Antarctica 2011: Rest Days Due To Weather and Health

While I prepare to head out to tropical climes in the Caribbean tomorrow, the Antarctic teams are experiencing a decidedly different environment than I’m about to enjoy. Weather has been better and overall progress has been good, but for most of the South Pole skiers, there is still a very long way to go before they reach their goals.

The Aussie explorers Cas and Jonesy spent a second straight rest day in the tent, which is the last place they want to be at the moment. Progress on their Hercules to the Pole and back again, expedition has been slow thus far, and progress has been hampered by a series of nagging injuries as well.

But Cas has contracted a nasty skin infection which is making it very difficult for him to proceed at the moment and from the sounds of things it is quite painful. Hopefully this isn’t going to threaten the expedition as a whole, but the infection isn’t likely to get better until after they’re off the ice. Lets keep our fingers crossed that the boys will at least have a chance at the first unsupported there-and-back-again ski expedition to the Pole.

Richard Weber’s team has been experiencing great weather conditions, with plenty of blue skies and light winds. The temperatures have even been quite warm by Antarctic standards, which has made the entire team happy. They did run into a bit of a snag yesterday however, when they came across a rather large crevasse field.

That danger forced them to turn west, rather than south, as they navigated around the potential problem. Despite the detour, the skiers managed to knock off 24km yesterday and crossed the 83ºS latitudinal line, earning themselves some extra chocolate for the day.

Weber is taking his team to the Pole on skis, but they’ll kite back to Hercules at the end of the expedition. Joining them will be South African Howard Fairbank, but until they unite, Fairbank is skiing solo and unsupported to the Pole himself, via the Messner Start. Already 8 days into his adventure, Howard notes that he is now finding his rhythm and is as determined as ever to make it to the Pole, despite a few equipment issues and persistent cold and biting winds.

Yesterday, while covering nearly 30km of distance, he managed to break one of his ski poles, which made for an awkward journey, but gave him something to do when he stopped for the day. Howard has now repaired the pole and seems optimistic that it will hold up for the remainder of the expedition.

Following their day of rest the South Pole 1911-2011 team was ready to get back out on the ice and continue their progress to the Pole. Unfortunately, the weather had other plans for them as high winds and bitterly cold temperatures confined them to the tent for another day today. Sitting in the tent hasn’t been easy though, as the men are feeling the effects of the altitude and the lower air pressure that is found at the Poles of the planet, which makes every movement an effort, even while acclimatized after weeks on the ice.

Felicty Aston was also hit with the high winds and colder temperatures as well. Because of the strong headwind, she was only able to cover about 5 miles (8km) yesterday, and rest was elusive in the tent last night. No word if she hit the trail again today or elected to stay tent bound as well, but it appears that the weather is very hit or miss depending on your location.

That’s all for the Antarctic updates for this week. After I return from my excursion, I’ll post a progress report on where everyone sits. Hopefully the explorers will have good weather and snow conditions, allowing lots of progress in the days ahead.

Kraig Becker