Thursday, January 14, 2016

Antarctica 2015: Luke Robertson at the Pole, Others Closing In

It looks like the next few days will be busy ones at the South Pole. As the end of the 2015 Antarctic season looms, there are several teams closing in on 90ºS, while others are pushing on with the hopes of reaching the finish line before the last plane departs the frozen continent on January 28.

The big news of the day is that solo skier Luke Robertson has reached the South Pole. He crossed the final few miles earlier today, and arrived at the research station at the bottom of the world just a few hours ago. It took Luke 39 days to complete the 1130 km (730 mile) crossing from Hercules Inlet, which is a respectable time indeed. By finishing his journey, Robertson is now the first Scotsman to ski solo and unsupported to the Pole, and he is the youngest Brit to ever do so at the age of 30.

We followed Luke's progress closely over the past month and a half. He didn't have a full comms unit, but did manage to tweet out his progress regularly. While there weren't a lot of details to be shared, it was clear that he was enjoying his time int he Antarctic, was generally in good spirits, and covered solid distances day in and day out. That workman like approach served him well throughout the expedition, and now he done. Congratulations to Luke on his accomplishment.

Elsewhere, the team of Devon McDiarmid, Stew Edge, Mostafa Salameh, and Shahrom Abdullah haven't posted an update on their progress over the past few days, but they are closing in on 90ºS as well. If they stay on the pace they've been setting, they should reach the South Pole by this weekend, bringing an end to their journey too. At one point, McDairmid and Edge were considering kite-skiing back to Hercules Inlet, but with the season growing short, it is unclear whether or not that is still on the agenda. They can cover vast distances in a short time using kites, but by the time they get to the Pole, they'll have less than two weeks to go to make the turn around.


Henry Worsley continues his slow, agonizing journey to the finish line on the Ross Ice Shelf. He's now been out on the ice for more than 62 days, and has finally crested the Titan Dome and has started his descent. Things should go faster and easier from here, but weather conditions are not being all that cooperative. Temperatures have dropped sharply, and whiteout conditions have returned, even as he crosses the 88th degree. Remember, he's already reached the Pole, and is now on his return trip to the coast. Worsley will continue to race the clock right up until the end it seems.

Guide Carl Alvy and client Emma Kelty are pressing on towards the Pole. They are in a desperate race against time as well, with four degrees to go before they're done, and not as much time at their disposal as they'd like. Weather conditions have included high winds and blowing snow, but they're pressing ahead as best as they can. Progress has been steady, but there is still many miles to go before they are done.

Finally, Doug Tumminello was picked up from Thiels Corner a few days back, and is now at the camp at Union Glacier. You may recall that he abandoned his attempt to ski to the South Pole a few days ago after facing persistent problems with his feet from the get go. Now, he's waiting for a flight to carry him back to Punta Arenas, then on towards home. With any luck, he'll be on his way in another day or two.

That's it for now. As you can see, the season is winding down quickly. Soon there will only be a couple of teams left to follow. It should be an interesting finish to another year.

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