Antarctica 2014: End in Sight for Final South Pole Team


The end of the 2014 Antarctic season is now just a week away, and the last plane is scheduled to depart the frozen continent – weather permitting – on January 28. That means the last of the explorers must be back at Union Glacier by then, which shouldn’t be a problem for most of the remaining climbers and skiers. But for one team, the clock is ticking, and there is still a considerable amount of ground to cover before they are done.

The trio of Are Johnson and Stéphanie and Jérémie Gicquel continue their race against time as they speed back to Hercules Inlet from the South Pole. They are now on day 68 of their round-trip journey, which will cover 2300+ km (1430 miles) before they are through. As of today, they still have 253 km (157 miles) to go until they reach the finish line, which means they must average roughly 36 km (22 miles) per day to catch the final plane. That’s a tall order, but since they’ve been covering 46.5 km (29 miles) in recent days, they should arrive back at the coast sometime next Tuesday.

These final legs of the journey won’t be easy though. Poor weather has set in once again, it has made for tough going in recent days. Are, Stéphanie, and Jérémie are exhausted from their efforts too, which makes each day a struggle. But now that they are finally finished, they seem like they have girded themselves up for the final push.

Elsewhere, after skiing solo to the South Pole, Newall Hunter traveled to Mt. Vinson to climb the highest peak in Antarctica as well. He reached the summit on that 4892 meter (16,050 ft) peak last Friday, and is now back in Union Glacier waiting for a flight out to Punta Arenas. Bad weather has stranded him there for the past couple of days, as winds of 112 km/h (70 mph) have been howling through the camp. But Newall says he is taking advantage of this extra time on the continent to learn how to kite-ski, which he says will come in handy next year. This season isn’t even over yet, and some of the explorers are already planning their next expeditions.

Thats all from Antarctica for today. I’ll be watching the final ski expedition closely as they near the finish. They should wrap things up early next week and be back at Union Glacier in time for the flight out. By then, they’ll be more than ready for a much deserved rest.

Kraig Becker