Antarctica 2013: Success At The South Pole, Tough Going Elsewhere


It was another busy, active weekend in Antarctica, where the teams are now in the stage where each day is a real grind. Progress for most has been slow and steady, with few real milestones reached. The South Pole still feels like a distant place for most of the skiers, although each day brings them a bit closer. With days out on the ice still ahead of them, it seems that only the weather changes at the moment, and usually not for the better.

The big news coming out of the weekend is that the South Pole Allied Challenge team completed its journey to the South Pole on Friday. The group that included soldiers wounded in the line of duty from the U.K., the U.S. and other Commonwealth countries skied three degrees to the Pole, spending about three weeks out on the ice to do so. They were relieved and happy upon reaching their destination, and now they have made their way back to Novo Station before catching a flight to Cape Town and eventually back home. Amongst the skiers were Prince Harry of the British Royal Family, as well as actors Alexander Skarsgard (True Blood) and Dominic West (The Wire). The expedition was undertaken with support from the Walking With The Wounded organization, which helps servicemen and women injured in the line of duty to get back to their lives. Congratulations to the entire team.

Elsewhere, Richard Parks is now 11 days into his attempt at the speed record for skiing to South Pole from Hercules Inlet. He has now started to cover 40 km (24.8 miles) per day, which is an excellent pace, but probably not fast enough to break the record. He is hoping to cover the 1125+ km (700+ miles) distance in just 23 days, but with 12 to go, he still has approximately 775.3 km (483 miles) Left to cover. That means he needs to be hitting 64.5 km (40 miles) per day for the rest of the tip. That’s an awfully big increase when surface conditions aren’t cooperating. Soft snow has continued to make progress a challenge and will likely do so for most of the rest of the journey.

South Pole cyclist Daniel Burton is having his share of issues with the weather. The past few days have been whiteout conditions for him, which has made progress incredibly slow. Last week he estimated that if he could continue to hit 15 miles (24.1 km) per day, he could make it to the Pole with the supplies at his disposal. Yesterday he only managed about half of that, which means he’ll have to make up the difference a some point. Hopefully this isn’t a trend that will continue, as he would like to become the first person to ride all the way to 90ºS. Right now, that looks like an uphill battle to say the least.

Kite skier Geoff Wilson reached the 85th degree earlier today and now has just 545 km (338 miles) to go before he reaches the Pole. If the winds stay in his favor, he should have no problem reaching that point before his projected goal of Christmas Day. He is certainly starting to feel the rigors of the expedition however, as his legs have become increasingly weary from traveling over the rough surface. He has also overcome a possible food shortage by simply putting in more mileage. If he covers the final distance the Pole more quickly, he won’t have to worry about his food situation as much.

Finally, 16-year old Lewis Clarke and his guide Carl Alvy have hit their first patch of bad weather. They had whiteout conditions as well yesterday and it made for very tough going. Without the contrast of the sun to help show them the way, it was hard to stay on course and make progress. Without a horizon to help focus them, it can become incredibly disorienting, leaving them hopelessly lost. With that in mind, they only skied for five hours yesterday, returning to the safety and shelter of their tent. Hopefully conditions will improve once again today, as the boys have been making good progress so far and are on course to have Lewis become the youngest person to ski to the South Pole ever.

That’s it for a busy Monday. More to come throughout the week I’m sure.

Kraig Becker