Antarctica 2011: Fairbank At The Pole, Others Close In


While the rest of us have enjoyed a relaxing holiday season, the Antarctic skiers continue their long march to the South Pole. The season has already been a long one for many of the explorers, but it isn’t over yet, and there are still many miles to go, with time starting to run short.

South African solo-skier Howard Fairbank reached the Pole on Tuesday of this week, reaching the bottom of the world on his 35th day out on the ice. That is a very quick and respectable time for ski journey to the Bottom of the World, where he is now enjoying some rest and relaxation. His original plan was to kite ski back to Hercules with Richard Waber’s team, who are likely to join Howard at 90ºS today, but Howard is weighing his options for the return trip and may elect to hop an ALE flight to Chile instead.

Cas and Jonesy are closing in on the Pole as well and as of yesterday they had just 74km (45 miles) to go until they reached the halfway point of their journey. The Aussie duo have now spent almost 60 days on their trek from Hercules Inlet, and the original plan was for them to attempt to become the first to make an unsupported return trip to that point. The journey has taken its toll on the boys however, and we’ll have to see if they elect to continue their journey as well. If they stay on pace, they should arrive at the South Pole in time for the New Year.

Felicity Aston is on the trail towards Hercules as well, having already passed by the Pole last week. She’s now skiing North, which means she has the warmth of the sun on her face throughout the day, and while she still has a long way to go to complete her solo traverse of the continent, she seems optimistic and in good spirits as she continues on her adventure.

Finally, Mark Wood has now been on the trail for 38 days and has crossed the 87th parallel today. That leaves him with about 290km (180 miles) to go until he reaches the Pole. He expects that to take roughly 12 days to cover, which would put him at the finish line on about January 10th or so. That will mark the end of the first stage of Mark’s epic polar adventure however, as he’ll then immediately head to Canada, where he’ll start a solo and unsupported expedition to the North Pole as well – a journey that is likely to be even more demanding and difficult than this one.

Kraig Becker