Antarctica 2014: Teams Progressing Towards the Pole

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Earlier in the week I posted an update on the progress of Frédérick Dion, who had just completed his expedition to the Pole of Inaccessibility in Antarctica. While there isn’t much new to report on his part, the other teams out on the ice are continuing to make progress, despite difficult conditions. So, while we wait to see what Fréd’s next move will be, here are some updates on the other explorers traveling across the frozen continent at the moment.

It feels like kite-skier Faysal Hanneche has had to deal with the worst weather of anyone who is currently in the Antarctic. He has constantly had to battle whiteout conditions on his way to the South Pole, and today was no different. He reports that another storm rolled through his area, cutting visibility dramatically, and making it incredibly difficult just to see the contours of the ground. Fortunately, he wasn’t dealing with any sastrugi at this point, and the higher winds allowed him to cover 53 km (33 miles), despite the challenging conditions. He still has a long way to go to reach the Pole however, as his current position puts him 1843 km (1145 miles) from that point. Considering he spent a couple of days tent-bound earlier in the week due to storms, I’m sure he’s happy to be making any progress at this point.

Meanwhile, the team consisting of Are Johnson, and Stéphanie and Jérémie Gicquel continues to speed right along. After 33 days out on the ice, they are now just 194 km (120 miles) from the South Pole, as they continue to knock off about 25 km (15.5 miles) per day. If hey stay on their current pace, that would put them at 90ºS sometime around Christmas Day. We’ll have to see if they make it to the Pole in time to celebrate the holiday, but they are covering solid distances on a daily basis, despite high winds and incredibly cold temperatures.

Solo-skier Newall Hunter is experiencing the ups and downs of skiing in the Antarctic as well. Yesterday, he skied for more than 8 hours in an almost complete whiteout. It was so bad that he could barely see the tips of his skis as he moved over difficult ground. But as soon as he stopped for the evening and made camp, the sun came out, and the weather was as clear as could be. He’s now been out on the ice for 22 days, and has roughly 400 km (248 miles) to go before he wraps his journey. So far, he seems in good spirits and fine health.

There hasn’t been many detailed updates on the progress of Paula Reid, just an occasional brief note and the ability to track her progress. On Monday of this week, her team reached Thiels Corner, a supply depot where they were able to pick up extra food and fuel. Everything seems to be going according to plan thus far, with several more weeks to go until they reach the Pole.

Finally, Dutch adventurer Manon Ossevoort is on her way back to the Antarctic coast. After wrapping up her expedition to the South Pole by Massey Ferguson tractor last week, she’s finding it much easier going to drive back in the opposite direction. As of today, she and her team have just 1092 km (678 miles) before they are completely done. Currently they are covering approximately 300 km (186 miles) per day, which means they should be back to their starting point at the Novo station by this weekend. If the weather holds, and they have a bit of luck on their side, they just might make it home for Christmas.

That’s all for today. More Antarctic updates as the news warrants.

Kraig Becker