Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Antarctica 2013: More Expeditions Hit The Ice As Storms Continue To Cause Problems

After the long holiday weekend I'm back with some updates from the Antarctic. While I was away there have been some developments at the bottom of the world as more teams have hit the ice at last. But the weather window to deliver them to the frozen continent was a narrow one, as storms continue to cause problems across the region. So much so that many of the newcomers are finding it difficult to make much progress.

Perhaps the biggest news from this past weekend was the start of Richard Parks' attempt to set a new speed record for skiing from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole. Richard hopes to complete that distance in just 23 days, which would be an impressive feat indeed. But bad weather and poor surface conditions caused Parks to get off to a slower start than he intended and it soon became clear that he was already losing ground, even in the early stages of the expedition. Yesterday, Richard made the decision to return to Hercules and wait out the weather for a bit longer. He hopes to get a better window for his attempt soon so that he can make a serious run at the record. In the meantime, the folks at ALE will provide him with plenty of food and water while he waits so that he'll have his full supply for when he sets out for the South Pole once again.

16-year old Lewis Clarke has begun his South Pole attempt as well. He and his guide Carl Alvey were delivered to Hercules over the weekend and officially got underway yesterday. Lewis is attempting to become the youngest person to ever ski the full distance along the traditional route. He hopes to spend this first week on the ice finding his rhythm and getting into a groove. The early days of any Antarctic expedition are always tough and much of the time is spent skiing up hill, but once those early hurdles ae crossed, teams usually settle into a routine and hit their stride. Hopefully that will hold true for Lewis as well.

Daniel Burton, who is attempting to ride his bike to the South Pole, officially began his journey yesterday although he only covered a minimal distance. He'll have his first full day on the bike today as he begins the long, slow, painful slog up to the Antarctic Plateau as well. Pulling a heavy sled up hill can be challenging enough, but doing so on a bike is even more difficult. Throw in the fact that the storms have been dropping plenty of fresh powder on the starting point, and Dan has some real challenges ahead. If he is successful, he could become the first person to ride the full distance to the South Pole. I say "could" because there are a couple of other riders making that attempt as well. We'll just have to sit and wait to see who will be the first to complete the journey.

Chris and Marty Fagan have launched their South Pole expedition as well. The husband and wife team are also skiing from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole, although they aren't attempting any kind of "first" nor are they seeking records. Instead these two endurance athletes are simply on the continent to add to their resumes and enjoy the adventure. They officially got underway today and seem to be in great spirits now that their journey has begun. Tomorrow will mark their first full day out on the ice.

Parker Liautaud's Willis Resilience Expedition gets underway today from Hercules Inlet as well. A veteran polar explorer at the age of just 19, Parker and his guide Doug Stoup will be skiing to the South Pole while also collecting samples of ice that can be used to explore the impact of climate change on the Antarctic. They have a support vehicle riding along with them that will also help take a series of scientific readings about the weather and climate on the continent as well.

Finally, Antony Jinman has launched his South Pole expedition as well after arriving at Hercules yesterday. He will now make a solo and unsupported journey by skis to 90ºS while also interacting with students from around the globe while he's traveling. Antony's goal is to teach young people about climate change and the impact it is having on the Poles, which will eventually have an effect on other parts of the world as well.

That's all for today. There are plenty of other things to report now that so many expeditions have started, but I'll save some for the next few days. It looks like it is going to be an exciting season in the Antarctic with lots of activity to cover.

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