Expedition will follow footsteps of explorer Scott

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ONE hundred years to the day since Captain Scott and his men reached the South Pole, a new team of heroes is setting off to break new ground in the Antarctic.

Today marks the centenary of Scott’s triumph in finally reaching the South Pole on a journey which ultimately led to his team’s tragic deaths.

EXPLORER Lt Col Pete Davis

EXPLORER Lt Col Pete Davis

The 24 men and women of the British Services Antarctic Expedition 2012 will bow their heads to remember the lost explorers as they begin their eight-week scientific mission.

They have set up their base camp in the Peninsula Arm of Antarctica and, in the spirit of Capt Scott, will be exploring areas which have never been studied before.

Lieutenant Commander Paul Hart, who left his post at HMS Temeraire in Portsmouth to be the expedition’s deputy leader, said: ‘Sat here in a small tent in Antarctica, I am ever more aware of the challenges that Scott and his team faced 100 years ago.

‘Without all the advantages of modern science such as GPS and Google Earth mapping, they man-hauled their way over 900 miles to the South Pole. As we have been following very much in the spirit of Scott and man-hauling our heavy science equipment up the Forbes glacier in an attempt to cross the Avery Plateau, I am only too aware of the physical demands that must have been placed upon Scott and his team.

‘More importantly, I am aware of the huge mental demands that must have been placed upon them.’

The team recently sailed from Chile in the 75ft yacht Australis and crossed the infamous Drake Passage to the Antarctic Peninsula.

Despite some delays and location changes due to severe weather and ice, they are now on the peninsula and following Scott’s model to set up a base from which to mount exploration and conduct forays into remote areas of the icy continent.

Lt Cdr Hart said: ‘Like Scott’s men, we face the ever-present threat of huge crevasses, violent storms that come without a moment’s notice and the constant biting cold. These things are without respite and so when I think of what Scott and his team did in their rudimentary garb and with their limited comforts, I am ever more overawed by their achievements.’

The explorers will conduct research of the Peninsula Arm of Antarctica, which is warming faster than anywhere else on the planet.

The data they collect will be used by academics investigating global warming.

The team plans to make ascents of previously unclimbed mountains, which they will get the honour of naming.

HMS Queen Elizabeth returning to Portsmouth. Picture: Mike Parry

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Lt Cdr Hart said he was in a ‘state of tension between excitement and trepidation’ ahead of setting off today on a three-week trek to manually haul the science equipment across to the far side of the Antarctic Peninsula.

It comes as staff at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard lead tributes to Captain Scott at midday today by laying a wreath at the foot of a statue of the great explorer which was sculpted by his widow Lady Kathleen Scott in 1915 to commemorate his journey to the South Pole, and his death on March 29, 1912, at the age of 43.

Team will help global warming research

THE British Services Antarctic Expedition 2012 will help scientists investigating the effects of global warming on the planet.

The tri-service team, which includes Lt Col Pete Davis, will push out into previously-uncharted areas of the Antarctic Peninsula to take temperatures and ice samples.

The results will be used by scientists investigating the phenomena of the variations in climates and temperatures in peninsulas.

Using state-of-the-art global positioning system (GPS) units, the team will also set up a satellite tracking system to measure how much tectonic plates are shifting as the weight of the ice shelf on the surface decreases.

The GPS data will provide unique measurements of the movement of the Earth’s crust in response to present and past ice mass changes. At the time of the last ice age around 20,000 years ago, the Antarctic Peninsula’s surface was depressed by a large weight of ice. Since then, the weight of ice has significantly reduced but at a rate that is not yet well known.

The team are also wearing UV patches which measures UV radiation. This will develop understanding of how ozone concentration, weather conditions and altitude affect UV exposure at the surface.