Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Antarctica 2017: The End is in Sight for More Antarctic Teams

The Antarctic expedition season is nearing its end with just a few short weeks to go until the frozen continent is shut off to the outside world once again. But, there are still a number of teams that are working their way towards the finish line as the days slowly tick by.

We'll start with an update on Rob and Barney Swan, the father and son team that has been out on the ice for nearly two months now. The duo undertook this expedition as a way to raise awareness of clean energy with a focus on creating a 7-year goal to clean up 326 million tons of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in accordance to the Paris Accords. They have even used nothing be clean energy sources to power their adventure, using solar energy to keep all of their devices going.

Yesterday, the two men – along with a group of skiers who joined them for the final degree – reached the South Pole. It took them 56 days to compete the journey, covering roughly 600 nautical miles (690 miles/1112 km) in the process. Rob has been here before and knew what to expect, but was still impressive in his efforts at the age of 61. For Barney, it was his first polar journey at the age of 23. Congratulations to both of them.

Meanwhile, Norwegian skiers Astrid Furholt and Jan Sverre Sivertsen are closing in on the Pole as well. The duo were amongst the first to hit the ice way back in November, and have been following the original Amundsen route to 90ºS. If all goes as planned, they should arrive their as early as tomorrow, but their updates indicate they are exhausted, pushing hard against headwinds, and struggling to cover the full distances they need. Still, they are currently within striking distance of the South Pole station and should get there soon.


Their original plan was to ski the return leg back to the coast to complete a round-trip journey, but with the season now running short, It seems unlikely that will happen. We should know more in a few days, but the last ALE flight off the continent for clients is scheduled for January 26, just 10 days from now.

The Ice Maidens are now racing against the clock to beat that deadline, but they too have the end in sight. The six women who make up the team reached the South Pole all the way back on December 17, but that was just a milestone on their continued traverse of the Antarctica. By the time they are done, they will have covered more than 1700 km (1056 miles), beginning and ending at the coast. They'll also be the first all-female team to accomplish that task.

Finally, the Spectre team has completed its expedition at long last. You may recall that this expedition was made of three climbers –  Leo Houlding, Jean Burgun, and Mark Sedon – who traveled to Antarctica to climb the Spectre rock spire in the Gothic Mountains. They used kite skis to reach that point back in December, and actually completed their climb on December 12, then started for home two days later. It took them until last Thursday – January 11 – to reach their exit point on the coast. It was a hard slog back, often with very little wind to help assist in the process. It ended up taking far longer than they expected, but they completed their journey at last and are now safely back home.

We'll continue to keep an eye on the Antarctic season as things unfold over the next couple of weeks. But, the curtain is definitely dropping on the expedition season, with very few teams still out on the ice. I'll post updates of any important news as it happens.

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