Antarctica 2011: More Arrivals At The South Pole


As the clock ticks toward the fast approaching end to the Antarctic season, more explorers are arriving at the South Pole, while others struggle on towards their own personal finish lines.

There were two notable arrivals at the Pole yesterday, with Mark Wood being one of them. Mark reached 90ºS after 50 days on the ice and 612 nautical miles covered on foot. He did the last 20 of those miles yesterday alone, and said that as he approached the Pole, it felt like he was dragging a truck behind him. Tired, but happy, Mark will now take a few days to rest before flying back to Hercules Inlet and then Chile, where he’ll immediately head to Canada, and start planning for his solo expedition to the North Pole, an excursion that will bring an entirely different set of challenges.

Joining Mark at the South Pole yesterday was Australian Mark George, who completed his own solo, unsupported ski journey in 44 days. Today, he is enjoying a rest day and soaking up the feelings of success at having completed his goal, and while he had been considering kiting back to Hercules, he now has given up on that idea due to time constraints. Instead, he has decided to spend his remaining time in the Antarctic on a “Mystery Tour,” which means he’ll be skiing and kiting in what ever direction and speed the wind, or his legs, will carry him. He says he may stay for only another couple of days or he may continue his exploration right up until the last ALE flight heads out, but either way, he’s going to take advantage of his remaining time in that amazing place.

The Scott-Amundsen Centenary Race has was won yesterday as well, when the Amundsen Team reached the South Pole after crossing more than 700 nautical miles to reach that point. It took them 68 days, in sometimes horrendous conditions, to get to their finish line, where they wait for the mates on the Scott Team to join them. As of this morning, they still had 110 nautical miles to go before they arrive at 90ºS, where they will no doubt be more than relieved to hang up their skis for awhile. This Antarctic journey has not been an easy one for either of these two squads.

Meanwhile, Felicity Aston continues her solo traverse of the continent on skis. Having left the South Pole behind days ago, she’s now on her way to Hercules Inlet and making solid progress. She located one of her resupply caches yesterday and was happy to have plenty of food again. She’s consuming more than 5000 calories per day as fuel, but reports that she has lost lots of weight on this expedition as well. One causality of the journey – one of the toenails on her right foot has completely fallen off, which is not uncommon on long distance journeys such as this one.

Finally, Cas and Jonesy are keenly aware of just where they stand. Having covered 1560km (969 miles), they still have 733km (455 miles) to go before they return to Hercules. They also have just 18 days to cover that ground, which means they’ll have to average more than 40km/day (25 miles) to make it. That is certainly doable, but it isn’t going to be easy. The wind at their backs, and good weather conditions, has helped, but it is going to be a real challenge. They’re not giving up however and seem as determined as ever to complete their mission. Good luck boys!

Kraig Becker