Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Antarctica 2015: Sastrugi and Whiteouts Make for Tough Sledding

The skiers in the Antarctic continue to press on towards the South Pole, despite challenging surface and weather conditions. Most are preparing to celebrate the holidays out on the ice, as it has been a difficult season already, and they all have a long way to go before they reach their respective finish line. Here's a quick update on the proceedings.

Henry Worley has now crossed the 87th degree and has found himself in the middle of a massive sastrugi field. That's causing him to slow down some, but he's been making up for it by skiing a bit of extra time. On his 40th day out on the ice, he's feeling strong and confident however, which is about all you can ask for at this point of the journey. In his most recent dispatch, he reports that he is once again skiing in a whiteout, using just his GPS as a guide. Despite those challenges however, he continues to make good time, and still hopes to be at the South Pole for New Years. 

The team of Devon McDiarmid, Stew Edge, Mostafa Salameh, and Sharom Abdullah continue making progress towards the Pole as well. They're approaching the end of their second week on the ice, and seem to have started to get their rhythm at last. Yesterday they skied an impressive 27 km (16.2 km) in high winds, which bodes well for their reaching their finishing point in a timely fashion. They did have a rare encounter with a bird while out on the Antarctic expanse as well. It isn't often that any birds fly into the interior of the frozen continent, but the team spotted one nonetheless. At the moment, they're steaming towards their first supply cache as well, which will give them some extra food and fuel for the remainder of the journey. 

ExWeb is reporting ath Luke Robertson is having issues with his solar panels functioning properly, and as a result he is conserving power in his electronic devices. He is able to receive messages sent his way, but he is limiting the number that he is sending back out. As a result, we're not getting as much info on his progress. He is doing well however, and seems to be skiing with high spirits. 

American Doug Tumminello is steal dealing with foot blisters and soft snow, but is continuing to knock off solid distances. Yesterday he reported 20 nautical miles, which equates to about 37 km or 23 standard miles. He did have a scare when he thought he was starting to develop frostbite on his toes, but was able to warm them and avoid it, at least for now. He suspect wet socks may have contributed to numbness in his feet, and will work harder to ensure he dries his socks properly each night. 

Carl Alvy and Emma Kelty continue pressing forwards despite the fact that Emma has frostbite on her inner thighs. The pair received a medical supply drop a few days back to provide some relief for the condition, which is painful to say the least. The pair have been skiing nonstop for ten days now, without a rest, and their legs are feeling it. But they have a long way to go yet to reach the South Pole, so they have to focus on covering some distance, particularly since they are now trying to make up for some lost time in the early stages of the expedition. 

Finally, Italian kite-skier Michele Pontrandolfo has finally found some wind, and as a result he has started to make up for some lost time too. Surface conditions are still challenging, and because he struggled early on he'll now avoid going to the South Pole of Inaccessibility, but will focus on reaching the Geographic South Pole instead. But, he's happy to finally be making forward progress after such a difficult start. 

That's all for now. More to come soon. 

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