Thursday, February 09, 2017

Antarctica 2016: Mike Horn Completes Longest Kite Ski Expedition Ever

As reported a few days back, Mike Horn has completed his traverse of the Antarctic continent by kite ski, and is now waiting for pick-up by his ship the Pangaea. It has been a very long couple of months out on the ice, but the first leg of his epic Pole 2 Pole expedition is done, although he is not safely off the frozen continent just yet, and it is unclear as to when exactly he'll be able to depart.

According to ExWeb, Mike covered approximately 5100 km (3168 miles) over the course of his 57 day journey. Of that, 2215 km (1376 miles) were just spent reaching the South Pole, while the other 2885 km (1792 miles) were covered continuing on to the far coast. If those distances are accurate – and there is no reason to believe they aren't – Horn's expedition will mark the longest kite ski journey across the Antarctic ever. ExWeb does point out however that Mike received some meals while at the South Pole, so his journey isn't considered solo or unassisted, even though both legs coming and going from the Pole fall into those categories.

The final few days of the journey were not easy ones. Whiteout conditions persisted throughout and massive sastrugi – hard ridges on the ice – made it tough to make progress. At times, Mike's kite would pull him along at a rapid pace, but his sled would get caught on the sastrugi, creating a tug-of-war situation with Horn in the middle. There were also points where his kite would suddenly come to a stop, and the heavy sled would barrel into the back of the skier, knocking him to the ground. Those must have been very frustrating moments to say the least.

Now, Mike is believed to be at Dumon d'Urville, a French science station along the coast. He is waiting for Pangaea to pick him up, but at this point it is unclear as to when that will happen. As reported earlier in the week, the ship experienced electrical failure and was forced to set sail for Tasmania for repairs. There is no word yet on when those repairs will be completed and how long it will take to return to get Horn. One thing is for certain however, the austral winter is on its way, and it will become much more challenging to come and go from the Antarctic in the days ahead.

Once he is retrieved from the ice, the original plan was to sail to Australia and New Zealand for some exploration and adventures there before turning north to the Arctic and the second phase of the Pole 2 Pole expedition. That will involve a crossing of the Arctic Icecap in much the same fashion as the Antarctic. We'll have to wait to see if those plans change in any way, but the Arctic season will be up on us soon enough, and that season has already gotten shorter and more dangerous than years past.

I'll post more updates when we have further news of the Pangaea and Mike's situation.

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