Friday, January 09, 2015

Antarctica 2014: Two More Teams Arrive at the South Pole

The number of teams skiing to the South Pole has been reduced by two, as more skiers arrive at 90ºS. With the end of the Antarctic expedition season nearly in sight, things are starting to wrap up at the bottom of the world, and while it is almost time to pack it in again for another year, there are still a few hardy souls out on the ice.

Earlier this week, Ian Evans and his squad reached the South Pole, arriving at about 5:45 PM local time on Tuesday, January 6. The team, which also consisted of guide Keith Heger, and Brits Andy Styles and Bradely Cross, made the journey along the Messner Route, covering some 890 km (553 miles) in the process. The team set off on November 24, which means it took them almost exactly 44 days to finish the sojourn across the ice.

In his final report, Ian says that he is now the oldest Canadian to ski to the South Pole. He also indicates that there was no major outpouring of emotion when they reached the finish line, just a numb feeling and a sense of relief that the journey was over at last. He reports that he and his teammates are completely exhausted, with no energy left in the tank. Fortunately, he has already flown out to Union Glacier, and should be on his way back to Punta Arenas, Chile soon as well.

They're not the only team to wrap up their South Pole excursion this week. The four-person squad that includes Paula Reid should finish their journey today as well. As of last night, the team was just 14.5 km (9 miles) from the Scott-Amundsen station, which they reported seeing before clouds set in. That means they should finish early today, and could potentially catch a flight out to Union Glacier this afternoon too. The weather is predicted to take a turn for the worse however, so they may ended up stranded at the Pole for a few days instead.

Congratulations to each of these men and women. Skiing to the South Pole is quite an accomplishment, and each of them should be very proud of their efforts.

Meanwhile, Faysal Hanneche continues to struggle, with the wind. The kite-skier has not had much luck in having strong gusts to help pull him to the Pole, and as a result, he still has hundreds of miles to cover before he is done. As of his last report, Faysal indicated that he still had 674 km (419 miles) to go before he is done, and with time running short, that may be a tall order. If the winds turn in his favor, that is more than doable, but considering how much he has struggled so far, a successful end to his expedition is not guaranteed.

Sastrugis are not helping his cause any either. Faysal also reports that he has been battling the ice ridges that accumulate on the surface for the past few days too, and they have taken their toll as well. Going over or around the sastrugi can be time consuming and energy sapping work, which is coupled with the frustration of frequently falling down. Still, Henneche continues to press ahead and is determined to give his best effort until the very end.

Finally, the team of Are Johnson and Stéphanie and Jérémie Gicquel continue to steam along on their return trip to Hercules Inlet from the South Pole. They are now on Day 55 of their expedition, and have covered another 35.5 km (22 miles). They report that the weather has warmed some, allowing the trio to ski without the need for wind jackets today. They hope to reach their final supply depot in the next few days, and after that it will be clear sailing back to the coast. They're also racing against the clock to a degree, but considering how well they are moving, it seems that they will be in a good position to wrap up the expedition before the season closes at the end of the month. 

That's all from the Antarctic for today. Soon there will be only a few teams left to report on. I'll still keep updating on their progress. 

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