Polar Explorer Eric Larsen believes, “…modern expeditions are less about geographic firsts and more about story telling.” And boy does he have a story to tell. He plans to complete a world’s-first bicycle journey across the Antarctic continent, covering nearly 750 miles, from Hercules Inlet on the coast of Antarctica to the Geographic South Pole. Then, if conditions permit, he will cycle the 750 miles back to the coast again. Eric says, “The goal of the Cycle South expedition is to combine adventure and advocacy to demonstrate the many ways in which people can use a bicycle to protect our environment as well as improve the quality of our lives”. His expedition will also raise money for several bicycle-themed advocacy groups (Parkinson’s Disease, Climate Change, Bicycle Accessibility and Developing Nation Bicycle Donations).
In the 100-year history of South Pole traverses, expeditions have employed various types of vehicles including tractors, trucks, solar-powered snowmobiles, bio-inspired vehicles, and more, but never has a traverse been completed on a bicycle. The only previous attempt that we are aware of was made in the early 2000’s, by an Australian using a custom, home-built bicycle. Unfortunately, soft snow conditions forced him to abort his trip only a few days after it began.
Other past bike expeditions include Doug Stoup’s ‘test run’ of a specially-built ice bike in January 2003. Stoup covered 200 miles in the Heritage Range of the Ellsworth Mountains. Last year, BBC’s Helen Skelton used a similar bike on her multi-sport Antarctic expedition, reaching the South Pole on January 22, 2012. Her methods of travel included 329 miles (eight days) of kite skiing, 68 miles (three days) of skiing, and 103 miles (seven days) of biking.
Larsen was dropped off by ALE at Hercules Inlet yesterday and began cycling south right away. He is riding a Surly Moonlander bike outfitted with special tires that are 4.8 inches (12.1 cm) wide. The rugged frame and fat tires will allow him, he hopes, to ride over the ice and snow more smoothly and survive the rough sastrugi that are so common in the Antarctic. He’ll be carrying most of his gear and supplies in panniers and pick up several caches along the route.
Follow Eric’s expedition: www.ericlarsenexplore.com/updates/