Most of the new from Antarctica today is more of the same as the South Pole skiers continue their march to the eventual finish line. For most, it was another challenging day on the ice although they all continue to make progress towards their goal. But for Eric Larsen it was the end of his Cycle South expedition, during which he was attempting to become the first person to ride a mountain bike to the bottom of the world.
Yesterday I noted that Eric was waiting for a plane to pick him up near Hercules Inlet, the starting point of his journey some 17 days ago. ALE had promised that a twin otter aircraft would be sent to retrieve him, but due to bad weather all the flights had been grounded. Late yesterday the weather cleared however and the plane was able to pick him up at last. There hasn’t been any updates since that time, but presumably Eric is now back at the Union Glacier camp and awaiting a flight out to Punta Arenas. The next flight out is scheduled for today and if the weather cooperates, it is possible that Larsen will be off the ice and back in Chile tonight.
Elsewhere, Richard Parks continues to power his way towards the South Pole, even when he is struggling to stay focused and motivated. In his most recent dispatch Richard says that he had a very tough day two days ago, but that yesterday was much better and he was feeling rejuvenated. On both days he skied for approximately 9-9.5 hours and covered roughly 33 km (20.5 miles), which are impressive chunks of distance to say the least. He also noted that while skiing yesterday, and lost in his own thoughts, he was buzzed by an airplane passing overhead. It was the first signs of life he’d seen in more than two weeks and came as a bit of a surprise. Apparently it was another ALE flight, this time picking up research scientists and returning them to Union Glacier.
Yesterday was another difficult day for Aaron Linsdau, who continues to battle massive sastrugi. As I mentioned yesterday, sastrugi are hard ridges of snow and ice that collect on the surface, making it difficult for explorers to make progress. To put these ridges into context, Aaron says that he was encountering sastrugi that were 6-7 feet (1.8-2.1 meters) in height. At that size they are a real struggle to cross over, so he was forced to regularly go around the obstacles, costing him precious time and distance. At the end of the day, Aaron struggled to cover 8.5 miles (13.6 km) in 9 hours. At that rate, he won’t clear the sastrugi field in two days time as he had hoped and will now be dealing with the formations for an extra day instead. As of yesterday, he was still 145 miles from the Pole.
Finally, Icelandic solo skier Vilborg Arna Gissurardóttir appears to have passed Aaron despite starting a couple of weeks after him. She announced yesterday that she has now passed the 87.5ºS mark after putting in another 21 km (13 mile) day. She has been dealing with some issues with her sleds, which have slowed her down some, but according to her most recent dispatch, she has the issue solved for now and is focused on reaching her end point. If she continues to knock off mileage at her current clip, and I see no reason why that would change now, she should reach the South Pole in about ten days.
That’s all for now. Hopefully the weekend will bring better conditions for all of the explorers. More soon.
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