Antarctica 2010: Explorers Still Heading South

The New Year hasn’t changed much for the Antarctic skiers, who still have their eyes on the prize and are continuing their long, cold, slow march to the Pole.

As is usual, I’ll start with an update on the progress of Chris Foot. In my last post on the Antarctic season I noted that he was fast approaching the Pole. Turns out, I read his locational coordinates wrong and he still has a ways to go. Foot should have crossed the 89th degree yesterday, which would put him at roughly 60 nautical miles until he arrives at 90ºS, but as you well know, that is only the halfway point for the Brit, who is making the first solo and unsupported round trip journey from Hercules Inlet to the Pole and back again. Chris seems to have fixed the problems he was having with his solar charger and has been able to make regular dispatches over the past few days. In yesterday’s update he noted that he had spotted a low flying plane on New Years Day and that it turned out to be a group of travelers making a “last degree” ski trip to the South Pole. He expects to pass them in a day or two, but in order to maintain his unsupported status, all he can do is pass them without any kind of meaningful contact. If he stays on his current pace, Chris should likely hit the Pole late this week. Probably on Thursday or Friday.

Meanwhile, Willem ter Horst and guide Hannah McKeand are continuing to knock off the miles as well. They’re into their 39th day and should pass the 88th degree today. Over the past few days they’ve been making the slow and arduous climb up to the polar plateau, which they should cross today as well. A 100 meter elevation gain for a single day doesn’t seem like a massive amount, but when you’ve been on skis for nearly 40 days, living in a tent, and burning in excess of 8000 calories on a daily basis, it can seem like a daunting task. Still, Willem seems in good spirits despite the weather continuing to be a challenge. Yesterday it was dense fog and warmer conditions that made for a dreary march.

Finally, Christian Eide is also making excellent progress and seems primed to make a run at the South Pole speed record. He’s now 15 days into his journey as well, and has passed 85ºS. His dispatches are quite short, as he is focused on just one thing at the moment – reaching the Pole. But he does report sighting the Thiel Mountains on New Years Day, which has to be a great sight for the start of 2011. He still has a long way to go before reaching the finish line, but so far, his progress has been quite fast.

That’s all for now. Check back in a few days to see if Chris Foot has hit his halfway point.

Kraig Becker