Nov. 14, 2013 at 9:26 AM ET
Prince Harry and a group of wounded service members launched a charity expedition to the South Pole on Thursday from London’s Trafalgar Square.
The prince will join one of three teams leaving this weekend for a 200-mile race across the Antarctic Plateau to raise awareness of Walking with the Wounded, an organization to help people injured in military service of which Harry is a patron.
Nearly all of the prince's American and British teammates are military veterans who were injured in combat, although each team will also include a celebrity. "True Blood" star Alexander Skarsgard will serve as an ambassador on the U.S. team, while English actor Dominic West ("The Wire") will play the same role on the British Commonwealth team. Harry, an Army pilot who has served multiple tours in Afghanistan, will join the third group, from the United Kingdom.
On Wednesday, team members met with Queen Elizabeth at a Buckingham Palace reception held in their honor. The queen appeared relaxed while meeting with the veterans, joking with them in a receiving line. She asked one whether the group had trained in refrigerators.
She also examined the snowsuit team members will be wearing on their chilly trek.
At one point, Harry heralded the courage of his teammates. While standing behind his grandmother, he also revealed his nickname for the matriarch.
“I shared a tent with him, Granny — that’s incredibly brave,” he said, drawing chuckles.
The group will depart London for Cape Town, South Africa, on Sunday, and head on to Antarctica two days later. Team members will then spend time acclimating to the altitude and frigid conditions — they will face 50 mph winds and temperatures as low as 50 below zero. The expedition will begin Nov. 30, with the teams hoping to reach the South Pole by Dec. 16.
The group will trudge through 9 to 12 miles of packed ice and snow each day of their 200-mile expedition.