Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Antarctica 2014: Frédérick Dion Completes Antarctic Traverse

We have another update from the Antarctic today, where one explorer has made history, and others continue to inch closer to their ultimate destination at the South Pole. It now appears that within the next few days the number of expeditions that we'll be following will drop significantly, as the end of another season looms at the bottom of the world.

We'll start with an update on Canadian kite-skier Frédérick Dion, who has now reached the Antarctic coast at Hercules Inlet after more than 54 days out on the ice. During that time, he has traveled from the Russian Novo Station to the Pole of Inaccessibility, then on to the Geographic South Pole, and back to the coastline. His route has covered 3620 km (2250 miles), as he set four speed records along the way.

The expedition was not an easy one for Frédérick, especially in the final day. According to his home team, the explorer kite-skied for 24 hours and 53 minutes straight, covering an unbelievable 627 km (389 miles) in the process. During that time, he managed to catch winds that exceeded 100 km/h (60 mph), which can be extremely dangerous for a kiter.

Apparently, the expedition wrapped up over this past weekend, and Fréd has already caught a plane back out to Punta Arenas, Chile on Sunday. That means he is off the ice and headed back to Canada for a much-deserved rest.

Congratulations to Fréd on an amazing expedition through one of the harshest and most challenging environments on the planet.

Meanwhile, elsewhere two other teams are fast approaching the South Pole. Yesterday I indicated that Ian Evans' squad should reach 90ºS any day now, and while we continue to wait for word of their arrival, another team is closing in on the end too. The four-person group that includes Paula Reid has crossed the last degree and is now making its way to the finish line too. They expect to arrive sometime on Friday, wrapping up their journey at long last.

With those teams quickly approaching the end, that will leave just solo kite-skier Faysal Hanneche and the team of Are Johnson and Stéphanie and Jérémie Gicquel out on the ice. Faysal continues to press on towards the South Pole after struggling to make meaningful progress early on. But the winds seem to have turned in his favor, and he has picked up the speed in recent days with a sense of urgency in his movements. Meanwhile, Are, Stéphanie, and Jérémie have already been to the South Pole and are now skiing back to their starting point on the coastline. They are making good progress, but have a long way to go until they are done too. The next few weeks should prove interesting as these remaining explorers race the clock to the end.

That's all for today. More updates as the news warrants it.

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