Antarctic Update: Todd Catches Hannah!

The weekend saw the activity in Antarctica continue apace, with teams battling fatigue, bad weather, and attrition on their way to the Pole.

Todd Carmachael doesn’t seem to be having any of those issues as has now shot past the 88th degree, and has caught up with the record pace set by Hannah McKeand back in 2006. Yesterday was an especially long day for him, as it was mostly uphill and over sastrugi and soft snow. The lack of skis makes it even more challenging, but at this point his sled is much lighter, hopefully making it a little bit easier going.

The weather cooperated with him however, and he managed to cover more 18 nautical miles both days over the weekend, and his goal of reaching the Pole by December 21st now seems to be squarely in sight. We could be witnessing a new speed record right before our vary eyes.

It was a bit of a roller coaster ride for the Shackleton Centenary Team, who reached The Gateway, which marked the ending of the first half of their journey, as they will at long last leave the Ross Ice Shelf behind, and step foot on Antarctica proper. The next stage of the journey will be even more technically demanding however, and after 32 days on the ice, they’re feeling a bit run down. They had hoped to move out onto the Beardmore Glacier today, but poor weather conditions limited their travel to just 1.3 nautical miles due to whiteout conditions.

Mark Langridge continues his journey to the Pole and had a very productive week last week, cover more than 103 nm. That now leaves him just 216 miles from the Pole. The weather has been, in Mark’s words, “brilliant” and it looks to remain that way for the near future. Having passed the half-way point, the Thiel Mountains are now behind him, and his sights are firmly set on his goal, as he knocks off an average of 16.6 nm per day.

The South Pole Quest 2008 Team continue to make good progress and gain confidence with each passing day. They’ve now been out on the ice for 10 days, and report that they feel fit and fine, and are gaining speed each day. They also continue to answer questions for the children in classrooms who are following them from afar. These questions, while simple, are great at providing insights into this type of expedition. Today they answer the question ” “How much food do you have to eat everyday in order to keep yourselves warm, energized etc. Do you cook it all, or is it a lot of prepared packets?” Click here for the audio answer!

Last Friday, Tom Davenport and the rest of his team, led by Sarah McNair-Landry, reached the half-way point and decided to take a rest day at the base of the Thiel Mountains. Their campsite was a fuel depot, where they resupplied with cooking fuel, and a location for drop-offs and departures back to South America. Tom also noted that it was a great place to find meteorites as well, as the glacial ice pushes them to the surface there. He reports that they have fallen into a rhythm and are making great time amidst beautiful scenery and good weather.

Mike Horn also reports great weather conditions, and having attached skins to his skis, he also seems to have solved the problems he was having last week. As Mike was moving uphill, the slick surface, combined with the heavy sledge, were making it impossible for him to make progress with the skis on. He had to resort to using his boots and crampons to get up the long inclines. With the skins attached, the problem is solved, and he’s now putting in chunks of mileage each day.

Finally, the Fins found it tough going over the weekend, as they encountered rolling hills, soft snow, and crevasses that they were forced to navigate. They’re hoping that things will smooth out after they pass the 88th degree, but for now they’ll just have to move a bit slower and try to avoid the cracks. They’ve found this out the hard way, having fallen through the snow and ice on more than one occasion.

That’s all for now. Looks like it’s a race against time for Todd, while the others zero in on their targets as well.

Update: Want to know more about Mike Horn? Check out this story over at Men’s Journal.

Kraig Becker

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