November is here at last which means the Antarctic adventurers are gathering in Punta Arenas, Chile and are preparing to set out for the frozen continent. The little village sees some unusual visitors this time of year as it is the launching point for the majority of skiers and climbers heading to the Antarctic for the season ahead. Some are already in town, sorting gear and waiting for a flight, while others have yet to depart. Of course, the Scott Expedition is already well under way as others seek to join them on the ice soon enough.
Ben Saunders and Tark L’Herpiniere, the two men who make up the team that is following in the footsteps of the legendary Robert Falcon Scott, have now been out on the trail for more than 11 days. Those days comprise just a fraction of the 110 that is expected to be required for a round trip journey to the South Pole and back to their starting point at Scott’s hut, located on the Ross Ice Shelf. Still, the two men are starting to find a groove and covering solid distances despite pulling double-sleds filled with 400 pounds (181 kg) of gear and supplies. It has not been an easy start for the boys, who have already faced bone chilling temperatures and high winds, not to mention varying surface conditions.
In their latest dispatch, Ben reports that they ran into the dreaded sastrugi while skiing yesterday. For those who don’t know, sastrugi are hard ridges that form as the wind blasts the snow across the frozen expanse. They can grow quite large at times and are usually detriment to South Pole skiers who lose time either going over or around them. On top of that, they can take their toll on the body as they put a lot of pressure on the hips and knees when skiing across them. Last year the sastrugi were particularly bad, causing all kind of problems for the skiers. Hopefully this is not a prelude of things to come once again this season and that the ice ridges won’t be as common or as large as they were during the 2012 season.
While Ben and Tarka continue to press on, another South Pole skier is preparing to set out on the ice. Aussie Geoff Wilson will launch his Pink Polar Expedition as soon as the weather allows. He is currently in Cape Town, South Africa awaiting a flight to Novo Station where he will launch an solo and unassisted journey to the Pole to raise funds for the McGrath Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to place nurses specializing in breast cancer care into communities in Australia. Geoff’s good friend Kate Carlyle was stricken with the disease and this is a way for him to help out. As a result, he’s pulling a sled that is affectionally called the “boob sled” as it resembles a pair of rather large pink breasts (I’m not making this up people!). If nothing else, Geoff will at least make for an interesting site out on the ice.
The season is just on the edge of really exploding with more skiers soon starting out. In the days ahead we will likely have quite a steady stream of news. For now, it is the calm before the storm.
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