Antarctica 2011: Slow Progress Is Still Progress

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With the Thanksgiving holiday upon us in the U.S., I likely won’t be posting updates over the next few days, so I thought I’d take an opportunity to check-in with the Antarctic teams to see how they are progressing. So far, it has been a tough season at the bottom of the world, but the explorers are taking it in stride and seem to be making the best of a tough situation.

One of those teams, is the Antarctic ICE squad of Dixie Dansercoer and Sam Deltour, the two men who hope to spend upwards of three months, crossing more than 6000km, this year. After getting off to a very rough start, Dixie and Sam elected to retreat to a nearby base, consider their options, and relaunch the expedition. They returned to the ice yesterday and managed to already cover more distance than they had in their first week previous to the restart. As you can imagine, that makes them optimistic for good things to come. It should also be noted that they have also restarted the clock on the expedition as well. One look at their website shows you that this now considered “Day 2” of the journey.

Aussie skiers Cas and Jonesy are reporting that while they are making better progress, conditions still remain very challenging for the duo who hope to go from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole and back again. Deep snow has continued to slow their progress and the high winds aren’t helping matters either. With about 800km (497 miles) still to go to the Pole, they are staying focused on their goal and trying to remain upbeat, despite a few nagging physical concerns. Hopefully they’ll get a chance to get in a rhythm soon however, as this expedition has simply been once challenge after another for them so far.

Richard Weber and his team finally got underway yesterday. They’ll be kite-skiing from the Filchner Ice Shelf to the South Pole over the next few weeks. Richard reported a bit of a slow start yesterday with warm (by Antarctic standards) weather and soft snow keeping the group from covering too much ground.

Mark Wood officially launched his North-South expedition yesterday as well, beginning what he hopes to be back-to-back journeys to both the North and South Poles. So far, Mark has had good weather, although he notes that crevasses and sastrugi are already an issue. Still, progress has been good, particularly for the early going, and he is already exceeding 10 nautical miles, despite moving mostly up hill.

One team that could use some good weather is the Scott-Amundsen Centenary Race squad. Both teams were caught in blizzards yesterday resulting in whiteout conditions. It was so bad that the Scott Team made no progress at all, although the Amundsen Team did manage to knock off 12.3 nautical miles. That is an impressive number considering how horrendous the conditions were. Team leader Henry Worsely described it in the words of Shackleton as the “white darkness.”

Kraig Becker