Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Antarctica 2013: Richard Parks Attempting Speed Record To The Pole

Just like clockwork, the 2013 Antarctic season appears to be ramping up right on schedule. We already know that the Scott Expedition is off and running, but soon they'll have company out on the ice. Veteran adventurer Richard Parks will soon embark on a solo expedition to the South Pole and he hopes to do so in record time.

Parks left the U.K. on Monday of this week and should be in Punta Arenas now. He is no doubt resting, sorting his gear and preparing for the flight to Union Glacier for the start of his speed attempt. He will be taking on the daunting task of trying to beat Christian Eide's speed record for traveling 1150 ki from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole, a distance of 1,150 km (715 mile), that was set in 2011. At the time, Eide managed to make that journey in an astounding 24 days, 1 hour and 13 minutes. To do that, he had to average 47 km (29 miles) per day, which anyone who knows anything about Antarctic travel will tell you is an insane pace. Parks hopes to go faster.

Richard has set a goal of completing his journey to the South Pole in 23 days. That means he'll have to average 50 km (31 miles) per day, which doesn't sound like a lot more but those extra kilometers it can really wear on someone day in and day out, particularly when they are dragging a heavy sled behind them the entire way.

If all goes as expected and the weather cooperates, he hopes to begin the expedition in mid-November. That means he has a couple of weeks to rest and prepare before heading out on the ice. I'll certainly be following his progress once he gets going.

Meanwhile, the aforementioned Scott Expedition continues to make progress, albeit at a slow pace. They boys have been on the trail for just five days but pulling the heavy sleds have made it tough so far. Their pace has dropped to as little as 1 km (.6 miles) per hour as they slog through powdery snow when they would prefer to be on hard pack. On top of that, the weather has taken a turn and gotten colder (-40ÂșC/F this morning!) and windier. They're now getting a real taste of what it is like to travel in Antarctica.

This was all to be expected of course and that's the reason Ben and Tarka set off early in the first place. It is also not uncommon for polar travelers to struggle early on, then find their groove once they've had a chance to acclimatize to the conditions. I suspect that will be the case here as well.

That's all for today. I'll update the progress of both of these expeditions as we get word and I'll post more starts as they come.

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