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UK explorers follow Scott's footsteps in Antarctic record attempt

By Kellie Morgan, CNN
updated 12:29 PM EDT, Thu October 3, 2013
  • Tarka L'Herpiniere and Ben Saunders plan to walk 2,987km to the South Pole and back.
  • If the British explorers succeed, it will be the longest unsupported polar journey in history.
  • They will retrace the steps of Robert Scott, beaten to the Pole by rival Roald Amundsen.
  • There will be no dogs, no support team. Just two men with 200kg sleighs.

(CNN) -- Most of the great land expeditions in the world have already been conquered.

But British explorers Ben Saunders and Tarka L'Herpiniere are about to set off on one of the last.

The two-man team is heading to Antarctica to attempt to walk the 2,987 kilometer (1,800 mile) journey to the South Pole and back. If they succeed, it will be the longest unsupported polar journey in history.

They will be re-tracing the steps of Captain Robert Falcon Scott who had hoped to be become the first man to reach the South Pole.

It was only when the ill-fated British explorer arrived at the Pole in January 1912 that he found someone else had beaten him to it.

His rival Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen had claimed the honor 33 days earlier.

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"I can't imagine what their morale must have been turning around at the Pole, having found a Norwegian flag there, and having to walk all the way back to the coast," says Saunders.

Scott himself gives some insight to his feelings in the journal found with his body when it was discovered in November 2012 just 17.7km (11 miles) from a supply depot that could have saved his life.

"Great God! This is an awful place," he wrote.

It has been more than a century since Scott died on that return journey and while many have since visited the South Pole, no one has ever even attempted to walk the entire round trip without a support team.

"It just seemed to be hanging out there as a journey that ought to be finished," says Saunders, who will attempt the feat.

There will be no dogs, no support team. Just two men with 200kg sleighs walking across what Scott described as a "slough of despond."

A century on, Saunders and L'Herpiniere will still face the same brutal Antarctic conditions as Scott.

They will have to negotiate ever-changing glaciers riddled with crevasses where temperatures plunge as low as -50 degrees Celsius (-58 degrees Fahrenheit).

But what they will have is state-of-the-art equipment and technology.

"We have clothing, equipment, food and technology that Scott could never have dreamed of," says Saunders. "It actually has more in common with space flight than guys dragging wooden sleighs around."

The ability to communicate could not only be potentially life-saving, but will also allow Saunders to upload blogs, video and photographs to the Scott Expedition website throughout what he hopes will be a ground-breaking four-month journey.

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