Antarctica 2011: Felicity Closes In On The Pole


It was another productive weekend for the Antarctic skiers heading to the South Pole. The weather was generally good for the past few days, although some of the teams are now reporting a change once again, with high winds working against them, even as they close in on their destination.

One of those skiers is Felicity Aston, who has now entered the last degree to the Pole and should be arriving at 90ºS in the next few days. It won’t be an easy journey to that point however, as she reports very strong winds this morning, which are making it tough to make progress. On her Twitter feed she also laments the fact that after skiers have passed the last degree, they aren’t allowed to leave anything behind. That includes human waste, and as a result, she’s now “pooing in a bag.” Such are the hardships of a polar explorer. As a reminder, don’t forget that the South Pole is not the finish line for Aston, who will then ski to Hercules Inlet for pick-up.

South African adventurer Howard Fairbank has crossed the 88th degree himself and his hoping to reach the South Pole sometime next week. He has been going solo and unsupported until this point, but will join Richard Weber and his squad to kite ski back to Hercules. Howard reports that the winds have increased for him as well, although it was the terrain that really made it a tough go today. He did manage to cover 30km (18.6 miles), but it was a real struggle that has left him physically and mentally drained. Still, his spirits seem high and he is happy to have reached another milestone in his journey.

Speaking of Richard Weber and the team he is leading to the South Pole, they reached a milestone of sorts over the weekend as well. The group managed to cross the last of the crevasse fields, and the 87th parallel, but not without a few injuries. A members of the squad by the name of Chris de Lapuente fell on the ice, and managed to break his wrist and tweak his knee fairly seriously. He has managed to keep skiing, although his knee is reportedly quite swollen. In a bit of ingenuity, the team used a paperback book as a make-shift splint to protect the wrist, and for now Chris is toughing it out. Hopefully these injuries won’t prevent him from completing the expedition.

Dixie and Sam had hoped to close in on the Pole today or tomorrow, but the winds they are using to drive their kites, all but disappeared yesterday. As a result, they took the opportunity to rest and plan for their post-Pole adventure. The boys are closing in on 30 days out on the ice, but that is roughly on a third of what they have planned, so after they pay their respects at the South Pole Station, they’ll be continuing on for another two months of travel throughout the continent. If the winds cooperate, I’d expect them to arrive at the Pole before the end of the week, as they are now notching as much as 150km (93 miles) per day when the winds are blowing right. As of this morning, they were sitting at about 87.5ºS, leaving them just 2.5º to go.

It seems we should start to see a steady stream of skiers arriving at the South Pole over the next few days. For some, it will be the end of the line, for others, just another stop over on a much  longer and challenging adventure. Stay tuned for more.

Kraig Becker