Our thoughts may be turning to holidays and the New Year, but for expeditions in Antarctica, it’s another day of snow, wind and marching toward the Pole. Some teams have completed their treks, while others continue skiing south.
Arrived at South Pole
Sorpolen 1911-2011 completed the second-ever overland expedition from the Bay of Whales to the South Pole in 48 days, arriving at the Pole on December 14.
The South Pole Jubilee teams arrived at the South Pole in style on December 18, after 24 days of travel. Several of the party will continue beyond the Pole for a complete crossing of the continent, while the rest will fly back to ALE’s Union Glacier camp.
Asle Johansen’s South Pole 100 Years After expedition was picked up by ski aircraft, after altitude and other medical issues prevented them from continuing south.
The Thompson Reuters Eikon team made headlines when they arrived at the South Pole on December 20 in 39 hours 54 minutes – a new world record. The team are now re-tracing their route back to Union Glacier.
Felicity Aston arrived at the South Pole on December 20, on her quest to become the first woman in the world to cross Antarctica alone. She covered the 309 nm from the Ross Ice Shelf to the South Pole in 28 days and will pick up a re-supply at the Pole, before continuing her crossing to the Ronne Ice Shelf on the other side of Antarctica.
Still in the Field
The two Scott-Amundsen Centenary Race teams remain on move. After 44 days, the Scott team, led by Mark Langridge, made it to the top of the Beardmore Glacier. They camped early to enjoy the view back down the glacier for 50 miles. The Amundsen team, led by Henry Worsley, have left the Axel Heiberg Glacier behind. They took a rest day on December 19, glad to be in the tents with outside temperatures at -46C and 35 kt winds.
Four teams continue south on the “Messner Start” South Pole route.
The Hvitserk team are approaching 89 degrees and covering more than a quarter degree each day. So we may see them at the Pole by Christmas.
Richard Weber’s South Pole and Back – Ski and Kite expedition have passed the last of the big crevasses on their route and are approaching 88 degrees. Team member Chris Lapuente is struggling with an injured wrist and knee after taking a tumble on some hard ice.
Solo expedition Howard Fairbank passed 88 1/2 degrees on his 30th day in the field. In his December 20th blog, Howard muses on the physical and mental challenges of his expedition, as well ‘freedom’ life’s ‘prisons’ and ‘capitulation’.
ALE Ski South Pole Polarvision had a tough day on December 20, ‘falling around all day’ in total whiteout, big sastrugi, and strong winds. But the team are well prepared and steadily moving south at about 14 nm per day. They have picked up their re-supply at 87 1/2 degrees and are having a well deserved rest day today.
On the “Hercules Inlet” South Pole route, Aleksander Gamme has crossed 89 degrees and is going strong. If he keeps up his pace, he should be at the South Pole – his halfway point – in time for Christmas, then will begin his return journey to the coast.
Mark George has passed 85 degrees and despite soft snow that makes the going tough, he chooses to stay positive. His December 20th blog lists all of the things that give him strength. His song for the day, Wind Beneath My Wings.
Cas and Jonesy (Crossing the Ice) are nearing 88 degrees and covering a solid 14nm per day. The two Aussies are upbeat and positive, despite tricky snow and whiteout conditions over the past couple of days. They will deposit a cache at about 88 degrees (one of three caches for their return journey to the coast) and are looking forward to lighter sleds on their last leg to the Pole.
Mark Wood has passed 85 degrees and is more than halfway to the Pole, keeping a steady pace of 14-15 nm per day. Mark has had ongoing problems with his ski bindings, repairing first one, then the other. But he remains positive and hasn’t let it slow him down.
Albert Bosch is also keeping a consistent pace as he approaches 87 degrees. Bosch and his partner Carles Gel had a tough start to their expedition, spending nearly two weeks tent bound due to extreme cold and wind. Carles then suffered a strain to his left foot and was evacuated. Bosch opted to continue solo to the Pole and is now on track for a mid-January Pole arrival.
The Polar Explorers team have passed 84 degrees and are nearing Thiel Mountains. They are aiming to be at the South Pole by January 17, the centenary of Robert Falcon Scott’s arrival.