Antarctica 2016: South Pole Skiers Finally Underway!

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It has already been a difficult season for those making the difficult journey across the Antarctic this year. Bad weather has delayed the start of the expedition season on the frozen continent, first preventing most of the teams from flying out of Punta Arenas, and then keeping them stranded at Union Glacier instead of flying out to their starting point. But yesterday, at long last, the skies cleared up and the first explorers were flown to Hercules Inlet to begin their long journeys at last.

Some, are now as much as two weeks behind schedule, but they’re hoping to make up for lost time and still complete their expeditions. Ahead of them sits hundreds of miles of open expanse, which they’ll have to cross on skies while dragging a heavy sled carrying their supplies and gear behind them at all times. It is an incredibly difficult and demanding task, but one that they are now eager to have finally started.

Amongst the first to set off is the British military team consisting of six members. They were dropped off at their starting point yesterday, but their arrival wasn’t until late in the afternoon local time. Still with some daylight left to burn they hit the trail and put in four hours of skiing before calling it a day. That was enough to lift their spirits and get them ready to truly get things going today. Expect regular updates from the ice now that the expedition has officially begun.

Also out on the ice is Norwegian explorer Johanna Davidsson who was also dropped off at Hercules Inlet aboard a Twin Otter aircraft. She hasn’t updated her progress since hitting the ice yesterday, but presumably she has begun her march to the Pole as well. Johanna intends to ski to 90ºS before turning around and kiting back to her starting point, weather and time permitting of course.

Emma Kelty should have been amongst the first skiers out from Hercules as well, but she has yet to update us on her status. She has posted a single photo however of what looks like the reflection of the Antarctic in her ski goggles. Presumably she was on a flight to Hercules yesterday as well, but just hasn’t had time to post on her progress. But, if she didn’t depart Union Glacier yesterday, there is a good chance she’ll do so today. Kelty plans to ski solo and unassisted to the South Pole, then receive a resupply there, before turning around and heading back to her starting point. This 10+ day delay could impact her expedition the most.

Italian skier Michele Pontrandolfo has been out on the ice for a couple of weeks now, but progress has been slow. He is kite-skiing to the South Pole, but much like his attempt last year, the winds have not proven all that favorable so far. Hopefully he can make up for lost time, but again like last year he doesn’t seem to be doing much skiing when the winds aren’t in his favor. But, he still has time and when the winds turn in his direction he has the ability to cover large distances in a short period.

That’s the latest news from the Antarctic. We should now start to get regular updates on the progress of these team, with others joining them soon. Things may have been delayed a bit, but the 2016 season is truly underway at last.

Kraig Becker