Antarctica 2012: Vilborg Back On Course, Parks Battles The Elements

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Another day, another update from the Antarctic. Our intrepid explorers are trying to make the most of their situations on the frozen continent, and while they all continue to make progress, the Pole must seem just out of reach at the moment. The season is starting to rapidly wind down, but we’re not finished yet and for at least one of the South Pole skiers, there is a lot of work to be done before he’s through.

First an update on Vilborg Arna Gissurardóttir, who we learned in our update yesterday was fighting a stomach bug. After spending a day in her tent recovering, the Icelandic solo-skier is back on the trail and continuing her journey to the Pole. She indicated that she was feeling better but still didn’t have much of an appetite, and at this point she is eager to wrap up her expedition and start the journey back home. Yesterday she knocked off another 18.5 km (11.4 miles) and is now just 37 km (23 miles) from the finish line. That should put her on track to finish up tomorrow provided she can muster up the energy for the final push. It has been a long journey (nearly 60 days!) and she has lost her “unsupported” status due to receiving a supply drop from ALE, but she has nearly accomplished her goal at last.

Elsewhere, Richard Parks is probably wishing he was a lot closer to the Pole than he actually is. Today is his 30th day out on the ice and he is just entering into the toughest stretch of the journey. After battling incredibly bad sastrugi for the past couple of days, Richard is feeling a bit physically beat up and his progress has slowed down from the excellent distances he was covering over the first few weeks of his expedition. Instead of knocking off 30+ km (18.6+ miles) per day, his past few have been reduced to 18 km (11 miles) as he struggles to go over and around ice ridges that are often taller than he is. Worse yet, a logistics report from ALE tells him that this sastrugi field will continue for another 100 km (62 miles), so he has several more days of this before he breaks free.

Weather conditions aren’t helping matters either, as temperatures are starting to drop and persistent headwinds are also slowing his progress. But despite all of that Richard is still keeping a positive outlook as he simply gets up, hits the trail and keeps moving forward as best he can.

Finally Aaron Linsdau is continuing his slow and steady progress toward the South Pole. After 75 days out on the ice, he seems to be just concerned with covering as much distance as he can in a day with his eyes squarely focused on getting to the finish line.

Aaron is aware of the locations of the other skiers and estimates that he is about 3 days behind Vilborg, which would put him at the Pole this weekend. He also sends out some condolences to Richard, as he knows all too well the challenges that the Brit faces over the next 100 km of travel. Linsdau says that there is a fourth team out on the ice at the moment as well. That group is from South Africa and they are completing a last degree journey to the Pole. Once these skiers complete their individual expeditions, the 2012 Antarctic season will come to a close, probably before the end of the month.

As if battling bad weather, cold temps and horrible surface conditions wasn’t challenging enough, Aaron also says that his butter sticks have gone bad. As many of you probably already know, a lot of polar explorers eat pure butter sticks on their expeditions because they are easy to pack, provide tons of calories and generally don’t spoil. But apparently when ALE dropped a cache of supplies for Aaron, the butter was left out in the sun, which was just warm enough to cause them to go rancid. As a result, he has been feeling bad the past few mornings when having breakfast and he’s down a few sticks that he would normally use for calories on the trail. In the end, this is just another hurdle for Aaron to overcome, and he’s had to overcome many on this journey. But at this point I feel for the guy, who got more than he bargained for on this very long trip to the Pole.

I know I’ve been saying it for some time now, but stay tuned for more updates. We should have some South Pole arrivals in the next few days.

Kraig Becker