Antarctica 2012: South Pole In Sight!

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It was another productive weekend in Antarctica, where the season is beginning to wind down at last. For two of the South Pole skiers the finish line is now in sight, while a third explorer continues to knock off large chunks of milage in his pursuit of his goals.

We’ll start with Vilborg Arna Gissurardóttir, the Icelandic solo skier who has now been out on the ice for 56 days. She has entered the final half-degree at last and is focused in on getting to the Pole in the next few days. She estimates that she’ll arrive at 90ºS on Wednesday, spending just two more nights in her tent and three days on skis as she wraps up her expedition. As she nears the end, Vilborg is easing back on the milage some. After covering a steady 20km (12.4 miles) per day for the length of her journey, she will now take it easy on the final stretch run.

Aaron Linsdau is also closing in on the end. Yesterday he crossed the 89th degree and is now just 59 miles (95 km) from the Pole as well. He reports that surface conditions have improved with sastrugi giving way to smooth and soft snow. That snow is making it harder to drag his sleds, which lost their runners hundreds of miles back, but for the most part he is happy to have the rough stuff behind him. He’s currently covering about 8 miles (12.8 km) per day, which will probably put him at the bottom of the world by next weekend. High winds and cold temperatures are making this last stretch to the Pole a lot more challenging, but conditions are expected to improve today.

Finally, Richard Parks is just now hitting the toughest and most challenging part of the journey and it has taken its toll on him to some degree. Parks has crossed the 87th degree, in just 28 days, but is now encountering a lot more sastrugi himself, which is just brutal on the body. He managed to knock off 27.1 km (16 miles) yesterday, which is actually a slow day for him. Richard will probably find, like Aaron, that the next two degrees will be very difficult before giving away to better conditions near the end. Still, he’s making great time and his morale remains high, so he should reach the Pole on schedule and with plenty of time before the season ends in a few weeks.

That’s it for now. The Antarctic season is really starting to wind down at this point with just a few skiers still trudging along. I’ll post progress updates as the near the finish. At this point it isn’t a matter of if they’ll reach the South Pole, it is simply a matter of when.

Kraig Becker