Monday, December 15, 2014

Antarctica 2014: Frédérick at the Pole of Inaccessibility!

The 2014 Antarctic season is far from over, but one polar explorer wrapped up his journey earlier today by reaching a goal that had eluded him for days. Kite-skier Frédérick Dion has reached the South Pole of Inaccessibility at long last, becoming the first person to travel to that point solo and unsupported. He also managed to achieve the POI in record time, despite having to wait for the winds to return over the past week or so.

Fréd set out from the Russian Novo station on November 10, and arrived at the POI on December 15. Over the course of those 35 days, he crossed 3000 km (1865 miles) of some of the most remote and difficult terrain on the planet. Along the way, he face temperatures that plummeted below -50ºC/-58ºF, intense blizzards, equipment failure, and a fire that nearly burned up his tent. He also has suffered frostbite and numerous other minor physical ailments, just so he could get the opportunity to stand at what just might be the most remote place on the planet.

The Pole of Inaccessibility is a place on the Antarctic continent that is defined as the point that it furthest from the coastline in all direction. In this case, that point sits at 82º06'S, 54º58'E, which is roughly 878 km (546 miles) from the Geographic South Pole. In the past, only two other expeditions have managed to reach this place on foot. They include the team of Paul Landry, Henry Cookson, Rupert Longsdon and Rory Sweet who made the trip in 48 days back in 2006, and Eric McNair-Landry and Sebastian Copeland did the same journey in 55 days in 2011.

Fréd managed to cover much of the distance at a fast pace, using his large kite to capture the wind, and pull him across the ice at a high speed. In fact, he traveled so quickly that by December 5, he was just 100 km (62 miles) from his destination. Unfortunately, the winds disappeared, and all of his momentum came to a halt. For several days he waited for the winds to return, but they were either nonexistent, or blew in the wrong direction. He tried skiing without the kite, but made little progress. This weekend, the winds turned in his favor again, and he was able to complete the final leg of the journey.

In the dispatch announcing his arrival at the POI, Fréd indicated that he has enough food and fuel to survive for another 30 days on the ice, so it appears that he won't be packing his bags for home just yet. Where exactly he'll go has yet to be determined, although it is possible he'll head over to the Geographic South Pole, or could be returning to Novo station. He seems in good spirits, and is eager to continue his adventure on the frozen continent.

Congratulations to Frédérick and his support team on accomplishing their goal.

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