News that the expedition bidding to make polar history by crossing Antarctica in winter had been abandoned because of ‘difficult terrain and technical challenges’ has been greeted with a mixture of sadness and relief by the team at William Twigg Matlock Ltd whose engineers have played a key role in the heroic venture.
Steel specialists headed by the company’s Bakewell Road works manager, Alan Boden, designed and built the steel ‘skoots’ (sledges) which have been carrying vital fuel to power the giant tractors hauling the expedtion’s living quarters, scientific equipment and essential supplies.
Twigg’s director Richard Tarbatt said this week: “To say that we share the disappointment of the expedition members is an understatement but we have been following the progress of the ice team very carefully and it clear that they have faced some amazing challenges.
“The five-man team has battled temperatures as low as minus 50 degrees, mostly in complete darkness, while crossing terrain pitted with deep crevasses which could easily swallow the tractors and are almost impossible to spot.
“Everyone at Twigg’s feels that it is better to be safe than sorry. While we are saddened by the decision to abandon the attempt, we are relieved that everyone is safe. Expedition leader Brian Newham has told us that he considers it would be reckless and irresponsible to press on.”
Staff at Twigg’s have sent a message of commiseration to the ice team but, says Richard, have been heartened by the knowledge that their skoots have proved their worth since the expedition set off in March.
“As far as we know, they have been a great success,” said Richard. “They say a great deal about the expertise of our engineering team.”
Latest news from the icecap is that the expedition will not withdraw immediately but will concentrate on planned ground-breaking scientific research.
Though the attempt to cross Antarctica has failed, the expedition that was originally led by Sir Ranulph Fiennes before frostbite forced him to fly home, has earned a place in the history books.
Since March, the team has covered over 300 kilometres and climbed from sea level to almost 3,000 metres up the polar plateau - the furthest distance and longest period that any expedition has travelled in the polar winter months.