Antarctica 2012 Update: Waiting To Begin

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The official start of the 2012 Antarctic season remains on stand-by this week as ALE waits for a clear weather window to begin shuttling visitors to the frozen continent. Their first scheduled flight was set to take place this past Saturday, but as is often the case, the weather dictates when those flights can truly begin. Elsewhere in the region, other teams are making progress on their expeditions however as they travel on foot through some of the most remote places on the planet.

Aaron Linsdau is the only explorer waiting to launch a ski expedition to the South Pole at moment and considering his objectives, it is easy to understand why he is eager to get started. Aaron plans to make a round-trip journey from Hercules Inlet to the Pole and back again, covering approximately 1430 miles (2300 km) in the process. That journey is expected to take roughly 90 days to complete, so any lengthy delays to his start may cost him at the end.

According to his Twitter feed, high winds at the Union Glacier camp are preventing his departure at the moment, so he’ll wait in Punta Arenas for word on when it is safe to go. The flight from Chile to Union Glacier is a long one and conditions have to be right on both ends before ALE’s big Ilyushin aircraft will take off. ExWeb is reporting that the runway at Union Glacier has been completed however, making it possible for the planes to safely get in and out for the season ahead. All of Aaron’s gear is packed, weighed and stowed, so all the pieces are in place and it is now simply a waiting game.

Also in Punta Arenas are the Lake Ellsworth research team who are busy organizing their gear and planning for their own expedition. They’ll head to Antarctica on a later flight for a project that involves drilling through 3km (1.8 miles) of ice to reach a subglacial lake. They hope to collect samples from the water their to determine what life forms exist in the water, which has been buried for thousands of years. They also hope that their research will provide insights into what climate was like on the continent prior to it drifting to the far southern end of the planet.

Over on South Georgia Island, the Baffin Babes are steaming right along, despite experiencing their hardest day yet yesterday. It’s was near white-out conditions for much of the time that they were skiing, which made it a challenge to navigate through a dangerous crevasse field. The ladies, who we followed as they crossed Baffin Island on skis a few years back, are now attempting to accomplish the same feat on South Georgia. They’ve been underway for a week and a half now and have experienced quite a few encounters with penguins, reindeer and other wildlife on the remote island.

Also preparing to get underway soon will be Mike O’Shea and Clare O’Leary, who are attempting to ski across the remote North Patagonian Icecap. They’re currently in Chile and making their way to the starting point, which requires taking a bus and traveling on boats, riding on horses for a few days and even ice climbing on the glacier. And that is just to get to the point where they can officially begin! Updates should begin soon. Watch the team’s Facebook page for more information.

That’s all for now. Stay tuned for more updates once the planes start flying to Union Glacier. Also expect more teams to be added to the list of explorers going to the South Pole. This is a fairly skimpy number thus far, but there are others who are planning on making that journey but just haven’t departed for Chile just yet. More soon!

Kraig Becker