Antarctica 2012: The Logistics Of Antarctic Travel


Another day has come and gone in the Antarctic, and yet there are still things to report in what is becoming a very active season down south. New South Pole explorers are off and running, while those that have been out on the ice for awhile continue to make progress. Meanwhile, over on Vinson, the teams begin their work all over again.

One of the more interesting dispatches today comes from Aaron Linsdau, the 24-year old American who is making his way to the South Pole. Aaron has been out on the ice for a month and a half now, and during that time he has learned a lot about traveling across the frozen expanse of the continent. In his audio message to today he talks about keeping his feet warm while on the go, but not too warm. If they start to sweat, his feet will get cold, inviting frostbite to set in. As a result, the wool liners of his boots are a vitally important piece of gear, and when they get wet they immediately start to frost over. That’s when danger is setting in and he knows that something has to be done. Aaron also notes that he sleeps with those liners inside his sleeping bag each night in an effort to keep them as warm and dry as possible. The worst thing that could happen to someone skiing solo and unsupported to the South Pole is to contract frostbite in the toes, and the skiers take great care to prevent that from happening.

Also of interest, Aaron talks about the position of the sun at the moment, which is always overhead at roughly the same angle. At this time of year, the sun never sets in the Antarctic, which means it is daylight 24-hours per day. That can mess with the rhyme of the body and make it difficult to get proper sleep as well. Linsdau has also previously talked about how warm the weather can be, while the temperatures are still well below freezing. The direct sun can bake an explorer inside of his down suit, while taking it off can expose him or her to sub-zero temperatures. It is an odd experience to be both very warm and very cold at the same time.

These are just a few of the lessons he’s learned while traveling through the Antarctic. Progress remains steady and sure at the moment, with his eyes firmly focused on reaching his next supply cache, at about 85ºS, sometime in the next few days.

Yesterday I posted that Eric Larsen was setting off on his attempt to ride his mountain bike to the South Pole, but it turns out I jumped the gun just a little bit. Eric actually spent the day at Union Glacier camp putting the final touches on his preparation for the start of the expedtion. He now expects to get underway today with the hopes of reaching the South Pole from Hercules Inlet, in roughly three weeks time. It should be interesting to see how well his specially modified Surely Moonlander bike handles the conditions on the frozen continent.

One skier who wasted no time in getting underway was Richard Parks however. Already a bit behind schedule, Parks was eager to get going on his solo and unsupported expedition to the South Pole, embarking yesterday. His first dispatch was a brief one, saying that it was a tough day skiing mostly uphill, but he still managed to cover 15 km (9.3 miles) in just six hours of time. That’s a solid start to his expedition.

Vilborg Arna Gissurardóttir notched her best day yet, hitting the 22 km (13.6 miles) amidst a variety of weather. The Icelandic solo skier says that the day started off cold and windy, but later the winds dropped and the skies cleared, warming things up nicely. As she wound down the day, things took another turn as snow began to fall, making it difficult to see very far. Fresh powder also made it difficult to drag her sledge filled with gear and supplies.

Over on Vinson, the teams are starting their next round of climbs. The RMI squad made their first gear shuttle up to Low Camp at 8700 feet (2651 meters), which served to stretch the legs and start the acclimatization process. Weather was not ideal, but still good enough for them to take the walk. Similarly, the Seven Summits Club reports that both of their climbing teams are now in BC and will likely begin their first trip up the mountain today. 
Business as usual right now. Everyone is just focused on the tasks at hand. More to come soon. 
Kraig Becker