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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Antarctica 2016: And Then There Was One...

The 2016 Antarctic season is all but over. Only one skier remains out on the ice, as everyone else has wrapped up their expeditions and headed home. And true to form, the frozen continent has already started to make things more difficult, with colder temperatures, blizzard-like conditions, and thankfully for this explorer, howling winds.

Mike Horn is still working on completing his traverse of the Antarctic continent. He reports that the winds returned with a vengeance yesterday, saying they are the strongest he's encountered yet. Considering the fact that he is kite skiing, having strong winds is better than no winds at all. Propelled along by these gusts, he's now 92 km (57 miles) closer to his goal, but he still has 430 km (267 miles) yet to go before he reaches the coastline, and the safety of his ship, the Pangaea.

In his most recent update, Horn says that he has been facing a constant battle with the winds, which have helped get his kites in the air, but haven't always been cooperative. Any kite-skier will tell you that you want strong winds, but not too strong, as they can be unruly and difficult to maneuver in. That's what the Swiss explorer has been dealing with over the past few days, coupled with large sastrugi on the surface that have made things interesting as well.

As you may recall, Mike is attempting to circumnavigate the globe via the poles, and this is just the first of his major ice cap crossings. Once he reaches his ship, he'll actually set sail for New Zealand and Australia, before heading north to the Arctic. But, there is still plenty of work to be done before he leaves the Antarctic.

Depending on wind conditions and how well he can work the kite, Horn could reach the coast line in as few as two days. But, if he manages to maintain the pace he has had over the past couple of days, he's more likely to finish around the end of the week. Should the winds disappear however, that time could extend further.

We'll continue to follow Mike's progress until he's off the ice. That shouldn't be too much longer, but his adventure isn't over just yet. The Antarctic summer is quickly coming to an end though, and he'll be departing just in the nick of time it seems.

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