Antarctica 2013: Storms Keep Explorers In Punta Arenas


As we head into the weekend the Antarctic explorers preparing to launch their expeditions continue to play the waiting game. There is a contingent of them in Punta Arenas that are organizing their gear and getting ready to head out to the frozen continent, but for now all they can do is wait for ALE (Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions) to tell them when they can fly. Storms in Antarctica have prevented flights out to Union Glacier over the past few days, which means there is a backlog of supplies and personnel waiting to be transported to the base there. Once ALE is able to clear that backlog however, the teams can begin to fly at last.

Amongst the adventurers who are waiting to start are Chris and Marty Fagan, who have spent the last few days creating individual meals for their ski expedition to the South Pole. Similarly, Daniel Burton, who intends to ride his bike to the Pole, has been prepping his equipment as well. He indicated that gear weigh ins were scheduled to take place today and that after a meeting with ALE he should have a better of idea of when he might get to start. Presumably Lewis Clarke, the 16-year old Brit hoping to become the youngest to ski to the Pole, is completing his gear prep and attending the same meetings as he gets ready to make the 700 mile (1126 km) journey from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole too.

Richard Parks also continues to wait for the proper weather window, although that is expected to come today or tomorrow. He’s been in Antarctica for more than a week now and has been staying at the Union Glacier Camp before heading out to Hercules for his start. He intends to challenge the speed record to the South Pole but is waiting for a few storms to pass before he begins. His original plan had him getting underway on November 18, but he seems unconcerned with a few days delay. Lets face it, there is a long season ahead and if Richard truly will have a shot at the speed record, which is roughly 24 days, he still has plenty of time before he needs to get going. With a little luck, he’ll launch the expedition this weekend.

Aussie Geoff Wilson ran into some difficulty yesterday. Not only was he facing a 5 km (3.1 mile) climb, he also found himself in the middle of a nasty crevasse field. Fortunately he was able to navigate through without too many issues and has better luck today. Geoff is kiting to the South Pole and after a bit of a slow start with some nasty weather keeping him in his tent for four days, he seems to be finding a nice rhythm now.

The three teams who are taking part in the South Pole Allied Challenge departed for Antarctica today. They’re flying from Cape Town to the Novo Base, where they’ll spend another couple of days getting organized before flying out to their starting points. These three teams, one from the U.K., one from the U.S. and one made up of representatives of the Commonwealth, will then race to the Pole from three degrees out. Each team has an expedition leader but for the most part they are made up of soldiers who have been wounded in the line of duty. They should officially get going sometime next week.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Scott Expedition, which is quickly approaching the end of their first month out on the ice. Ben and Tarka continue to make solid progress despite nasty headwinds making for slow going. Yesterday they managed nearly 15 miles (24 km) as they continue their slog to the Pole. The boys still have quite a long way to go before their expedition is done, but they seem in good spirits and are well focused on their mission, which is to complete the route that Robert Falcon Scott had taken back in 1911-1912.

That’s all for this week. We’ll check in again on Monday to see if any progress has been made. More teams should be getting underway soon, provided the weather cooperates of course.

Kraig Becker