Monday, October 31, 2016

Antarctica 2016: Interactive Map Explains Ski Routes to the South Pole

This week intrepid men and women from all over the world are putting the finishing touches on their preparation and planning for a slew of upcoming ski expeditions to the South Pole. In a matter of days they'll be jetting off to Punta Arenas, Chile or Cape Town, South Africa where they'll then catch a flight to Antarctica to begin a journey that will take them weeks to complete. Most will begin at Hercules Inlet and will cover approximately 1130 km (702 miles) on their way to 90ºS. But others will take alternate routes that offer different levels of difficult and unique paths to that same goal. Now, on the eve of the start of the new Antarctic season, we have an interactive map that shows all of the various routes that are used to ski across the frozen continent.

The map is hosted at ExplorersHouse.com and includes 9 different paths that explorers use when traveling to the the South Pole as well as 1 path to reach the Pole of Inaccessibility. Clicking on any of the routes will provide information about its length, who first pioneered it, and the year in which it was traveled. For instance, both Amundsen and Scott Routes are marked on the map, which were first opened back in 1911-1912, when the two legendary explorers were battling one another to be the first to reach the South Pole.

Explorer House included some text with the map that provides context on what exactly a "valid" expedition truly means. In this case, that is defined as starting anywhere along the Antarctic coast and skiing all the way to the South Pole. This rules out a "last degree" journey of course, which  is exactly what it sounds like – a short ski expedition from 89ºS to 90ºS. Those "tourist trips" are typically only about 100 km (62 miles) in length, while a full expedition covers more than 1000 km (620 miles).

As we head into the start of a new Antarctic season, you'll find that the vast majority of the skiers are using the Hercules Inlet Route, which has become the standard for these types of expeditions. They'll fly out of Punta Arenas and land at the ice camp that is built and maintained by ALE at Union Glacier. From there, they'll catch another short flight to ferry them out to their starting point. If they are going solo and unsupported, they'll all be dropped off at unique locations to begin the journey, as the rules for adventure state that they can't have any contact with another individual along the way in order to maintain that status.

Later this week – weather permitting – the first teams will begin their march to the Pole. Once they're underway, we'll provide regular updates on their progress. There are a number of goods stories to follow, so it should be an interesting year in the Antarctic.

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