Veteran British explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes is leading an expedition to cross Antarctica next autumn and winter, with the aim of reaching McMurdo Sound near Scott Base by the spring of 2013.
Sir Ranulph and five others will attempt to become the first people to walk 4000km across the continent in darkness amid temperatures as low as minus 90 degrees.
Their ''Coldest Journey'' will raise funds for a global charity as well as collect scientific data.
The expedition from the Russian base of Novolazareskaya to the Ross Sea, is due to begin on 21 March and is expected to take six months.
Loaded with supplies and equipment, the icebreaker SA Agulhas departed London on Thursday for South Africa, where Sir Ranulph, 68, and his companions will join the crew for the last leg of their journey.
During the voyage south, team members will obtain data on marine life, oceanography and meteorology. The expedition has been in the planning stages for years.
"The idea came up about 4½ years ago,'' said Sir Ranulph. ''We started approaching the Foreign Office for permission to go and we finally got it 10 days ago."
The SA Agulhas is carrying a giant crane to lift some 200 tonnes of equipment onto the ice of Antarctica.
The BBC reports the expedition consists of three huge industrial sledges - each with a modified shipping container placed on top.
Inside two of them are living quarters, and supplies. In the third, a science lab. Behind these there will be another 14 smaller sledges, each transporting fuel.
That will power two bulldozers that have been specially re-equipped.
Two skiers will lead the way, pulling a small ground-penetrating radar system that will help them locate crevices.
There's enough food for each of the six-person team to last 365 days if it's necessary. They hope it won't be.
Their supplies include:
165 rolls of toilet paper (12 sheets per man per day)
20kg of dried egg
7300 tea bags
4400 packets of soup
230kg of chocolate
600 metres of rope
15 pairs of boxer shorts per man
Boots with electrically-heated insoles
The food consists of specialist dried fruits, sports nutrition products, and normal dried foods like lasagne. Tins cannot be taken with them as they would freeze and burst.
Everything they take with them will be removed from the ice at the end of the expedition, including human waste.