Antarctica 2012: Blizzards And Delays

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The reports out of Antarctica are beginning to sound like a broken record, as bad weather continues to dominate the news from the frozen continent. As a result, some of the explorers that are already there are struggling to make any kind of progress while others simply wait for an opportunity to begin their expeditions at last.

Perhaps the one person most impacted by the weather so far is Aaron Linsdau, who made sure that he traveled to the Antarctic early on so he could begin his long journey at the earliest possible moment. Linsdau plans to make a solo and unsupported round trip ski expedition from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole and back. But so far he has had difficulty making any kind of significant progress thanks to the poor conditions on the ground. First he has encountered more ice than snow thus far, which has made it nearly impossible to ski. That means he’s been dragging his 300 pound (136 kg) sled behind him while he struggles on foot to cover the miles, which has been tough going thanks to high winds and whiteout conditions. But according to his latest dispatch, things have actually gotten worse. Aaron has been tent-bound thanks to a blizzard, which means he isn’t covering any distance at all. He says that due to high winds and heavy snows, he can’t see more than two feet beyond his tent. Hopefully the blizzard means that he’ll at least be getting some snow to ski on soon. If he doesn’t start making significant progress very shortly, his chances of completing the round trip journey will become exceedingly small.

Meanwhile, Icelander Vilborg Arna Gissurardóttir remains in Punta Arenas awaiting a flight to carry her to Union Glacier so she can begin her expedition as well. Vilborg is hoping to become the first woman from her country to make a solo and unsupported trek to the South Pole and she had hoped to be at Hercules Inlet this past weekend. While conditions in Punta seem to be fine at the moment, the weather at Union Glacier hasn’t been so cooperative. Landing on a makeshift runway carved out of ice is not easy under the best of conditions, but with high winds and blowing snow, it is risky at best. For now, ALE has their Ilyushin aircraft grounded while they wait for things to improve.

Also preparing to head out to the Antarctic is In the Footsteps of Legends team, which consists of a group of three wounded British soldiers who will be skiing to the South Pole to raise funds for charity. The men will be led by explorer David Hempleman-Adams and they will depart the U.K. on Saturday. This appears to be a “last degree” journey to 90ºS with a nod to following in the footsteps of Robert Falcon Scott and his crew.

Other teams are now making their way to Chile as well and will begin their expeditions soon. Most are guided trips from Hercules, although we still have Eric Larsen’s bike ride to the Pole to get underway yet too. It has been a relatively quiet season so far at the bottom of the world, but there should be more action soon.

Finally, the team of explorers who have been skiing across the North Patagonia Icecap completed thier crossing a few days back, but they aren’t completely finished just yet. Their ski journey is over but they are still working to descend from the glacier before they head home and that is proving to be a difficult task. With all of their gear and the challenging descent, they’re having to make multiple trips to collect all of their equipment. As a result, it has been a couple of long 16-hour days to wrap up the last stage of the expedition. They should be finishing things up today or tomorrow however and start back to civilization.

Kraig Becker