Yesterday was a milestone day in the fledgeling 2013 Antarctic season. After being grounded for 13 days due to bad weather, the first Ilyushin aircraft was able to touchdown at Union Glacier bringing supplies and support staff to that camp. More importantly however, that plane delivered Richard Parks to the ice, where he’ll soon begin his attempt to break the speed record for skiing to the South Pole.
Parks has been in Punta Arenas, Chile for a couple of weeks now, biding his time for the start of his journey. He’s now on the frozen continent at last and I would expect that he’ll spend a day or two organizing his gear before hopping another flight out to Hercules Inlet for the start of his journey. Ahead of him sits 1130 km (702 miles) of frozen expanse which he hopes to cross in just 23 days. That would be one day faster than Christian Eide’s record, which stands at an astounding 24 days, 1 hour and 13 minutes. Whether or not he is successful will largely be determined by his preparation, fitness and the weather. It’ll be tough going for sure as Richard will need to average more than 49 km (30 miles) per day to accomplish his goal. That is blistering pace to be sure.
With weather improving across the continent, Geoff Wilson is hoping that he can launch his “Pink Polar Expedition” soon as well. Wilson is skiing to raise funds and awareness of breast cancer and has had to wait out poor conditions before he can start too. He’ll be flying from South Africa to the frozen continent and expects to get underway today, provided everything goes as expected.
The Scott Expedition, consisting of Ben Saunders and Tarka L’Herpiniere continues their long march to the South Pole and back as well. They were the first team to hit the ice as their intention is to follow Robert Falcon Scott’s route to the Pole and back, covering more than 2896 km (1800 miles) in the process. Their journey has already been a tough one as they lug very heavy sleds filled with gear and supplies for a 4+ month journey behind them. But whiteout conditions and bitter cold have made the adventure a trying one, even in the early days. Ben and Tarka have already been out on the ice for nearly three weeks and yet they still have a long way to go. For now, they just take one day at a time and focus on skiing ahead as best they can.
Other teams will soon join the chase for the Pole and in a few weeks time the first teams on Mt. Vinson will start to arrive. It looks like it will be a very active season in the Antarctic once again with lots of skiers and mountaineers to cheer on from afar. Stay tuned for more updates soon.
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