Antarctic Update: End of the Week Round-Up

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Some end of the week news from (way) down under:

Not much of an update on Todd Carmichael since I made the post on his progress yesterday. His latest dispatch hints that the long days, altitude, and frenetic pace may be finally catching up with him at long last, as he heads into his final days. The deep snow has slowed his progress and zapped his energy, but he’s still hoping to reach the Pole tomorrow and set a new record in the process.

Meanwhile, the Shackleton Centenary Expedition is having problems of their own. They moved off the Ross Ice Shelf a few days back and onto the continent itself by way of the Beardmore Glacier, which turned out to be one giant blue slab of ice. On the one hand, that has made it easier to spot the crevasses, but it has made their skis all but useless. The team has donned crampons in an effort to gain traction, but when packing for the expedition they elected to bring aluminum crampons rather than steel. As a result, the minor savings they gained in weight has proven negligible, while the steel crampons would have withstood the wear and tear better, and gripped the ice more effectively. Today, the team managed just 10.1 nautical miles, and have spent a lot of time repairing the damaged spikes on their footwear.

The South Pole Quest 2008 team, on the other hand, has had one of it’s best days yet, notching up over 20nm on a clear, sunny day, with only sastrugi and snow drifts to impede their progress. Everyone seems in great spirits, and are enjoying the expedition, as well as their opportunities to interact with the students following along at home. Question of the day: “Have you seen any polar bears or penguins?” and the audio answer. (Thankfully, they haven’t seen any polar bears, as they would be REALLY lost.)

Thomas Davenport has sent another dispatch to report that both the equipment and the explorers are beginning to get a bit ragged after more than a month out on the ice. Thomas and his team have now crossed the 87th degree, and he says that his feet have been bothering him for more than a week. It got so bad at one point that he actually tried to walk, rather than ski, but abandoned the attempt after just 15 minutes. To remedy the situation, he is now wearing his right ski on his left foot, and vice versa. He also reports that others are having their bindings break, and other equipment issues. On the bright side, the weather remains good!

Mike Horn has now crossed the 83rd degree, and continues to make great progress now that the ground has leveled out. He is now a mere 787km (489 miles) from the Pole. He is also experiencing great weather, although the soft snow has made pulling the sled quite difficult at times.

Finally, the Fins took a “lie-in” day yesterday, allowing themselves to get some extra rest as they prepare for their last push to the Pole. They spent the entire day in the tent, sleeping and eating, making it only their second day of rest since they set out more than 40 days ago. They are now just passed 88º S and stand just 219km (136 miles) from the Pole.

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