Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Antarctica 2013: The South Pole Beckons

It is Christmas Eve across the globe today and while most of prepare to spend time with friends and family, the teams in the Antarctic continue to press on towards their goals. For some, the South Pole is now in sight, promising rest and respite from the trials that have led them there. While there are still miles to go before they sleep, it seems that success will be in their grasp at long last.

The Scott Expedition isn't amongst those teams of course. For them, the South Pole is the halfway point of a journey that has tested them at every step. They've now been out on the ice for two months as they follow in the footsteps of famed explorer Robert Falcon Scott. Ben and Tarka have now entered the last degree however, and reaching 90ºS will still be a major milestone for them none the less. The boys have started to pick up speed as they've shed weight from their sleds. And while they still have a long way to go until they are done (970 miles/1561 km), they can take some solace in knowing that soon they'll make the turn for home and will be heading down hill too.

Also closing in on the Pole is Aussie Geoff Wilson. He's been kite skiing to 90ºS and is edging ever closer. His goal was to be there by Christmas and it looks like he still has a chance, although he fully admits he is nearly at the end of his rope. The long expedition, now 40 days in length, has really started to take its toll and he is completely exhausted after 13 hours of skiing yesterday. Still, if the winds are favorable, there is a good chance he'll reach the finish line today or tomorrow.

Richard Parks is now 19 days into his attempt at the speed record, which now seems far out of reach. He is covering excellent distances at this point of the expedition, but with just five days to go until the previous record passes him by, he'll need to average 86.2 km (53.5) miles per day to have a chance. That is simply not possible. Still, Richard is on track to reach the Pole in a very impressive time, and should probably be there early in the New Year.

Daniel Burton is pressing forward with his attempt to ride his mountain bike to the South Pole. He is still having a difficult time with surface conditions, high winds, and whiteouts. But, he also had a great day a few days back, covering 24 miles (38.8 km). That's a new personal best and the kind of effort it is going to take for him to reach the finish line. He estimates it could take him another month to reach the Pole, and while he struggles with pressing on each day, he feels like he has it in him to get there.

Parker Liautaud and Doug Stoup have completed their expedition to the South Pole. The duo arrived at that point earlier today, bringing an end to their 506 km (314 mile) expedition. Parker, who is a veteran polar explorer at the age of 19, is now the youngest person to ski to both the North and South Pole. They'll now spend a couple of days at the Pole before hopping a flight back to Union Glacier, and eventually home. Congratulations to both Parker and Doug on a job well done!

Finally, Lewis Clarke is attempting to set an age record of his own. The 16-year old is on his way to the Pole as well, and would be the youngest to reach that point. He's going to have to struggle for the next few days however, as he broke one of his skis and will be walking for two days until a supply drop can bring him a replacement. That will slow progress some, although he and his guide Carl Alby are doing quite well. As of today, they have crossed 328.7 miles (529 km) and have 374.2 miles (602 km) left to go. That means they are just shy of the halfway point.

That's all for today. Happy holidays to all of the Antarctic explorers. Stay warm and focused.

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