Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Antarctica 2016: A New Season Set to Begin

It may be hard to believe but the calendar now reads late-October, which means the 2016 Antarctic season is set to begin in just a few short weeks. Typically, the arrival of November also marks the start of another busy season on the frozen continent, where once again this year we'll find plenty of interesting stories to follow, including several full-distance ski expeditions to the South Pole and beyond.

A few days back, Explorers Web posted a good rundown of the expeditions to keep an eye on. Two of the more interesting attempts at crossing the Antarctic this year are being made by women with Emma Kelty and Johanna Davidsson both making solo and unassisted ski trips along the traditional route to the South Pole, which begins at Hercules Inlet. Both of the ladies also plan on getting resupplied at 90ºS, before returning to their starting point as well. Kelty will ski the same route back, while Davidsson will use kites to cover the return trip much more rapidly.

They'll be joined out on the ice and along the same route by Canadian Sébastien Lapierre, who is attempting to become the first person from his country to make the journey solo and unassisted as well. As ExWeb points out, Lapierre is not stranger to the colder regions of our planet, as he traveled through part of the Northwest Passage in a Kayak back in 2013.

A Swedish man by the name of Aron Andersson is also heading out on the ice, and although he won't be going solo or unsupported, his story will likely be quite an inspiring one. Andersson is a quadriplegic, so he'll be making the journey in a specially designed sled that he can push along using his arms. He'll be guided to the Pole by Doug Stoup, and they'll follow a shortened route that begins at the Leverett Glacier and ends at the bottom of the world. They estimate it will take about 30 days to complete the 510 km (316 mile) journey.

Other expeditions include a group of skiers being led by veteran polar explorer Ryan Waters, and another being guided by Eric Phillips, which will actually begin at a new starting point on the Reedy Glacier on the Ross Ice Shelf. Similarly, a team of Brits will be skiing to the South Pole to raise funds for charity as well.

ExWeb also says that Mike Horn is headed back to Antarctica this season and is currently sailing south aboard his ship the Pangea. What his exact plans are have yet to be revealed, but he is expected to continue his journey all the way to the South Pole.

Finally, another team of Brits led by Lou Rudd will attempt a traverse of the continent. He'll be joined by Oliver Stoten, Chris Brooke, Alex Brazier, Alun George, and James Facer-Childs on a 1770 km (1100 mile) journey that begins at Hercules Inlet and ends at the base of the Shackleton Glacier on the Ross Ice Shelf via the South Pole. They'll receive one resupply at the Pole to provide food and gear to keep them moving.

In anticipation of the start of the new season, Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions – more commonly known as ALE – had launched a new website. The company handles all of the logistics for nearly every expedition to Antarctica, including South Pole skiers, climbers heading to Mt. Vinson, and just about every other point on the continent. Without ALE providing support, things would be a lot more difficult there. Additionally, the company also has been guiding commercial teams since the 1980's, and still sells its own excursions on the site as well. If you want to plan a trip to 90ºS, this is a good place to start.

Much more to come in the days ahead as the season fully gets underway.

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