As mentioned yesterday, the 2015-2016 Antarctic season is still a few weeks away from getting started, but as we speak, eager adventurers across the globe are preparing to head south to take on the frozen continent. One of them is veteran British polar explorer Henry Worsley, who is preparing for an epic challenge to say the least.
During the upcoming season, Worsley will be attempting the first ever solo and unsupported crossing of the Antarctic continent, a journey that will cover approximately 2735 km (1700 miles) and will take upwards of 80 days to complete. He is undertaking this incredibly grueling challenge to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance expedition, which was to have attempted the first ever crossing of the Antarctica back in 1915. In honor of that event, Worsley hs dubbed his journey Shackleton Solo.
Henry has already set out for Chile, and should arrive in Punta Arenas today. He’ll spend a bit of time organizing his gear and packing all of the food and supplies he’ll need for the expedition, but hopes to fly out to the Union Glacier base in Antarctica on October 27, weather permitting. From there, he’ll spend a few days preparing for the start of the journey before traveling to his starting point. If everything goes as expected, he hopes to be underway by November 10 at the latest.
The route that Worsley plans to take starts in Gould Bay on Berner Island, not far from where Shackleton had intended to launch his traverse as well. Henry will then proceed across the Antarctic continent to the Geographic South Pole located at 90ºS. When he reaches that point the journey will only be half over however, as he’ll then continue to the Ross Ice Shelf, becoming the first person to descend the Shackleton Glacier as well.
Since this is a solo and unsupported expedition, Worsley will have to travel completely by himself, and receive no outside help along the way. That means he’ll need to carry all of the gear and supplies that he needs with him as he goes. He’ll ski under his own power, while pulling heavy sleds filled with food, equipment, and emergency supplies with him the entire way. Henry says that he is hoping to wrap up the expedition in just 75 days, but is carrying 80 days of food just in case.
As he makes this crossing of Antarctica, Worsley will face some serious challenges. In addition to the endless miles of open, frozen, expanse, he’ll endure incredibly cold temperatures, high winds, whiteout conditions, and more. At times, the surface will be covered with sastrugi – ridges made of ice and snow – that will impair his progress, and make it very difficult to drag those heavy sleds. But, Henry has been in these conditions before, and knows what lies ahead of him.
And lest we forget, Shackleton never even got the chance to attempt this crossing himself. His ship became trapped in the ice, preventing his team from ever setting out. After the Endurance was eventually crushed by ice, the crew spent months waiting for a rescue, before eventually launching their own desperate bid to cross the Southern Ocean to seek help. All told, they spent nearly two years trying to survive in the Antarctic, without a single man losing his life. But they returned to civilization to a world gone mad, as World War I was in full swing.
I’ll be following Henry’s expedition closely in the days ahead. Something tells me he’ll have a bit more lock that Shackleton did.
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