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Explorer sets sail for Antarctic challenge

JOHANNESBURG -- It's a six-month expedition in almost constant darkness, in the coldest place on the planet, with no chance of rescue if things go wrong. British explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes calls it one of the last remaining polar challenges: crossing Antarctica in winter.

Against the backdrop of Cape Town's Table Mountain, Fiennes, 68, and his five-member team left the South African port city Monday aboard a South African polar vessel, the SA Agulhas, for what they have dubbed "The Coldest Journey."

After a two-week trip to the continent, the expedition will begin its journey via the South Pole on March 21, traversing 2,485 miles in a place, beautiful and forbidding, where temperatures often dip to minus 94 degrees. Or colder. Antarctica has recorded the lowest temperature anywhere on the planet -- a shocking minus 128.56 degrees.

No aircraft can travel inland in the winter in the darkness and risk that fuel will freeze, meaning there is virtually no chance of a search and rescue operation if disaster strikes.

"Some people will say it is irresponsible to go unless you know everything, in which case the Americans would never have gotten to the moon," Fiennes said. "If humans are going for something new, then unfortunately there are bound to be some gray areas." -- AP

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