Tuesday, January 17, 2017
Antarctica 2016: The End in Sight
It has been more than a week and a half since we last posted an update on the progress of the various Antarctic skiers. Over that time, a lot has happened, with several comings and goings from the South Pole, arrivals back at the coast, and other happenings – both good and bad. Now, as the end of the season is in sight, there is much to tell.
We'll start with Johanna Davidsson, the solo female skier who reached the Pole in record time a few weeks back. After setting that impressive mark, Johanna wasn't content to just get on a plane and fly back to Union Glacier, but instead kite-skied back to the coast. She completed that trip quickly as well, wrapping up her return trip on January 10. It has been a very productive season for her to say the least.
The other female skier that we watched closely this season was Brit Emma Kelty, who spent 52 days out on the ice skiing from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole. She reached that point back on January 5, and was then flown back to Union Glacier having abandoned her attempt at a return trip after running out of time. A few days later she flew to Punta Arenas, Chile as well where she was immediately hospitalized for dehydration, a lung infection, and a bad case of polar thigh. That last ailment strikes the upper legs in very cold conditions, and is caused by the friction of fabric and skin when rubbed together over a long period of time. It can cause extreme irritation and even a nasty infection, which can be very painful if left untreated. Unfortunately, Emma wasn't able to do much about it until after she was off the ice, which had made for a painful wound. Thankfully, she was released from the hospital last week, and flew home to the U.K. on Friday the 13th.
The six-man British Military team has been skiing back to the coast from the South Pole and making good time. They now report that they are less than 60 nautical miles (69 miles/111 km) from the coast, and completely wrapping up their round-trip journey across the Antarctic. The return journey hasn't been an easy one however, as they have traveled across the Shackleton Glacier. The weather has been difficult as usual, and just today the squad made a navigational error that caused them to have to descend down the side of a mountain, rather than backtrack to correct their course. Still, they are on track to reach the finish line in the next few days, and should be ready to fly out of Antarctica ahead of the final deadline of January 27.
Swiss explorer Mike Horn is still in the midst of his traverse of the frozen continent. After reaching the South Pole via kite-ski on January 9, he has since resumed his journey to the far side of the continent. But, the winds have been very light, which has meant slow travel so far. After two days of not covering any distances at all, Mike reports a gentle breeze today that is helping him move, albeit at a very slow pace. But unlike the other skiers out on the ice, Mike isn't reliant on ALE to get him off the continent. He'll ski to the western coast, where his own ship the Pangea will pick him up as he resumes his Pole 2 Pole expedition.
Finnish skier Risto Hallikainen – who reached the South Pole back on December 28 – is on his return trip to the coast as well. His latest update came last Friday, when he reported that he was halfway to his goal. Risto will be racing the clock to return to Hercules before the final flight out, but right now things look like they are going according to plan.
Finally, Keith Tuffley, Rob Smith, and Eric Phillips reached the South Pole back on January 9 as well, following a very tough slog across the frozen continent. The trio opened a new route across the Reedy Glacier, reaching 90ºS after crossing 605 km (375 miles) in 34 days. It is believed that they are the first team to explore this part of the Antarctic since it was first surveyed more than 60 years ago. The team spent little time at the South Pole and returned to Union Glacier a few days later, before departing back to Chile, and home.
That's it for now. As you can see, the season is wrapping up very quickly at this point. Our next updates will only have a few teams to report on. Soon, another season will come to an end.