Friday, January 18, 2013

Antarctica 2012: Vilborg At The Pole!

Yesterday was a big one for the three remaining South Pole skiers. All made positive progress – amidst struggles of course – and each of them can now see an end in sight. For one, that end came yesterday and for another it will likely come this weekend. The third still has a ways to go, but another milestone is in sight.

As expected, Icelandic solo-skier Vilborg Arna Gissurardóttir arrived at the South Pole yesterday after skiing for 60 total days. She posted a short and simple update on her blog announcing her arrival and her happiness for having completed the journey, but beyond that there isn't much news to be shared. We do know that in the final days of the expedition she was feeling a bit under the weather and I'm sure she is exhausted by her efforts. At this point, she is probably resting at the research station at the South Pole and waiting for a plane to come pick her up. That probably won't happen for another couple of days as another skier is closing in on the end as well.

That skier is Aaron Linsdau, who is now just 26 miles from the Pole. At his current speed, that would put him there on Sunday or Monday, depending on weather conditions. Yesterday he reported that the weather was good, with warm temperatures and relatively mild winds. The forecast says thats about to change however, so he may find it tough going over the final stretch.

Weather won't be the only challenge that Aaron will face in the next few days. He has found that more of his food supplies have gone bad after being left out in the sun and as a result, he doesn't have much to eat at the moment. For a man who has been out on the ice for nearly 80 days, that isn't good. From his dispatches it seems that he is exhausted, cold and hungry, which is completely understandable considering what he has been through on this expedition. I can't imagine the tremendous sense of relief that Aaron will feel upon reaching the Pole. No one has suffered as much as he has this Antarctic season.

Finally, Richard Parks had a roller coaster day yesterday as he continues his march to the Pole. When he set off in the morning it was under whiteout conditions and after just one hour of fighting for every inch of progress, he gave up and crawled back inside his tent for a rest. Fortunately the bad weather didn't last and later in the day he was able to resume his journey, covering 20 km (12 miles) in seven total hours of skiing. That progress helped lift his morale and put him in better spirits as he hit the trail once again this morning.

Richard indicated that he has started to move out of the sastrugi field that has slowed his pace and physically exhausted him in recent days. He mentioned that for the first time in awhile he was actually able to ski in a straight line, which was a major improvement over the surface conditions he has endured for the past week or so.

Parks is now closing in on the 88th degree, which is the next big milestone for his expedition. That still leaves him with two full degrees to cross before reaching the South Pole, but once the ice smooths out once again, we know that he is capable of covering longer distances in a relatively short time. He is starting to race the clock however, as the Antarctic season is starting to wind down. ALE's final flight of the season is scheduled for January 27, which is just a little more than a week away.

With Vilborg now finished and Aaron closing in, there will soon be little news to share from the Antarctic. It seems like it has been a relatively quiet season at the bottom of the world, but these explorers have been an inspiration none the less.

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