Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Antarctica 2013: Waiting Is The Hardest Part

The 2013 Antarctic expedition season continues to ramp up as expected. As we near the end of the November, the number of teams that are preparing to hit the ice continues to grow as well. It is beginning to look like it will be another very busy season at the bottom of the world and soon there will be numerous teams skiing across the ice. For now though, there remain just a few in the field as weather continues to be the key factor as to when these teams can officially get underway.

The one man who is watching the weather very closely is Richard Parks. He updated his blog yesterday, sharing some insights into what he is planning for his attempt at a speed record for skiing from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole. At the moment, Richard remains at Union Glacier where he is watching the weather very closely and plotting his next move. The weather for flying to Hercules looks to be improving, but he is also hoping for good conditions for the start of his expedition so that he can pass through a dangerous crevasse field without battling the elements along the way. Right now he is estimating that he'll fly to his starting point on Friday or Saturday of this week, then assess the weather again before deciding when he'll get underway. Patience is the name of the game at the moment, but waiting is not always easy on a person both physically and psychologically. 

There are a host of other adventurers who are waiting to start their expeditions as well, but most of them are still stuck in Punta Arenas, Chile. That includes the likes of Chris and Marty Fagan, who have spent their first few days in the warehouse at ALE getting their gear and supplies organized. Veteran polar explorer Antony Jinman is now in Punta as well and will be going through the same process before he begins his expedition to 90ºS. South Pole cyclists Daniel Burton is there as well and waiting for word on when he can begin. His bike was expected to arrive yesterday and it'll take some time to get it rebuilt and set-up for the expedition ahead. After that, he'll be ready to get underway. Daniel is hoping to become the first person to ride a bike to the South Pole. 

Ben Saunders and Tarka L'Herpiniere of the Scott Expedition are experiencing some good conditions at the moment. They continue to knock off solid mileage each day as they continue their journey to the Pole, and eventually back to their starting point along the coast. They report warm temperatures (relatively speaking of course), low winds and a smooth surface right now, which is making their progress much smoother. They've also passed through the third week of their expedition, which is often when teams begin to hit their stride. To put things in perspective however, they still have 1588 miles (2555 km) to go before they are done. 

Aussie Geoff Wilson is off and moving as well. He's actually kiting to the South Pole and not simply skiing as previously reported. So far conditions have been challenging for him but he is now starting to make progress. Early on, the winds were too high to be safe and as a result he ended up spending four days stranded in a tent. He's eager to get back on the trail today however and hopefully start to make some real progress. Using a kite to catch the wind can be very effective and it is possible for kiters to knock off large chunks of mileage in a given day. Without the wind however, they are reduced to skiing just like everyone else. Lets hope Geoff can really get going now. 

It is an exciting time in Antarctica at the moment. There are so many teams lining up right now that we will soon have a steady flow of news and progress reports. It looks like it'll be a good year at the bottom of the world with lots of exciting action to follow. More to come soon. 

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