Friday, December 19, 2014

Antarctica 2014: Frédérick Turns Toward the South Pole

As we head into the weekend, the Antarctic explorers continue to press ahead as best they can. Nearly everyone who is out on the ice at the moment now has the same goal – the Geographic South Pole. But no one is particularly close to 90ºS just yet, although several are closing in rapidly.

We'll start with an update on Frédérick Dion, the Canadian kite-skier who just wrapped up his journey to the Pole of Inaccessibility. Fréd reached that point at the start of the week, and for a time it was unclear where he would go next. But with plenty of food and fuel, he has decided to ski to the Geographic South Pole as well. After suffering days without wind, he now finds that the breezes have turned in his favor, and as a result he's making great time once again. Today he knocked off 175 km (108 miles), which must seem incredible after he struggled for so long. That puts him 590 km (366 miles) from the South Pole, so just three days away if the winds hold. But that isn't likely to happen, so it may take a bit longer. Perhaps he will reach the Pole by Christmas. In the meantime, the explorer is said to be in in fantastic spirits and enjoying his time in the Antarctic, having found renewed vigor after finally reaching the POI. In fact, he is enjoying it so much, that he is even pondering skiing back to Hercules Inlet after he has reached the South Pole.

Elsewhere, Faysal Hanneche is also kiting to the South Pole, and finding the winds to be far more fickle at his location. He's managed 150 km (93 miles) for the entire week, and is now 1747 km (1085 miles) from his goal. That is still a long way to go, but he remains confident that he'll be able to cover that distance in good time. Having started at the Novo station, he is approximately halfway to his destination. Hopefully he'll get solid winds soon to help propel him along. For now, he is happy to e out of the whiteouts and enjoying some clear days for a change.

Newall Hunter is also enjoying some much improved weather and surface conditions, which are allowing him to pick up the pace some as well. Now on his 24th day out on the ice, he managed to cover 28km (17 miles) with clear skies and relatively calm winds, and smooth snow. This is in contrast to a few days ago, when he could barely see the tips of his skis as the whiteout enveloped him. Those days are long, difficult, and hard on the morale, but they are part of the process of skiing to the South Pole.


The team of Are Johnson, and Stéphanie and Jérémie Gicquel, experienced their coldest day of the expedition thus far. It was -50ºC/-58ºF with the windchill, which is just down right cold even when you're wearing the proper gear. The trio has now reached the top of the polar plateau, and are mostly skiing on a flat surface now, but with a nasty headwind, it was slow going the entire day. They still managed to cover 28.5 km (17.7 miles). That puts them at about 136 km (84 miles) to the Pole, which would put them on pace to finish their expedition on Christmas Eve. We'll have to see if they make it by then, as that would be the best present possible. 

Finally, Dutch adventurer Manon Ossevoort (aka Tractor Girl) is now just 300 km (186 miles) from the end of her journey. You may recall that she and her team reached the South Pole a few days back by driving to that point in Massey Ferguson tractor. It was slow going getting to 90ºS, but the return trip has gone much more smoothly. They should reach the Novo station today or tomorrow, and begin preparations for heading home. If the weather holds, they may be back with their friends and family for the holidays. 

That's all for today. More updates next week as we should get our first skiers arriving at the South Pole at long last. 

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