Monday, December 17, 2012

Antarctica 2012: New Expeditions Hit The Ice

Following another busy weekend in the Antarctic, it looks like this pre-holiday week is shaping up to be eventful once again at the bottom of the world. The skiers that we've been following are continuing to make steady progress, while two more expeditions will get underway today. The next few weeks should prove very interesting, as the explorers begin to zero in on 90ºS.

We'll start with Aaron Linsdau, who has now been out on the ice for 44 days and continues to have to battle a number of different challenges. The young American who hoped to make a round trip journey from Hercules Inlet to the Pole and back has faced equipment failure, slow progress and poor weather almost since his first day on the trail. Most of those things continue to dog him, although you can add sore feet to the list as well. Additionally, Aaron estimates that he currently has about nine days worth of food on him and 60 miles (96 km) to cover before he reaches his next cache. If the weather takes a turn for the worse, or he struggles to cover significant distances, his food could begin to run short very quickly. He has been knocking off 10+ (16+ km) per day of late, but this is still a cause for concern none the less. Aaron did achieve a new milestone however as he passed the 84th parallel on Saturday.

Vilborg Arna Gissurardóttir has been quietly and efficiently going about her business, knocking of 20 km (12.4 miles) per day with remarkable regularity. For the most part she has remained very upbeat and focused on her goal of becoming the first woman from Iceland to ski solo and unsupported to the South Pole. But today's dispatch indicates that the long days alone out on the ice may be starting to get to her. She admitted that it was difficult to stay motivated today and she was homesick for the first time on the expedition. She was able to muster through and reach her distance goal, but it wasn't an easy day at all. This could be an issue in the week ahead as the realization sets in that she's all alone for the holidays while friends and family are home celebrating. It can be a lonely time for the skiers.

While Aaron and Vilborg continue their march towards the bottom of the world, two more adventurers are preparing to set out at last. Richard Parks indicated that ALE had given him the green light for a flight out to Union Glacier today and if the weather forecasts have held, as of this writing, he should already be in transit or actually on the ice. After having a major issue with his gear not being shipped, Richard was able to get a member of his support team back in the U.K. to fly down and personally deliver his kit over the weekend. With a borrowed pulk from the ALE team, he will now set out from Hercules Inlet tomorrow, after spending the rest of the day today getting his equipment organized and packed today.

Parks will be eager to get underway and start knocking off the mileage. He had built some extra days into his schedule to allow for some padding in case of extremely bad weather, slow progress or other delays. Thanks to the gear shipping snafu however, those days are pretty much all gone and he'll now have to stay focused on reaching 90ºS at all times. He is more than up to the task, but his margin of error has narrowed considerably. 

Also setting out today is Eric Larsen, who will be riding his bike to the South Pole. The veteran polar explorer will also get underway from Hercules Inlet and if time and weather are permitting, he would like to pedal back to the starting point as well. Prior to boarding the airplane to Antarctica this morning, Eric was shaving his head for the journey. He says that this is a pre-expedition ritual that he has gone through for the past ten years, as it definitely make it easier to keep clean while on the move. I'm sure it also holds some psychological significance as he mentally prepares himself for the challenges ahead as well.

Eric and Richard will be on the same ALE flight to Union Glacier this morning and will likely be on the same flight to Hercules Inlet tomorrow. Expect both to begin sharing dispatches in the next few days. Good luck to both men and for a profile of Eric from Outside Television, check out the video below. 


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