Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Ben Saunders to Attempt Solo, Unassisted Crossing of Antarctica

With October nearly over and November approaching quickly, the Antarctic expedition season is nearly upon us. As usual this year, there will be plenty of explorers and adventurers heading to the frozen continent to attempt to ski to the South Pole from a variety of different starting points. But one expedition is set to stand out above all others, as it will be one of the longest, most difficult journeys ever undertaken as British explorer Ben Saunders attempts to ski solo, unsupported, and unassisted across the all of Antarctica.

Saunders route will cover some 1000 miles (1600 km) as he skis point-to-point across Antarctica, rather than to the South Pole and back to his starting point. He intends to go completely alone, and will not receive any outside airdrops for extras supplies and gear, nor will he use any kites. It will just be him, out there by himself, lugging a 300 pound (136 kg) sled across the ice. He expects the journey will take somewhere between 60-65 days to complete as he retraces the same path that Robert Falcon Scott took on his fateful expedition more than a century ago.

For Saunders, this isn't just about trying to become the first to ski solo and unassisted across Antarctica. He is also undertaking the expedition in memory of his friend Henry Worsely, who passed away trying to complete that same feat two years ago. Worsely was just 50 miles from the finish line when he took ill, and although he was evacuated from the ice, he succumbed to illness a few days later.

Saunders is no stranger to the polar regions of the planet. He has previously skied to both the North and South Pole, and has spent plenty of time in those cold regions to understand what he is getting himself into. It has been three years since his last journey across Antarctica, during which he followed the Shackleton-Scott route on a trip to 90ºS and then back again to Ross Island, covering roughly 1795 miles (2,888 km) along the way. On that particular journey he has a partner in Tarka L'Herpiniere and the duo received a supply drop at one point, ending their "unassisted" status.

At the moment, Saunders' website is down, presumably for a revamp prior to the start of this expedition. But, the explorer recently conducted an interview with Outside magazine, which you can read here. (Update: Ben's site is up and running again!)

As usual, I'll be following the Antarctic season very closely when it gets underway in a couple of weeks. Ben's journey will be one that I will definitely be posting regular updates about. It should be quite the adventure to follow. Stay tuned for more.

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