Antarctica 2011: More Teams Set Off

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Now that the Antarctic season is officially underway for another year, I thought I’d mention a few more teams that are now on the ice and are either already making their way south or are preparing to get underway. As I’ve said on more than one occasion, it is going to be a very busy year at the bottom of the world, and the South Pole will see more visitors than normal. Considering that it has now been 100 years since Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott raced to that point, it seems only natural that we should commemorate that historic occasion.

As you would probably suspect, there are a number of Norwegian teams following Amundsen’s route to the Pole, several of which are now underway. They are hoping to complete their journey by December 14, the same date that Amundsen arrived. Those teams include the Centenary Expedition to the South Pole, which officially started the journey today, and the South Pole 1911-2011 team, which arrived on the ice over the weekend, but hasn’t updated their status since. Steffen Dhal has also gotten underway, and he reports stiff winds and very cold temperatures thus far.

One of the more interesting expeditions this season will be the Scott-Amundsen Centenary Race 2011-12, which will consist of two teams taking different routes to the Pole. The Amundsen Team, which will be led by Henry Worsley, will set out from the Bay of Whales and will cross the Ross Ice Shelf, and ascend the Axel Heiberg Glacier. The other squad, dubbed the Scott Team, will be led by Mark Langridge, who will take his team from Cape Evans, up the Beardmore Glacier. The members of both teams are currently at the Union Glacier Camp, where they are preparing their gear and getting read to begin their individual treks. The entire expedition is expected to take roughly 70 days to complete, with both teams arriving at the Pole in early January.

Veteran polar explorer Felicity Aston is back in the Antarctic, this time to attempt to become the first woman to cross the continent solo and unsupported. She’ll start on the Ross Ice Shelf and head to the Pole, before making her way back to Hercules Inlet. She expects her journey to take about 70-days as well, covering 1700km (1056 miles) in the process. Similarly, Aussie Mark George plans to ski solo and unsupported to the South Pole, then make the return trip via kite ski. Polar legend Richard Weber will lead a team on 35-day adventure from the Filchner Ice Shelf to the South Pole. They’ll travel by skis from the Messner Start and later kite ski back to Hercules.

I’ll add information on other expeditions and updates from Mt. Vinson, as they begin to take shape. It is going to be a very interesting season in the Antarctica, and I’m glad that it’s officially underway at last.

Kraig Becker