Antartica 2010: Updates From The Ice

While I was away enjoying the long holiday weekend here in the States, the Antarctic season finally got underway with ALE resuming regular flights to Union Glacier and the polar explorers and mountaineers getting underway at last. After the weather played havoc with the start of the season, many were forced to wait for their opportunity to get started with their expeditions, with some already nearly two weeks behind schedule before they ever stepped foot on Antarctica itself.

Perhaps the most ambitious expedition of the season is Chris Foot’s attempt to ski from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole and back again. He’ll go completely solo and unsupported, covering 1390+ miles in the process, as he hopes to complete a journey that has never been done before. Chris is now three days into that journey and while the details of his progress remain a bit light at the moment, he is reportedly doing well. Chris hopes to have his tracking system up and running in the next few days and will also be providing more audio dispatches in the days ahead.

Similarly, Willem ter Horst also got underway a couple of days back and has been acclimating to life in Antarctica as well. He’s making his way to the South Pole on skis too, and yesterday he, along with his guide Hannah McKeand, reached Foxy Pass located at 80ºS. Still a long way to go before he reaches the bottom of the world, but Willem and Hannah are already ticking off the miles, having racked up 12 nautical miles yesterday alone. That means they’re off to a good start, and making great progress.

The Moon-Regan Expedition is also off and running, although they are experiencing a few difficulties so far. This is the team that is making a traverse of the Antarctic continent aboard a high-tech snow vehicle powered by biofuels, which seems to be working well so far, but the expedition’s support vehicles are the ones experiencing problems. They have suffered with engine problems almost from the get go, and while the support team has worked hard to over come those issues, they are now facing a different problem, namely the lack of fuel. The heavy snow and slow travel has caused them to burn through fuel at a faster rate than they had expected, which now puts them in danger of not reaching their fuel cache with all the vehicles in working order.

Finally, our friend Alan Arnette set out for Antarctica last Wednesday and arrived in Punta Arenas, Chile on Thanksgiving Day after 30 hours of travel. After a brief stay in Punta, he found himself packed and ready to go, and unlike the previous explorers, he was off to Union Glacier on schedule. Alan has already begun posting updates to his blog and had reported in from the ice base, which he promptly left for Mt. Vinson, the first challenge on his Seven Summits for Alzheimer’s Expedition. Over the course of the next year, Alan hopes to raise more than $1 million for Alzheimer’s research, and we’ll get to follow along as he takes on the highest mountain on each of the seven continents. Expect regular and insightful dispatches from Vinson soon, as Alan as a knack for sharing the details of his adventures and giving us a great snapshot of what is happening on the mountain.

After plenty of false starts, the Antarctic season is underway. More to come soon.

Kraig Becker