Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Coldest Journey Update: Still Stranded As Sun Returns At Last

Remember the Coldest Journey expedition? It was the much vaunted attempt to cross Antarctica on skies in the winter, when the continent becomes one of the most inhospitable environments on the planet. When the expedition got underway this past March, it was with the anticipation that the team of explorers made up of Brits Brian Newham, Ian Prickett, Richmond Dykes, Rob Lambert and Spencer Smirl would traverse the Antarctic by way of the South Pole, covering some 4000 km (2485 miles) along the way. By June, that goal had become a distant memory however, as bad weather, incredibly difficult surface conditions and dangerous crevasses prevented the men from making the steady progress they had hoped. As a result, they put a halt to their journey and elected to set up camp and wait for a plane to come pick them up once spring had arrived. Two months later, they're still waiting for that plane, although they have had their first glimpse of things starting to turn in their favor.

For the past two months the team has essentially been camped in the same spot while they've waited for the winter to pass. During that time they have continued to focus on the scientific aspects of the expedition which consist of taking various weather readings to measure the impact of climate change on the environment in the Antarctic. While they haven't been able to make any progress forward or back, they are still going about the business of collecting data for ongoing research.

There was a glimmer of hope on the horizon this past week however as the sun has shown itself for the first time in weeks. During the Antarctic winter the days get increasingly shorter until the sun dips below the horizon altogether and the continent is shrouded in darkness. But that long night has come to an end at last and the sun has begun appearing above the horizon for the first time in quite awhile. The days may not be all that long just yet, but it is a start. And for this embattled crew, it is also the first sign that spring is approaching. That could mean that there is a light at the end of the tunnel for these five men who have been in Antarctica for a really long time.

We're still probably a couple of months away from any kind of evacuation taking place but the return of the sun is a good sign for these men. After weeks in nearly complete darkness, they'll now have some daylight to help bolster their spirits and mood. I'm sure at the moment they feel a bit like the expedition that the world has forgotten about, but optimism comes with the sun.

Hand in there boys! Spring will be here before you know it.

2 comments:

Jennifer Arnett said...

What an incredible test of patience, to sit in darkness for several months. I wonder how they had enough supplies for that amount of time unaided.

Kraig Becker said...

The team traveled with a couple of large tractors that pulled big pulks filled with supplies. The only way they could get insurance to cover the expeditions was to go with this approach. It was too dangerous otherwise.

So, they've had plenty of supplies and shelter, they just couldn't make any progress. They definitely needed plenty of patience as you point out Jennifer.