Friday, January 31, 2014

Antarctica 2013: In the Shadow of Robert Falcon Scott

The end of the Antarctic expedition season draws near, and soon we will close the book on what has been a very active few months on the frozen continent. All of the teams have departed now, save the Scott Expedition, who continue to press on towards their finish line. They should wrap things up in about another week, but before then they must pass through the shadow of the namesake, as they approach the final resting spot of Robert Falcon Scott and the infamous One Ton Depot.

Ben Saunders and Tarka L'Herpiniere have now been out on the ice for an astounding 99 days. Their journey from the Ross Ice Shelf to the South Pole, and back again, will go down in history as one of the longest Antarctic expeditions ever. Traveling on foot, these two men have already covered hundreds of miles across a frozen expanse that tests them mentally and physically at ever turn. As of now, they have just 174 miles (280 km) to go before they are through. At their current pace, that should allow them to finish up by the end of next week.

Yesterday, the two explorers reached their final cache, which means they now have plenty of food and fuel to see them through to the end. In fact, for the first time in a long while, they have enough food with them to actually have double rations. Their bodies will probably appreciate getting more calories after weeks of subsisting on very few.


Today, the boys will pass by the final resting spot of Captain Scott and his men. As you probably already know, back in 1911-1912 Scott and his crew were in a race with Norwegian Roald Amundsen to see which team would be the first to the South Pole. Amundsen won the competition, besting Scott by a few weeks. On the return trip, the British explorer and his men suffered mightily, before ultimately perishing in their tent while stranded by a blizzard that lasted for nine days. They were just 11 miles away from what would have been a life saving supply cache, the aforementioned One Ton Depot.

That is the kind of history that looms over the trail for Ben and Tarka today. They should ski past the place where Scott and his men died, as well as the location of their supply cache today. This expedition has given them even more respect for what the Scott team endured on their polar march, and I'm sure they'll be a bit quiet and solemn today as they follow the footsteps of history.

While they are exhausted and ready to be done with their journey, their spirits have been lifted by the addition of their new food supplies and the promise of reaching the end of their expedition. With a week to go, it appears that they will have succeeded wildly.

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