Monday, January 28, 2013

Antarctica 2012: Richard Parks Back In Punta, Season Officially Done!

There isn't a whole lot to report on the Antarctic season which has now officially wrapped up for another year. Last week I reported that that Richard Parks had pulled the plug on his expedition when it became abundantly clear that he wasn't going to be able to reach the South Pole before the last flight departed for the season. As you can imagine, this was a difficult decision for Richard, who struggled hard, trained for months and planned for this expedition for years. Something that he discusses in his latest dispatch, which gives us some insights into the mind of an explorer once his expedition is done.

On Friday, Richard was retrieved from the ice and flew directly to Union Glacier, which is the arrival and departure point for most private visitors to the continent. Parks was only there for a short time however and he was quickly hustled onto a plane for a flight back to Punta Arenas, Chile, arriving there a few hours later. That meant that the solo-skier went from total isolation for 39 days to being back in the hustle and bustle of modern life in a matter of just ten hours or so. As you can imagine, this was a bit of shock to his system, as he adjusted from going without most modern conveniences and a steady supply of food for more than four weeks, only to be dropped back into the fray without much time to adjust.

Richard spent most of the weekend sleeping and adjusting to being back in civilization. He has a lot of gear sorting to get done before he heads home, but reading the dispatch it didn't seem that he was much in the mood for accomplishing that task. He appears to be in a post-expedition funk that comes when your adventure ends but you're not quite ready to give it up just yet. He is ready to go home to friends and family, but is also missing the challenges of living and moving through Antarctica.

As I said, this personal and moving post to his blog offers good insight into what goes through an explorers mind when his expedition unexpectedly comes to an end. Some of the feelings he is experienced are exasperated by the fact that he didn't accomplish everything he set out to do, despite his best efforts. Those are the kinds of feelings that tend to spur us on even harder in future endeavors.

I also wanted to follow up on the story I posted last week about the aircraft that went down in the Antarctic with three crew members on board. The Twin Otter airplane operated by Kenn Borek Air disappeared while making a routine flight from the South Pole to Terra Nova Bay, and due to bad weather search and rescue teams were unable to launch their efforts.

Over the weekend, the weather cleared and SAR teams from New Zealand were finally able to locate the aircraft. It had crashed near the summit of Mt. Elizabeth and we're told that the impact was not survivable. The three crew members perished in the accident. The plane was spotted from the air, but due to continued high winds, no one has actually been able to reach the crash site as of yet.

My condolences to the friends and family of those who were aboard.

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