Monday, October 26, 2015

Antarctica 2015: Weather Could Delay Start of the Season

The 2015-2016 Antarctic season is about to begin, but that nemesis of adventurers and explorers everywhere is already rearing its ugly head. The first flight out to the frozen continent is scheduled to take place tomorrow, but there is already talk about weather delays that could prevent the first Antarctic skiers from getting underway as scheduled. In fact, it may end up causing problems with fully establishing the Union Glacier camp, which is the launching point of many expeditions to the South Pole and other regions in the Antarctic. 

Built, supplied, and maintained by the team at Adventure Network International, the Union Glacier camp already has a dedicated crew in place that is working hard to prepare for the arrival of the explorers. That includes preparing the mess hall, ensuring all of the tents are in stable, and in place, and organizing supplies for the long season ahead. 

One of the other important jobs that this advance crew is responsible for is building a runway for the big Ilyushin aircraft to land upon. Those massive planes bring supplies, fuel, and visitors to Antarctica, and the season can't truly get underway until those big birds can take off and land safely. Unfortunately, the weather at Union Glacier isn't great right now, which is preventing the team from completing that runway. There is still hope that they'll be able to have it ready for tomorrow's first flight, but at the moment it doesn't look promising. The final decision on whether or not to fly will come tomorrow. 

Polar explorer Henry Worsley is scheduled to be on that flight, and hopes to arrive in the Antarctic tomorrow. As you probably recall, Henry is about to embark on an ambitious expedition that will seem him attempt to become the first person to ski solo and unassisted across the continent. He'll cover approximately 2735 km (1700 miles) over the course of about 80 days to accomplish that task. While he obviously hopes to stay on schedule with his flight tomorrow, Henry has built in some extra days into the schedule that will help him to set off on time. In fact, he has said previously that his hope is to be underway by November 10, which means there is no reason to panic just yet. There will be some work that needs to be accomplished once he reaches Union Glacier of course, but at the moment there is still plenty of time. 

Speaking of Worsley, ExWeb has posted a brief interview with the British Army vet, who is currently in Punta Arenas, Chile awaiting that flight tomorrow. As part of that interview, Henry shares his preparation schedule, the sections of the route that are most concerning, and the gear that will help him traverse the Antarctic continent. Definitely an interesting read for those of us who follow these kinds of expeditions. 

For the most part, the South Pole skiers are only just now starting to arrive in Punta Arenas, so there isn't a lot to report just yet. November is the traditional start of the season, so things are running on schedule for now. Expect more teams to start arriving later this week and next, as they prepare for one of the biggest challenges of their life – skiing hundreds of miles across a frozen expanse while pulling  a sled filled with their gear and supplies behind them at all times. While not nearly as difficult as skiing to the North Pole, an Antarctic expedition is never the less a difficult undertaking. 

More to come soon.

No comments: