Antarctica 2013: Teams Close In On 90ºS

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It is shaping up to be a busy week at the South Pole as a number of teams should wrap up their expeditions late in the week. It has been a long, tough season at the bottom of the world, and it will rapidly come to an end in a matter of a few weeks. For the skiers who are still pushing themselves across the ice, there are many miles to go before they rest. But with the end now in sight, most are finding a last bit of strength to get them to the finish line, where they can rest at last.

One team that has already visited the Pole and is now on their return trip is the Scott Expedition. Ben and Tarka continue to push forward despite the fact that they have now been enduring the Antarctic conditions for 80 days. Things are looking up for them a bit however, as they have now almost completely descended off the Antarctic Plateau and are starting to move faster as a result. Yesterday they covered nearly 25 miles (40 km) and they’ve now reduced their distance to 585 miles (941 km). That is still an awful lot of ground to cover, but hopefully things should start to get a little easier, despite their overwhelming fatigue. They’ll pick up a supply cache at the top of the Beardmore Glacier at the end of the day today, which will fill the sleds once again but provide them with much needed supplies. From there, they’ll continue on across the frozen expanse of a continent that I’m sure both men are ready to put behind them. At their pace however, they’ll still have a few weeks to go before they are done.

Meanwhile, the husband and wife team of Chris and Marty Fagan are pushing towards the Pole with high spirits, even as they enter their 43rd day on the ice. With their food supplies starting to run low, they have now targeted Saturday as the day they hope to reach the South Pole. The weather is reportedly good there at the moment and hopefully it will stay that way. They’ll need all of the conditions in their favor in order to finish on schedule.

Also hoping to wrap up his expedition on Saturday is South Pole cyclist Daniel Burton. After taking a rest day yesterday to recharge his own batteries, as well as that of his gear, he should be back on the trail today and heading south once again. He has passed the 88th degree and is closing in on 89, but the riding remains physically and mentally challenging for sure. Still, if all goes according to plan, Daniel will reach his goal of becoming the first person to ride their bike the full distance to the South Pole by next weekend.

Lewis Clarke and his guide Carl Alvey have reached another major milestone. They now have less than 100 miles to go until they reach 90ºS. After knocking off 19 miles (30.5 km) yesterday, they’re now on track to reach the Pole by Saturday as well. Weather conditions have improved for the duo, but temperatures are still hovering around -39ºC/-38ºF, which is about how it was in much of the northern U.S. last week, the difference being that most of us don’t have polar suits to keep us warm. If Lewis is able to complete these final 100 miles, and I don’t see any reason he won’t, he’ll become the youngest person to ski the full distance to the South Pole, completing that journey at the age of 16.

Finally, Antony Jinman is closing in on the 89th degree, and as of yesterday he had just 78 nautical miles (144 km) to go until he is done. If he is able to maintain his current pace, that should put him into the Pole sometime on Friday. He has climbed to the top of the Antarctic Plateau, which means that the surface is flatter, but also that winds have increased and the altitude is higher as well. He is in good spirits, anxious to reach the end, but enjoying his time in the Antarctic none the less.

That’ll wrap things up from the Antarctic today. Expect more updates throughout the week as the teams near the end of the trail.

Kraig Becker