Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Antarctica 2014: Pole of Inaccessibility Kite-Ski Update

We have a quick update from the Antarctic today, where we've been anxiously awaiting the arrival of kite-skier Frédérick Dion at the Pole of Inaccessibility. As of Saturday, the Canadian was just 100 km (62 miles) from the POI, which led me to speculate that he may have arrived there on Sunday or even yesterday, but had not sent a dispatch to announce the completion of his expedition. Late yesterday he shared an update on his location however, and we now have a better idea of exactly where he is at at the moment. 

As of yesterday, Fred had made very little progress towards his final goal. Monday's dispatch indicated that he still has 97 km (60 miles) to cover before he is through. Apparently, the winds are at a minimum right now, and unlike some other polar kite-skiers, Dion doesn't do much skiing when he doesn't have any wind. Thus, over the past few days he has only covered 3 km (1.8 miles). Until the winds return, he isn't likely to go very far.

Fortunately, as he was wrapping up his satellite phone conversation with his home team, the winds reportedly started to gust. Whether or not he actually was able to catch them, and cover a decent amount of distance, remains to be seen. For now, we'll have to wait for another progress report, but once the winds pick up once again, it shouldn't take him too long to cross the final distance to the POI. 

For those who haven't been following along, the Pole of Inaccessibility is defined as a point on the Antarctic continent that is the furthest from any coastline. That makes it incredibly remote, and difficult to get to. Fred started his expedition at the Russian Novo station, which sits near the coast. Now, he is approaching another Russian research station which is actually at the POI. That point is found at 82º06'S, 54º58'E, which is roughly 878 km (546 miles) from the Geographic South Pole. 

It is tough to estimate when the Canadian explorer will arrive at his destination. Until the winds return, he'll continue to make slow, or no progress. Typically, kite-skiers will continue to trudge forward, even when they have no wind, by skiing along without the use of their kite. Progress is obviously much slower, but at least they continue to knock off some miles. Because Fred is not covering much in the way of distance without the wind, it could be several more days before he is done.

I'll post an update on Fred's progress as the news warrants. 

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