Antarctica 2009: High Winds in Patriot Hills

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Last week the first Antarctic teams descended on Patriot Hills as they began their acclimatization process for their journeys to the South Pole, Vinson Massif, or where ever they might be headed on the frozen continent. For most, the first day or two is used as a way to get use to the environment, check their gear one last time, and rest up before heading out. But weather conditions ended up keeping them in camp for a few extra days.

Polar explorer Eric Larsen posted an audio dispatch to his blog, giving us an update on his situation. He notes that high winds prevented him and the team he is guiding form setting out yesterday as planned, but he hoped to hit the trail today, and begin the long march south. He mentioned that much of the weekend had been spent keeping tents in place and making sure that they were holding up to the already extreme conditions, but now that things are expected to improve, he seemed eager to get his Save The Poles expedition underway. You may recall that Eric is hoping to become the first person to visit the “Three Poles” in one calendar year, going to the North and South Poles and the summit of Everest in the process. By doing so, he is looking to promote clean energy use in an effort to protect our rapidly changing environment

The Kaspersky Connonwealth Team has been stuck in Patriot HIlls thanks to the weather as well, and their latest dispatch indicates that they have been using their time to get on their skis and make a few trial runs, but once they winds picked up, they stayed snug in their tents, hoping that none of their gear got blown away. No word on when they intend to depart from Patriot Hills, but the seven woman team will be making the 500+ mile journey to the South Pole as a team.

Once the winds drop down, expect more people to start showing up on the ice. ALE will be flying in explorers and climbers from Punta Arenas later in the week, and Meagan McGrath has indicated that she’ll be leaving for South America this week to begin her South Pole adventure as well.

Meanwhile, across the Beagle Channel, in Patagonia, Børge Ousland and his team are continuing their efforts to cross the Patagonian Icecap. They set out from Punta Arenas last week, and initially had slow going thanks to the wild and remote conditions that they had to trek through. Things seem to have improved greatly, and Børge reports spectacular weather conditions and stunningly beautiful scenery out on the ice. Progress has picked up some, but hidden crevasses have forced the team to move slowly and cautiously for now. Today they covered just 4km, which doesn’t sound like much, but last week, while establishing their first camp, they managed just 1km in 9 hours of work. Improvements are all a matter of perspective in the wild!

Kraig Becker

2 thoughts on “Antarctica 2009: High Winds in Patriot Hills”

  1. Patriot Hills is the only private seasonally occupied camp in Antarctica. It is located in the Heritage Range, Ellsworth Mountains, next to a group of hills that gives it its name. Operated by Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions LLC (ALE), the only organization providing expedition support and tours to the interior of Antarctica.

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