Despite having broken two world records, the decision to stop 350 miles short of Scott base, their goal, was not taken lightly by two explorers whose strength of purpose has epitomised a peculiarly British pioneering spirit.
The two men are suffering from severe frostbite and have lost more than a third of their body weight during the 95-day trek in temperatures which sometimes plummeted to minus 40C. Sir Ranulph, who lost one toe to frostbite on a previous adventure, was troubled by a deeply infected foot which refused to respond to antibiotics.
By the beginning of this week, both were guaranteed places in the record books: They had walked 1,272 miles in 88 days with no back-up; a second record came when they reached the edge of the Antarctic land mass on Sunday.
Sir Ranulph said before the journey: 'I am not going to walk across the Antarctic for three months because I want to. I do it because that's what the people who read books about travel adventures or read newspaper accounts of expeditions or watch us on television dictate.'
But last night he decided there were some lengths to which he could not go to please his public. The two men, who are on the Ross ice shelf, are to be airlifted to safety by a Twin Otter aircraft.
They will then undergo extensive tests to complete their scientific research into the effects of the gruelling polar conditions and the stress caused by extreme temperatures on the human body.
The explorers hope to raise up to pounds 2m for the Multiple Sclerosis Society. John Walford, the society's general secretary, said last night: 'We salute these incredibly brave men who have taken themselves to the very limits of human endurance.'Reuse content