Four Spanish Polar explorers have become the first people in the world to undertake an expedition in Antarctica — using only the wind to carrying over two tons of equipment.
Recuperating in Cape Town for a few days, before departing for their home country, the four spoke to SABC about their extraordinary, historic journey.
It’s a warm day in the Mother City. Strolling along in the Company’s Garden are four exceptional men. They’re enjoying the sight of Table Mountain, lush greenery and a warm breeze. This is a world away from what the explorers endured a few weeks ago – the never ending white landscape and the temperature of 40 degrees Celcius below zero.
Explorer Manuel Olivera says “Temperatures were going down almost daily. You have to be ready, you have to be prepared every day, you have to think about what to dress before leaving the tent. It’s very important you know any mistake can have very important consequences.”
Their 52-day journey, trekking over 2500 kilometres on the Antarctic interior, was done harnessing the power of the wind only. They became the first people to use a sled carrying an enormous load of over two tons pulled by massive kites – proving that exploration can be done in a green way.
Project member, Ignacio Oficialdegui says “Without any doubt we have a solution, we have an alternative to the current model of transportation and doing things in one of the most important places that we still have in the planet.”
Inspired by the ancient sleds of the Inuit people of the Arctic regions, the Windsled is the brainchild of Ramon Larramendi.
The design allowed the team to carry equipment to do scientific work on behalf of a number of institutions. Larramendi has been working on the design and concept for more than 20 years.
“You feel really proud and satisfied because it’s 20 years of work come to an end and it’s almost a lifetime; and at the same time you feel exhausted it was really 2 months in the middle of Antarctica. Temperatures minus 30, minus 40 all the time. Conditions are really hard and then we are excited to go home and forget for a little while and really really relax.”
The sled reached speeds of up to 30 kilometres per hour, demanding absolute concentration and focus from the team.
Gruelling, but unforgettable. Project member, Hilo Moreno explains, “It was absolutely real exploration in a part of Antarctica that is completely unexplored. For me it’s very special to be there…”
Larramendi hopes that more expeditions will make use of this method in future — helping humankind to understand its home better without causing harm.