Antarctica 2011: Weber Team Finishes Expedition


With now just a little over a week to go in the current Antarctic season, more teams are finishing off their expeditions and preparing to head home. One of those teams was led by polar legend Richard Weber, who took a group to the South Pole a few weeks back and had been kite-skiing back to Hercules ever since. They managed to reach their destination yesterday, but not without some very long and challenging days on the ice.

The team traveled for several days in near whiteout conditions and covered large distances over the last two days of their journey, before arriving at Hercules Inlet yesterday. On Monday of this week, the group covered 200km (124 miles) alone, and followed that up with another 150km (93 miles) to the finish line yesterday. They are reportedly, and understandably exhausted, as their entire expedition covered more than 2000km (1242 miles). Now, they’ll have some time to rest, as they wait to be picked-up and flown back to Punta Arenas.

Meanwhile, another pair of kite-skiers, Dixie Dansercoer and Sam Deltour, have now spent more than 58 days out on the ice and have covered more than 3565km (2215 miles) themselves. The past few days haven’t been amongst their best either, as the surface conditions have conspired against them to make for some rather challenging moments. Large, and extremely hard, sastrugi (ridges on the ice) have battered the men and their gear, forcing them to make repairs to some of their equipment while on the go. Worse yet, one of their skis actually punctured a fuel bottle, which caused them to lose about 1.5 liters of fuel, which also contaminated several of their pre-prepared meals. Fortunately, it doesn’t seem that that will hamper the expedition at all, as Dixie and Sam have been extra-conservative so far, and have enough supplies to stay another 40 days out on the ice.

Felcity Aston is dealing with high winds and fresh snow this morning, which is making it tough going for her as well. She has her final destination squarely in sight at this point however, and seems a lock to complete the first solo traverse of the continent by woman. As of this writing, she still has about 265km (164 miles) to go to reach Hercules, which should put her there in about another week.

Finally, I wanted to comment briefly on the Helen Skelton South Pole expedition which is currently underway as well. For those who don’t know, Skelton is a television personality in the U.K. who is currently kiting, skiing, and biking (yes, biking!) to the South Pole to raise funds for charity. Until now, I’ve been reluctant to comment on her expedition or write about her progress, mostly because it seems to be mostly a shameless grab for publicity.

Now, I respect anyone who works to raise awareness and funds for charity, but Skelton seems as much about self-promotion as she is about actually accomplishing the things she sets out to do. Make no mistake, she is an adventurous young woman and very athletic, but while many are content to undertake their adventurous activities solely for the experiences and the exploration, she seems to try to find ways of always claiming a record of some kind, even if it isn’t necessarily merited.

If you read Explorers Web, you probably saw their post this morning calling Skelton out for another rather dubious speed-record claim. A few days ago, Skelton, and her companion, kite-skied 100km in just under eight hours, and as a result, they have already petitioned Guinness for a world record claim. As ExWeb points out, that distance and speed are not all that uncommon (see Weber Expedition above!) and that Skelton doesn’t deserve recognition for doing something that others have been doing for some time. For there part, Guinness has responded by saying that they have confirmed Skelton’s GPS data, and that while others have gone faster and further, no one else has ever petitioned them for the record before. That alone speaks volumes about the adventure community as a whole and Helen’s claim to fame within it.

I’ll likely not post much more about her expedition, but I definitely wanted to weigh in on the situation. Personally, I respect Helen’s accomplishments greatly and think she’s done some great things, but her constant need to set “records” is a bit embarrassing, and disrespects some of the accomplishments of others.

Kraig Becker