Antarctic 2012 Update: Progress At Last

Antarctica map small

It may yet be early in the 2012 Antarctic season, but it has already been a difficult one for Aaron Linsdau. He’s now been joined out on the ice by Vilborg Arna Gissurardóttir and both are finally making some good progress. They face some major obstacles towards reaching their respective goals however and as we learned today, Aaron is still getting a feel for travel in the Antarctic.

If you’ve been following Aaron’s progress thus far you know that he has struggled mightily in his first few weeks out. He’s hoping to go from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole and back, but bad weather and slow travel have been a hinderance thus far. He has finally found enough snow to start skiing however and that has helped increase his speeds. Rather than covering just 1-1.5 miles (1.6-2.4 km) he is now hitting 4.5 miles (7.2 km) on a daily basis. But considering the round-trip expedition is suppose to cover 1400 miles (2253 km) in total, he isn’t traveling near fast enough to cover all that ground in the time allotted.

In today’s dispatch Aaron has some insight as to why he is not traveling as quickly as he would hope, even though the weather as improved and he is on his skis at last. He now believes that he is not eating properly and that his nutritional plan may be failing him. Skiing for hours on end, day after day, requires a lot of energy and these polar explorers burn through calories very quickly. Linsdau says that he is running out of steam after pulling his sleds for only a brief amount of time, and because of that he has to stop, find something quick to eat, and then get moving again. Those frequent stops are killing his distances and making it hard for him to gain any kind of momentum. He will be re-evaluating his approach to how and what he eats over the next few days to see if can help his performance.

I found it very interesting to read this dispatch as it gives us a bit of insight that we wouldn’t normally think about for these kinds of expeditions. We know that these explorers must be fit and prepared to endure difficult conditions, but we don’t often think about the importance of staying well fed and keeping your energy up while traveling through such a demanding environment. Clearly Aaron did all of his prep work to be in the best shape possible for this journey, but Antarctica is still teaching him some very important lessons 18 days into the trip.

Meanwhile, Vilborg has officially launched her bid to become the first woman from Iceland to go solo and unsupported to the South Pole. She doesn’t seem to be having as much difficult as Aaron, at least not so far. In her first dispatch, since getting underway, she reports that she has covered 9 miles (14.4 km) in 6.5 hours of travel. From the sounds of things, she is relaxed and enjoying the challenge, listening to her iPod while she skis. Hopefully the rest of the journey goes as well as it has in her first few days.

Finally, the Irish team of Clare O’Leary and Mike O’Shea, along with guide Bengt Rotmo, have wrapped up their crossing of the North Patagonia Icecap. The entire journey took 19 days to complete and covered approximately 250 km (155 miles). If you’re looking for a taste of what that journey was like, take a peek at the video below. It is beautifully done, but definitely shows us a hint of the suffering involved along the way.

PATAGONIA from Sean Mac an tSithigh on Vimeo.

Kraig Becker