Antarctica 2013: Still Waiting

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The weekend wasn’t particularly kind to the teams still waiting to get their Antarctic expeditions under way. Poor weather across the region is still causing major delays and it looks like it may be another few days before things start to improve. This has left a log jam in Punta Arenas, where a number of explorers are still waiting for their flights out to the frozen continent so that they can get underway at last. The weather also continues to delay some expeditions that are already in the Antarctic but have yet to get officially started as well.

At the moment, Chris and Marty Fagan, Lewis Clarke, Daniel Burton, Antony Jinman, and various others are all waiting for flights to Union Glacier. Flights were scheduled to resume over the weekend, but the weather continued to be an issue, so they’ve been pushed back into this week. It is now believed that the forecast will clear up in the next day or two and these teams can finally head out. But until they are actually on the flight, no one is particularly sure when they’ll get to go.

They’re not the only ones who are still waiting to get underway either. It seems Richard Parks is still looking for a weather window to launch his attempt on the speed record for skiing to the South Pole from hercules Inlet. He has been at Union Glacier for nearly two weeks now and has now been radio silent for a week. I have to assume we’ll hear something from him once he actually begins the journey, but for now he seems to be content to sit and wait for a clear window. That could be awhile considering how fickle the weather is in Antarctica.

Also delayed by weather are the three teams taking part in the South Pole Allied Challenge (who also appear to have let their domain expire!). They flew to the Novo base at the end of last week and were scheduled to catch flights to the 87th degree over the weekend, but are now locked in place due to storms. Once they get the clearance to get underway, the three squads will then embark on a race of sorts, with each of them covering the last three degrees to the South Pole.

Geoff Wilson was able to put the major crevasse field that he had been navigating behind him, but the winds have been a bit cruel at times. He is kiting to the South Pole and has had to alternate between dragging his sled on skis at a painfully slow pace and catching brisk winds that allow him to fly across the ice. At times his progress has been unbearably slow and at others he has seen solid progress. All in all, he was happy to make some milestones this weekend and he seems to be getting much more comfortable with his kite now. That means, if the winds are in his favor, he could potentially make good time in the days ahead.

The Scott Expedition hit a milestone of their own yesterday. Ben and Tarka have now been out on the ice for a full month and to celebrate they had a chance of underwear and a bath of sorts. That came as some relief, as they have been battling strong headwinds for the past few days and while they continue to make solid progress, they’ve had to work hard for those miles. According to the statistics posted on their website, the boys still face more than 1500 miles (2414 km) on their journey to the South Pole and back, which has to be a bit unsettling considering the amount of time they have spent out on the ice already. But their mood seems good despite the challenges they’ve face thus far. Hopefully things continue to go well in the weeks ahead. They still have as much as two more months to go before the end.

That’s all for a Monday update. I know you’ve been hearing me say that these other expeditions will get underway soon for several days now, but once again the weather is the final deciding factor. Hopefully this week will be more kind to the teams and we’ll get more updates from the Antarctic soon.

Kraig Becker