Over the past few days, while I’ve been off visiting friends and family and stuffing my face with turkey, the polar explorers down in Antarctica have continued to plug away, sometimes in foul weather, sometimes not so bad, as they continue their long treks to the Pole and beyond.
The biggest news of the day is that Dieter Staudinger and Armin Wirth of the Aloha Antarctica Team have decided to put an end to their expedition and return home. In their latest dispatch they discuss the various reasons for ending the journey, which include a long way to yet, and the lack of winds for kiting. In order to reach their next supply depot they would need to cover 660km (410 miles) in just 12 days. Something that would be a real challenge even with good winds. They also weighed in the finical issues that would arise should they continue forward and need to be pulled from the ice later on. So instead, they’ve called for a plane today that, and a Norwegian flight on it’s way to Novo Station will make a quick detour to pick them up. Before long they’ll be back in Cape Town, then on to home in Germany.
Todd Carmichael continues on his quest for the Pole, sans skis due to the continued issues he has had with broken buckles on his boots. In today’s update, he reports that it was a tough day on the ice, with bitterly cold temperatures and howling winds. Despite all of that though, he managed to knock off another 16 nautical miles, and has reached 84º South. The journey has begun to take it’s toll however, and Todd is reportedly suffering from irritation in his eyes from the reflection of the bright sun off the ice. After 19 days on the trail, these little things begin to add up and make for an unpleasant experience.
The Shackleton Centenary Team has had it’s share of ups and downs in the past few days as well. High winds confined them to their tent as last week ended, but the weather has now improved, and they’ve logged good mileage each of the last two days. They’ve now passed 80º S as they continue the long trek across the Ross Ice Shelf.
Mark Langridge reports similar weather conditions, having struggled with high winds the past few days as well, and being forced into his tent early due to whiteout conditions. He notes that the lack of sun has made it difficult to navigate, and those winds leave him “completely knackered” at the end of the day. Still, he continues to make good progress and seems in good spirits. He has, however, given up on the idea of making a return trip from the South Pole back to Patriot Hills as he had originally planned. He will now instead focus on just reaching the Pole itself. Delays and slow progress at times have caused him to make this choice.
Thomas Davenport posted another update on his website as well, also noting the windy conditions yesterday. He reports headwinds of 30 kph, which made for slow progress. The team has now passed the 83rd parallel and are now steaming towards the half-way point, which they hope to reach in the next few days.
The South Pole Quest Team reached the ice yesterday, and promptly went to work getting their gear sorted and ready for their journey. They’ll spend the next few days at Patriot Hills getting acclimatized to the region and training for the rigors ahead. The team reports that except for the cold, Antarctica reminds them of a white Sahara Desert.
Finally, Mike Horn has finally reached Hercules Inlet, and will now set out for the Pole as well. His home team reports that the seasoned polar explorer is finally where he wants to be, alone on the ice with just his sled. Good luck Mike!