Antarctica 2009: Heading South and Heading Up

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Progress towards the Pole, and other Antarctic destinations, continues at the bottom of the world, where teams have been experiencing overall good conditions on their respective journeys. While reports continue to be remarkably upbeat, the rigors of day to day travel have begun to take their toll as well.

The Kaspersky Commonwealth Team is reporting that while conditions remain very good, the weather has gotten colder, prompting an extra layer of insulation to hold out the wind. The latest dispatch from the team comes from yesterday, when they covered 12.4 nautical miles and then celebrated the “Festival of Sacrifice”, an Islamic tradition brought to the team by Era, the team member from Brunei. Era has been working through her own sacrifices it seems, as she reports blisters upon her blisters following some long days on the ice.

Eric Larsen and his teammates continue steaming towards the Pole as well, In his latest update, Eric says that they have put the mountains behind them and are now on the Antarctic plateau, with the ground nearly flat and level. He also says that they have encountered almost no sastrugi so far, and progress continues at a great pace. In fact, on the day of the post, the boys knocked off 14.7 nautical miles, although things have slowed down a bit as they have been slogging up hill for some time. Most people don’t realize that Antarctica is the highest continent in the world, and there are a few portions of the South Pole trek that require explorers to over come some rather long, slow, climbs.

Meagan McGrath posted a new audio update today announcing that she is on the ice at Hercules Inlet at last. She is spending today getting her equipment finalized and ready to go, and then tomorrow she’ll be officially underway on her solo, unsupported journey to the Pole. She reports conditions are good, with temps “only” sitting at -10º below zero. From the sound of her voice, it seems Meagan is eager and ready to get things underway.

Ryan Waters and Cecilie Skog are continuing on their unsupported expedition to the Pole as well, with their latest update coming last Friday, when they were reportedly preparing to drop their skis and switch into crampons for the climb up Wujek Ridge. In an earlier post, the gave some details on their day to day proceedings which are broken down like this: “Each day we do 12 runs of 35 minutes, which add up to 7 hrs. skiing. We take alternating 5 or 10 min. breaks between runs when we eat lunch on the go… chocolate, nuts, cookies etc” At the end of the day, they hit the tents, repair gear, melt snow for drinking water, and try to relax some. Just another day in the life of a polar explorer I suppose.

Finally, back across the water to Patagonia, Borge Ousland and his crew are reportedly done with their expedition to traverse the Patagonian Icecaps. The team was plucked from the ice by a boat yesterday, and they’re now on their way back to Santiago before departing for home. Borge and the crew had such a good time though, the intend to make the journey again next year, and are inviting us to join them. Anyone want so sign up for a Patagonian adventure with a polar legend? Sounds like fun!

Kraig Becker

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