Monday, November 19, 2012

Antarctica 2012 Update: Weather Improves At Last

If you've been following my regular updates on the progress of the explorers in Antarctica you no doubt know that the weather has been less than kind so far. Things did improve some over the weekend however, making it possible for Aaron Linsdau to finally start making some progress, while giving another South Pole skier the window she needed to get underway.

Aaron has continued to post daily updates on his progress, which up until now has been painfully slow.  High winds, whiteouts and blizzards have made things extremely difficult for the 24-year old American who is hoping to ski from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole and back again. On top of that, surface conditions have also been poor, preventing him from actually skiing. Instead he's has to travel on foot so far, which has limited the amount of mileage that has been able to cover. This past weekend however, the weather took a turn for the better and wind conditions calmed down some. As a result, Linsdau was able to knock off more than 4 nautical miles (7.4 km) on successive days. That may still not seem like a lot, but for Aaron it is definitely significant progress.

Things haven't all been great for him however. He managed to break his snow shovel while digging out his tent, which will likely prove to be very frustrating in the days ahead. On one occasion it took him 2.5 hours to dig out his shelter, which had been buried in snow following 40-50 knot winds, and that was before the shovel broke. Now it's going to take even longer to accomplish those tasks, although he does have a plan to try to repair the tool.


Reading Aaron's daily dispatches give everyone a good indication of what it is like to attempt this kind of journey to the South Pole. You can feel his frustration as he wants to go faster, but simply can't just yet. Dealing with equipment failures and challenges seems par for the course as well, as he's even had to set up his solar panels inside his tent in order to collect any power. If left outside, the winds would have destroyed the panels and Aaron knows that they are his lifeline at the moment. Sometimes we take for granted what these adventurous people are doing in the Antarctic, but these dispatches will give you a healthy dose of reality very quickly.

The shift in weather has allowed Vilborg Arna Gissurardóttir to launch her solo and unsupported ski expedition to the South Pole as well. The 25-year old from Iceland is hoping to become the first woman from her home country to make such a journey and it'll be interesting to see if she finds similar conditions to what Aaron has been experiencing. Vilborg arrived at Union Glacier on Saturday and will likely spend a few days getting organized before hopping a flight to Hercules Inlet for her start. Look for that to happen tomorrow or Wednesday.

That's about all there is to report as we launch into a new week. Other South Pole adventurers will soon be en route and the season will really pick up steam, but for now it is just the early-birds out on the ice and hoping to make progress.

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