Antarctica 2013: Teenage Explorer To Attempt Speed Record To South Pole

The 2013 Antarctic season is still three months from getting underway and yet it is already shaping up to be an interesting one. Last week I told you about the husband and wife team of Chris and Marty Fagan who will be heading to the South Pole together in November and yesterday I received word about an even more ambitious expedition. In December, 19-year old Parker Liautaud will attempt to set a new speed record for skiing to the South Pole, covering the distance from the Ross Ice Shelf to 90ºS in just 22 days.

The expedition is set to begin, weather permitting, on December 3. On that date, Parker will embark on a 400 mile (643 km) journey to the Pole that will be a true test of his endurance and dedication. If he hopes to break the speed record he’ll need to average 18 miles (29 km) each and every day, which is a lot to ask in an environment like the one he’ll find in the Antarctic. Even during the summer months in the Southern Hemisphere conditions can be challenging there. Temperatures will routinely fall between -28ºC (-18ºF) and -60ºC (-76ºF). High winds, whiteout conditions and sudden snow storms can all make it tough for him to complete those distances. If he is successful, he’ll also become the youngest man to ski the full distance to the Pole as well.

Despite his young age, Parker is no stranger to polar exploration. He has skied to the North Pole on three separate occasions. Those were all “last degree” journeys however and his journey to the South Pole will be the full distance. His visits to 90ºN have all been guided by veteran polar explorer Doug Stoup as well. There is no word on whether or not Doug will join Parker on this journey too. The press release detailing the expedition says that it will be “unsupported” but there is no mention of whether or not it is also “solo.” (Update: I’ve heard directly from Parker that Doug will indeed join him on this expedition!)

In keeping with the themes of his previous expeditions, Parker will once again be drawing attention to climate change, global warming and its effects on the polar ice caps. While he is skiing to the South Pole he will be taking samples of the snow that he passes by each day and he will deploy a brand new, lightweight weather station that will collect data in realtime. The hope is that through the samples and data collected, we’ll begin to learn a little bit more about how climate change is impacting the Antarctic.

You’ll be able to follow Parker when he gets underway at Currently there is a clock there counting down the days until the start of expedition as well as some more info about the he hopes to accomplish while traveling through the Antarctic.

Kraig Becker