Friday, February 13, 2015

Controversy Brewing Over Alleged South Pole Speed Record

There seems to be some controversy brewing over an alleged speed record for skiing to the South Pole. ExWeb is reporting that adventurer Martin Szwed has made claims to various media outlets saying that he broke the speed record for skiing solo across Antarctica. Apparently, Szwed is saying that he not only beat the current record held by Christian Eide, but that he did so by nearly ten days. The problem is, there doesn't seem to be any record of this amazing feat.

According to recent claims by Szwed, he was in the Antarctic this past season to climb Mt. Vinson and ski to the South Pole. His summit of Mt. Vinson has been confirmed to ExWeb by officials at ANI/ALE, who supported him on that venture. But after he finished climbing, Szwed says that he then launched his ski expedition – presumably from the Russian Novo station – which he was then able to complete in 14 days, 18 hours, and 43 minutes. Eide's amazing record, which was set back in 2011, is an impressive 24 days, 1 hour, and 13 minutes.

To further cast doubt on his expedition, Szwed has told various media outlets that he skied 1192 km, 1280 km, and 1300 km. Those varying distances have further helped to call his story into question. He also claims to have used three supply depots along the way, which as ExWeb points out would invalidate his "solo" claim to any speed record.

To put this in perspective, in order to cover the distance that Szwed is claiming, he would have to cover more than 86 km (53 miles) each and every day in tough conditions, while pulling a heavy sled. That would be an incredibly difficult task for sure. ExWeb calls it "herculean," which seems fitting.

But that isn't all. ANI officials, who are pretty much the authority on what happens in the Antarctic, told ExWeb "Based on our contact with other operators and German officials, we have received no indication that the expedition took place. Umweltbundesamt / Federal Environment Agency Germany did not issue a ski expedition permit for him to go the South Pole and TAC [the logistics operator in Cape Town] did not provide him transportation following his Vinson ascent."

Furthermore, the staff at the U.S. South Pole Station, located at 90ºS, says that no one there has seen nor heard of Martin Szwed, nor has there been any arrivals at the Pole since ALE finished their operations three weeks back.

At this point, it seems like Szwed is trying to pull a fast one in order to bolster is reputation. Until he can provide any kind of evidence to support his claims, or someone else can step forward to act as a witness, all of his speed record claims should be viewed as false. So far, Szwed has not responded to ExWeb's inquiries.

It's a shame that these kinds of stories continue to crop up, particularly in an era when it is so easy to verify the information.


Kent Madin said...

From Brian Williams to this guy, an epidemic of "False Memory" virus seems to be sweeping the globe.

Kraig Becker said...

It is a disappointing trend to say the least.