Monday, January 05, 2015

Antarctica 2014: Newall Hunter at The South Pole!

The Antarctic expedition season is starting to draw to close, with just a few more weeks to go before it wraps up for another year. While it hasn't been quite as active on the frozen continent has it has been in recent years, there have still been some tremendous efforts put forth by the skiers heading to the South Pole, and elsewhere. While most of us enjoyed the arrival of the New Year with friends and family, the explorers in the Antarctic have continued to press ahead towards their goals. That includes one skier completing his journey at last, while others are starting to draw near as well. 

Yesterday, solo-skier Newall Hunter arrived at the South Pole after spending 40 days out on the ice. He wrapped up his journey at approximately 3:30 AM local time, which mean he reached 90ºS only to find the entire research station there asleep. Fortunately one of the liaison officers noticed his arrival, and actually went out into the cold to meet him and snap a few photos. Newall than went inside where he found some cookies, a Coke, and a comfortable chair waiting for him. It was the first time he had sat down on a piece of furniture since he set out on his journey. He now plans to fly back to Union Glacier later today, and then wait for a flight to Punta Arenas, Chile before heading home. 

Congratulations to Newall on a job well done. He managed to ski from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole in just 40 days. That's a solid effort to say the least.

Meanwhile, Ian Evans reports that his team is nearing the end of their journey as well. As of Friday, when he made his last dispatch, the squad was a mere 49 miles (79 km) from the Pole, which means they could arrive as early as today. That arrival won't come soon enough, as Ian has indicated that the expedition has taken its toll, and he is feeling physically worn down from the challenges of skiing for hundreds of kilometers across the harsh, unforgiving landscape that is the Antarctic. 

Elsewhere, kite-skier Frédérick Dion is on the final approach to Hercules Inlet, and is picking up speed in the process. In his most recent dispatch, Fréd reports that he covered 190 km (118 miles) in a single day, which left him just 410 km (254 miles) to go before he is done. That report came last Friday, which means if the winds held over the weekend, he could very well be back on the coast today or tomorrow. Hercules Inlet will mark the end of a remarkable journey for the Canadian, who began by first traveling to the Pole of Inaccessibility from the Russian Novo Station, then proceeding on to the Geographic South Pole, before heading back to the coast at Hercules. It will certainly have been quite a whirlwind tour of the Antarctic. 

Fellow kite-skier Faysal Hanneche is finding the winds blowing more favorably for him in recent days as well. After struggling through the early stages of the journey, he is now picking up speed greatly. In his latest dispatch he indicates that he covered 125 km (77 miles) in single day, which is a massive increase over what he has been doing previously. With the clock ticking on the Antarctic season, he needs to continue to capture these winds, as he still has quite a long way to go before he is done. He has however, passed the point of receiving assistance from his logistics company operating out of Novo. That means that if he reaches the South Pole, he'll have done so unassisted, something that he can be greatly proud of. 

Finally, the trio of Are Johnson and Stéphanie and Jérémie Gicquel are now 52 days into their expedition and are on the return trip from the South Pole back to the coast. Today they picked up their second re-supply, and enjoyed some fine snacks and treats as a result. The return journey is going much better as they are now heading down hill. As a result, they skied 41 km (25 miles) today, and are feeling very strong and in good spirits. 

That's all from the Antarctic today. More updates soon. 

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