Friday, December 06, 2013
Antarctica 2013: Speed Attempt Round 2 Underway And Blue Ice On Beardmore
As expected, Richard Parks relaunched his bid to set a new speed record for skiing from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole yesterday. He reports that he faced a strong headwind for most of the day, and of course he is skiing up hill at the moment. Still, Parks managed to cover 31.5 km (19 miles), which is a solid start for his speed attempt. He'll need to pick up the pace in the days ahead, but for now he seems content with his progress. Just 1118.5 km (696 miles) to go and the clock continues to tick.
Jumping over to the Beardmore Glacier, the Scott Expedition has been forced to abandon their skis for now and don crampons instead. They've hit a large expanse of blue ice, which is incredibly hard and smooth, leaving no traction for the skis. It has made pulling the sleds a lot easier, as they effortlessly glide across the ice at the moment. The team started at along the coast at 43 meters (141 ft) above sea level, but have now climbed up to 1014 meters (3326 ft) as they continue to make their way up to the Antarctic Plateau. They've now been out on the ice for 43 days and still have about 2092 km (1300 miles) to go on their round-trip journey to the South Pole and back to the coast.
Aussie Geoff Wilson was dismayed to discover the promised winds have not appeared as predicted. You may recall that he is kite skiing to the South Pole and had hoped to be making great progress on that journey, but unpredictable winds have stymied his attempts so far, leaving him no choice but to ski along like everyone else. The doldrums continued today with practically no wind to assist him, which is disheartening for Wilson, who may not reach his goal if the winds don't turn in his favor. Sadly, the forecast doesn't look great in that regard for the next few days either. Geoff also reports that he had a call on his sat phone from Faysal Hanneche, who was also attempting to kite to the Pole. It turns out Faysal has injured his knee in a fall during the high winds of a few days back and won't be able to continue his expedition. Details are scarce at the moment, but it seems he'll be evacuated from the ice as soon as possible.
The three teams racing in the 2013 South Pole Allied Challenge get a much needed break today. This is their first mandatory rest day in which all teams must take 24 hours off before resuming their race to the South Pole. This is day 5 of the expedition and they still have 10 or 11 days to go before they are done. They happen to be well ahead of all of the other skiers because they started their journey at the 87th degree, rather than along the coast. Still, they are making good time and progress has been steady, if exhausting, for the skiers so far.
South Pole cyclist Daniel Burton continues to struggle. Yesterday he was battered by katabatic winds that made it nearly impossible for him to make much progress. With that in mind, he set up camp early and tried to stay out of those winds as best he could. Later in the day, when they had died down, he resumed his ride, albeit at a painfully slow pace. Once he hits the plateau, things should improve somewhat, but until then it is an uphill battle.
Finally, 16-year old Lewis Clarke has been making steady progress on his attempt to become the youngest person to ever ski the full length to the Pole. He and his guide, Carl Alvey wont' be setting any speed records, but they are putting in the miles they need to complete the journey in a reasonable time. So far they've been covering 21 km (13 miles) per day as they struggle up to the plateau as well. They should pick up the pace nicely once they reach that point and again as they get closer to their destination. Good weather has been on their side so far though and we all know that won't last for long in Antarctica.
That's all from the frozen continent for today. I'll update again next week as the news merits it.