Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Antarctica 2013: More South Pole Skiers Hit The Ice

Now that the storms in Antarctica have subsided – at least for now – the regularly scheduled flights to the continent are underway and more skiers are hitting the ice to start their journeys to the South Pole. With the big Ilyushin aircraft reaching both the Union Glacier and Novo bases within the past few days, the 2013 Antarctic expedition season is in full swing at last with multiple expeditions preparing to head south, including a high profile speed attempt that should start today.

Richard Parks, the Brit who hopes to set a new speed record for skiing to the South Pole, should now be ready to begin that epic endeavor. He'll begin at Hercules Inlet and hopes to cross the 1150 km (715 mile) distance in just 23 days. Parks left Union Glacier two days ago and after a day of prepping gear and getting ready to start, he should be underway today. There has been no update yet on his official start, but I would anticipate confirmation soon. Once we get that notice, he'll have just over three weeks to reach his goal, which means he'll have to average about 30 miles per day en route. That's a pace that seems nearly impossible to maintain in the unpredictable Antarctic. I certainly wish him luck in this attempt however and will be cheering him on.

Meanwhile, the Novo Station welcomed two new arrivals yesterday. According to ExWeb,  Geoff Wilson and Faysal Hanneche were delivered to the Antarctic today and are now putting the final touches on their preparation before they launch their expeditions as well. Wilson is attempting a solo ski journey to the South Pole to raise funds for nurses that specialize in breast cancer back in his home country of Australia, while Hanneche will be kiteskiing to the Pole on his own as well. The Aussie left Novo yesterday but only went a short distance away from the base before setting up camp. I imagine he'll have his first full day out on the ice today or tomorrow.

ExWeb is also reporting that all of the gear for the upcoming Walking With The Wounded South Pole Race was delivered to Novo yesterday as well. The event will consist of three teams of wounded vets on a ski race to the Pole. One team is from the U.K., another from the U.S. and a third from the Commonwealth States. The participants will have a kick-off party in London tomorrow before heading out for Antarctica, but their gear will be flown to their starting points soon and will be waiting for them to arrive. The three teams will ski just the last three degrees on their way to the bottom of the world.

Finally, the Scott Expedition continues to press forward although it hasn't exactly been an easy start to their journey. Ben and Tarka are closing in on three weeks out on the ice and their spirits have risen and dropped from day to day depending on conditions and distances covered. Yesterday the sun came out, which made them feel better but the struggles of pulling heavy sleds, day-in and day-out, have taken their toll. Still, those sleds get a little lighter each day and as they make supply caches for their return trip, they sometimes get substantially lighter. They have a long way to go yet but the boys seem to have found a rhythm which will serve them well in the days ahead.

As a side note, if you haven't been reading the Scott Expedition blog posts, I'd definitely recommend them. Most days they answer questions from those of us who are following along at home and their answers can be quite interesting and enlightening. Many of them are about the logistics of Antarctic travel with some great information being shared directly from two guys who are out on the ice. It is hard to find better insights than that.

More to come soon.

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