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The Coldest Journey ship moors at London Bridge

SA Agulhas. Photo: London Tonight

The Coldest Journey's ice-strengthened expedition ship, the SA Agulhas, will be coming up the Thames from Canary Wharf and up through Tower Bridge before mooring alongside HMS Belfast at London Bridge.

Big, red, and with Seeing is Believing written along each side, the SA Agulhas is hard to miss.

The Coldest Journey expedition, led by Sir Ranulph Fiennes, the world's greatest living explorer, aims to complete the first ever transantarctic crossing during the polar winter, whilst raising money for Seeing is Believing, a global charitable initiative tackling avoidable blindness.

The SA Agulhas will be moored at London Bridge until 6 December, when she departs destined for South Africa where she will be met by Sir Ranulph Fiennes, and fellow Ice Team members, Brian Newham, Ian Prickett, Spencer Smirl, Richmond Dykes and Dr Robert Lambert, just before Christmas.

After further preparations early next year, the expedition will begin on 21 March 2013 at the winter equinox, as the team start their six-month journey to cross Antarctica.

The ship arrived in Canary Wharf on Thursday 29 November to be loaded with vital equipment and supplies for the expedition, including two 20-tonne modified Cat® D6N track-type tractors, two cabooses - one which will act as living quarters and one which will be a hub for scientific research - scientific equipment, fuel sleds, specially heated clothing and Antarctic cold weather gear, and a variety of food supplies.

The Antarctic expedition route from the Crown Bay, Dronning Maud Land, to Captain Scott's base at McMurdo Sound - via the South Pole - is a significant challenge.

During this six-month period the expedition team will travel nearly 2,000 miles, mostly in complete darkness and in temperatures potentially nearing minus 90°C.

The expedition team will be entirely self-sufficient, with search and rescue capabilities significantly constrained as aircraft may not be able to operate in hostile winter conditions.

Sir Ranulph will complete the expedition on skis and will be accompanied by alternate members of the Ice Team.

The team will conduct a number of scientific experiments whilst on the ice, including helping to measure the effects of global climate change on the polar ice caps during Antarctic winter.

The research will, among other things, measure the thickness of the ice, map features of the ice during winter, and sample for bacteria to see what can survive in the extremely cold temperatures.

As well as raising awareness and vital funds for our chosen charity, Seeing is Believing, this is a unique opportunity to carry out a number of scientific tasks in the extreme polar environment, which will make a significant contribution to our understanding of the true effects of global warming on the Antarctic continent. Seeing is Believing is a cause very dear to me.

Having experienced temporary snow blindness myself in the past, I've had a glimpse into what it would be like to lose my sight. It's absolutely frightening.

For as little as $30, someone's sight can be restored through a cataract operation. I was moved by the challenge of eliminating avoidable blindness and I wanted to be a part of it.

The Coldest Journey has the potential to make a real impact towards the goal of eliminating avoidable blindness around the world.

– Sir Ranulph Fiennes