Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Antarctica 2015: Worsley Approaching 89th Degree, Others Pushing Ahead

It continues to be a busy season at the bottom of the world, where the Antarctic teams are making their way slowly but surely towards the South Pole. Fresh snow and cold temperatures are testing their resolve at the moment, but most are in good spirits despite the tough conditions.

We'll start with an update on Henry Worsley, who has now been out on the ice for 46 days. As you probably recall, the British polar explorer is attempting the first solo and unsupported traverse of the continent, and despite a few weather set backs at the start of the journey, he seems to be steaming along nicely right now. At the moment, he is camped just one mile shy of the 89th degree, which means he is about 60 nautical miles from the Pole. He had initially hoped to reach 90ºS by New Years Day, and that might still be possible provided surface conditions and the weather cooperate. Right now, Henry says that things are going about as well as can be expected, and the skiing is a bit easier. If that continues over the course of the next four days, he may still reach the bottom of the world in time to celebrate the start of 2016.

Elsewhere, American solo-skier Doug Tumminello got a surprise supply drop a few days back. A Twin Otter aircraft operated by ALE flew overhead to and tossed out a package that contained a new teapot. The one he was carrying with him developed a crack, making it difficult to heat water and melt snow, and while the situation was manageable, it could have become serious if he found himself tent-bound due to poor weather with no way to create drinking water. The downside of receiving the package is that now Doug's expedition goes from solo and unsupported to supported, which is a minor distinction in the record books, but still an important one. Because he received outside assistance, he now has to give up the "unsupported" designation.


Italian kite-skier Michele Pontrandolfo continues to struggle with finding strong winds to pull his kites. He hasn't reported in since before Christmas, but at that time was hoping to reach the 75º so that he could hopefully get moving at a faster rate. He has already abandoned his attempt to reach the Pole of Inaccessibility, and is instead hoping to get to the Geographic South Pole instead, but it has been slow going for sure. At this point, he still has a lot of ground to cover before the season ends in a month.

Carl Alvey and Emma Kelty continue to push towards the Pole. A few days back they crossed their third degree, and picked up their first supply drop on Christmas Eve. Judging from the posted updates, it feels like the days are a real grind for Emma at the moment, although she continues to trudge ahead despite newly fallen snow making things difficult. The soft snow makes it much harder to glide on the skis, and most of explorers would prefer a harder surface so that they can go much further and faster on any given day.

Finally, the team of Devon McDiarmid, Stew Edge, Mostafa Salameh, Shahrom Abdullah remain on the trailing edge of the South Pole teams. They were the last squad to start, and have now been out on the ice for three weeks. Mostafa reports that over that time period he has already lost several kilos, as it is almost impossible to consume enough calories to maintain your weight when skiing to the South Pole. The group struggled with finding their rhythm early on, but they seem to be doing great now and working well with one another.

That's all for today. The next report isn't likely to come until after the New Year, but hopefully we'll have news of our first arrival at the South Pole by then.

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