Antarctica 2013: South Pole Prepares To Welcome Visitors!

The Antarctic season is drawing to a close as numerous teams now close in on the South Pole. This weekend should be a very busy one at the bottom of the world, where the inhabitants at the research station there are known for giving warm welcomes to those who ski in for a visit. They’ll have to put the welcome mat for sure over the next few days, as several teams are now on the final approach.

The first arrival to the Pole is Antony Jinman, who reached that point earlier today after 47 days out on the ice. He skied the final 14 nautical miles (26 km) today and reportedly is in good spirits now that his expedition is done. Antony’s 700+ mile (1126 km) journey has had its challenges, just like everyone else.

Still, the Polar vet showed his strength by quietly going about his work, pushing ahead at a steady pace, and completing the journey on the same day that Captain Scott reached the Pole more than 100 years ago. Jinman carried two drones with him along the way, which were used to capture aerial video footage. It should be interesting to see what he has to share with us once he gets home and has a chance to review. 

Chris and Marty Fagan are on track to arrive at the Pole tomorrow, which is good. They’re down to just emergency rations at this point, with Marty drinking his final cup of coffee this morning. If that isn’t incentive enough to get to the finish line, I don’t know what will be.

With 20.4 miles (37.7km) yet to ski, they’re not quite done yet. But they can now start turning their attentions to home, where their son has been patiently waiting for their return for the past two months.

Lewis Clarke and Carl Alvey are slowly but surely closing in on 90ºS. As of yesterday, they still had 37 miles (68 km) to go before they finished, and while that is still a daunting distance to cover, they hope to arrive tomorrow too.

As the weather forecast indicates, if high winds persist, their arrival could get pushed off until Saturday. It has been 45 days since they left the coast in Lewis’s attempt to become the youngest person to ski to the South Pole, and that goal looks like it will soon be a reality.

Daniel Burton is pushing forward with his attempt to be the first person to cycle the full distance to the South Pole. He passed another milestone yesterday by entering his final degree.

He reports soft snow on the ground, making it harder for him to pedal and slows him down some. Still, he keeps pushing ahead as best he can and now seems likely to reach the finish line early next week. From his dispatches’ tone, I think it is safe to say that he’ll be pleased to have this journey behind him.

Another cyclist, Juan Menendez Granados, is reportedly suffering mightily on his final push to the Pole. We knew that he was nearly out of food a few days back, and ExWeb is reporting that he is also going without much sleep.

He is trying to get to 90ºS, but he is tired, weak, and low on energy. Not a good combination in the Antarctic. His last update said that he is 48.5 km (30 miles) from the finish, so it will likely take him another couple of days to get there.

Finally, on this important day in Antarctic exploration history, the Scott Expedition continues its push back to its starting point. They’ve been out on the ice longer than anyone else – 84 days at this point – and yet they still have more than 500 miles (804 km) to go before they are done.

By early next week, they hope to have descended from the Beardmore Glacier, which should make it much easier for them to progress. But at this point, they are exhausted both mentally and physically. Each day is a challenge, but Ben and Tarka seem resolved to see their expedition through.

If they manage to make it back to the coast, it will be one of the most impressive recent memory expeditions. More than 3 months in the Antarctic is enough to test anyone. I sure hope they’re making plans to sit on a warm beach when all of this is through.

That’s all for today. My next update next week should have news on the successful arrivals of numerous teams.

Kraig Becker