Explorer Fiennes To Take On Antarctic Winter

British adventurer Sir Ranulph Fiennes has announced plans to lead the first expedition to cross Antarctica during winter.

The six-month expedition - called the Coldest Journey - will set off across the continent in March next year and will see 68-year-old Sir Ranulph and his fellow explorers endure temperatures as low as -90C.

Organisers describe the more than 2,000-mile trek through the icy darkness as "the last remaining great polar challenge" and say it will contribute to our understanding of the impact of global warming on the polar ice caps.

Sir Ranulph told Sky News: "Everything else has been done.

"In the day when we were the first to go around earth on its polar axis ... the North Pole and South Pole were pretty rare to get to at all. Now, as you know, everybody's grandmother goes there at the weekends.

"To get to do the expeditions that have never been done, the big geographical challenges, they are very difficult indeed, that is why they have never been done."

Sir Ranulph, described by the Guinness Book Of World Records as "the world's greatest living explorer", was the first person to visit both the North and South Poles by land and the first to completely cross Antarctica on foot.

In May 2009, at the age of 65, he climbed to the summit of Mount Everest, becoming the oldest Briton ever to do so.

The latest challenge will see him and his companions travelling on skis, while pulling a crevasse-detection system designed to prevent them plunging into the perilous snow-covered holes that will bedevil the route.

They will be accompanied by two modified tractors that will tow living quarters, supplies, equipment and fuel.

Students at thousands of schools are expected to benefit through an educational website that will run alongside the expedition.

"Throughout the period people in the UK or the Commonwealth will be able to speak directly to us because we have an iridium system for the first time," Sir Ranulph said

Organisers also hope it will raise \$10m (£6.2m) for Seeing is Believing , a charity trying to tackle avoidable blindness around the world.

One hundred years ago, polar explorer Captain Scott died after getting caught up in the start of the southern winter after reaching the South Pole.