Antarctica 2012: And Then There Was None!

Geographical South Pole 2011

I don’t typically post back-to-back Antarctic updates, but considering the nature of this announcement and the fact that it came not long after I finished writing my last post, I decided it was best to just go ahead and get it out there as soon as I could.

A short time ago Richard Parks announced that he is ending his expedition to the South Pole, saying that he has simply “run out of time.” If you’ve been following Richard’s progress lately, you already knew that it was going to be extremely difficult for him to arrive at the South Pole in time for the last flight out, which is currently scheduled for this Sunday, January 27.

You can read the entire Richard’s blog post on the subject here and the official announcement here, but it basically came down to simple math. He can’t cover the required distances in the time that he has left. As you can imagine, this was a very difficult to decision to make, as it was clear that he desperately wanted to complete this journey. But poor circumstances and unexpected challenges have kept him from reaching the finish line despite his best efforts. He is now awaiting pick-up by a Twin Otter aircraft for a flight back to Union Glacier.

As you may recall, the start of Richard’s expedition was delayed thanks to a shipping snafu that kept his gear on a dock back in London when it should have been waiting for him in Punta Arenas on his arrival. That put him back several days before he ever hit the ice. When he did get going, he was making excellent time, knocking off plenty of milage on a daily basis. But after crossing into the 87th degree, he struggled with the incredibly bad sastrugi that have been an issue for all of the South Pole skiers this year. The ones that managed to make it through did so only because they hit the ice earlier and had more time to reach the Pole.

Slowed down in the sastrugi zone, Richard’s morale took a hit and his food supplies began to run low. He accepted a supply drop, which helped to put things back on track, but in the end he just didn’t have enough days left on the calendar. It was clear that Parks had all the tools he needed to complete this expedition, with the exception of just a few more days.

Something tells me this isn’t the last we’ve heard of Richard in the Antarctic. He did a fantastic job up until this point and had his gear not arrived late, he would have had plenty of time. My guess is he’ll be back again in 2013 to have another go at it. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Kraig Becker