia, the West Coast of the USA and Canada before reaching the mouth of the Yukon River in Alaska in late June. Fiennes, Burton and Bryn Campbell, a photographer from The Observer newspaper, travelled by inflatable dinghy up the Yukon to Dawson City and then by car to Inuvik in the Canadian far north. Burton and Fiennes then followed the 3,000 miles of the Northwest Passage by small glass fibre boat to Ellesmere Island.
They finally reached Alert, which was to be their base for the push to the North Pole, in September 1981. Overwintering in Alert to allow the ice to grow thick and solid, Fiennes and Burton then set out towards the North Pole on 13 February 1982. Travelling by skidoo and being resupplied by air, they reached the Pole on 10 April. The plan was to trek 1,000 miles to the edge of the ice to find a suitable ice floe to camp on during the break up of the pack ice. The southerly current would then sweep them south to rendezvous with the Benjamin Bowring. In the event, early breakup of the ice meant that by the end of April they were unable to travel any further over the ice and were forced to camp on the floe for three months. Threatened by polar bears, and with the floe slowly breaking up, Fiennes and Burton were finally picked up by the Benjamin Bowring on 4 August 1982. After a brief stop on Spitsbergen the Expedition sailed south through the Greenland Sea and the North Sea to finally reach London on 29 August.
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