Antarctica 2013: Teams Continue To Struggle

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It was another very trying day in the Antarctic as teams continue their push towards the South Pole. In addition to facing the typical challenges of dealing with the cold temperatures and the hollowing winds, they’re finding that these expeditions are tough in other ways too. They’ve also discovered that if they don’t keep their wits about them at all times, it can prove costly in other ways as well.

Aussie Geoff Wilson learned that lesson the hard way today. It was an incredibly tough day for Geoff, who is attempting to kite ski to the South Pole. While packing his tent this morning he broke a pole, which required him to repair it before he set out for the day. He was relieved to discover however that there were good winds for kiting, and soon he set off on his way. But those winds proved to be a bit too strong for the larger kite he was using. At one point they actually lifted him up six feet in the air before slamming him back down onto the frozen surface. At that point he decided it was best to change to a smaller kite that was easier to control, but upon examining his sleds, he found that one of is food bags had opened and he had lost a considerable amount of food. Enough to put the expedition in jeopardy.

Donning his skis, he retraced his footsteps for about 8 km (5 miles) collecting as much food as he could along the way. That slog was directly into a head wind however, and the cold temperatures started to bite into his skin. Fearing a case of frostbite, Geoff eventually turned back, and took inventory of his food situation. He has enough to go on, but there is now little room for error. It’s South Pole or bust.

Elsewhere, Daniel Burton continues to struggle with high winds. He is attempting to ride his fat tire bike all the way to the South Pole but progress has been incredibly difficult and slow right now. Yesterday it was so challenging that he only managed to cover 3 nautical miles (5.5 km), which simply isn’t enough ground to cover to make to the South Pole in a reasonable amount of time. If he can’t find a way to pick up the pace soon, his entire expedition will be in jeopardy.

Parker Liautaud and Doug Stoup are now three days into their attempt to ski to the South Pole and have now achieved a major milestone. The duo managed to ski up the Leverett Glacier and have now reached the Antarctic Plateau. That means that they’ll have relatively flat skiing all the way to the Pole, which is still some 240 nautical miles (450 km) away. But reaching this point is always a good achievement on any expedition to the 90ºS. It doesn’t make things easy, but it certainly helps both physically and mentally.

Lewis Clarke has now completed his first full week out on the ice, which is also a milestone of sorts. He still has approximately 640 miles (1029 km) to go before reaching 90ºS, but so far things are going well. The 16-year old is attempting to become the youngest to make the full journey from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole, and while high winds are currently making for slow going, he is taking solid chunks of mileage off the total distance as he goes.

Finally, Chris and Marty Fagan are also dealing with the winds on their ski journey to the Pole. They describe todays gusts as being the kind that make you want to stay huddled in your sleeping bag, safe from its bite. But if they want to reach their goal, they have to keep moving, so each day they crawl out of their tent and proceed to ski for 8 to 10 hours. It isn’t easy. It is always cold and conditions are tough. But this is what traveling through the Antarctic is all about, and none of the men and women who are there would have it any other way.

As two endurance athletes, Chris and Marty also recommend just such a journey for anyone looking to get into fine shape. They say pulling a heavy sled into heavy winds for 8 hours a day will certainly burn calories and give you a full body exercise program. In fact, these polar explorers are probably burning in excess of 8000 calories per day, which makes it difficult for them to keep up with all the food they need to eat just to keep going.

That’s all for today. I’ll post more updates as they are warranted in the next few days, including the possible arrival of one team to the South Pole before the end of the week.

Kraig Becker