The Antarctic expedition season took a dramatic turn yesterday when it was announced that British endurance athlete Jenny Davis has been picked up from the ice by an emergency evacuation team. She is currently in a hospital in Punta Arenas where she is being treated for appendicitis. Davis had been suffering with abdominal pain for the past week or so of her expedition, but had chalked it up to just the challenges of skiing across the frozen continent. As the pain continued to get worse however, concerns grew with her home team about her overall health and well being, so she and the team at ALE made the difficult decision to pull the plug on the expedition.
Not many details beyond those above have been shared so far. In a note posted to her website, Jenny’s support squad says that she is understandably disappointed, but appendicitis is a matter of life and death. Let alone out there, she could have easily died. Thankfully the evacuation team was able to get to her in time and she’s safe back in Chile where she can receive proper medical attention.
It has been a very difficult year for skiers in the Antarctic. The soft snow, whiteout conditions, and persistent blizzards has made it rough going. Add in a case of appendicitis and things get really difficult. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for Jenny to ski with that condition over the past few days. We wish her a speedy recovery and good health moving forward.
Meanwhile, fellow Brit Barry Gray has completed his solo, unsupported ski expedition to the South Pole. Gray arrived at 90ºS sometime within the past 24 hours, with his online tracker indicating that he has covered the 1200 km (745 miles) from Hercules Inlet to Pole. That completes his warm-up expedition, as Baz as he is known hopes to return next year to attempt a solo, unsupported, unassisted traverse of the continent. You know, just like the one that Colin O’Brady and Lou Rudd just completed, although presumably without the use of the road.
Japanese expedition skier Masatatsu Abe is still out on the ice and still making progress towards the South Pole, it’s just going a lot slower than he expected. Still, he is persisting with the journey and should arrive at the bottom of the world sometime this week. Unfortunately, Abe was forced to give up his “unsupported” status when he received a supply drop last week. With the expedition taking longer than expected he was starting to run low on food and fuel. He’s in good shape now and will finish up in plenty of time before the season ends.
The poor weather conditions in the Antarctic have extended to those climbing Mt. Vinson as well. Flights to and from the mountain have been greatly delayed all season long and some climbers ended up stranded in Base Camp, with few supplies, while they waited for aircraft to come retrieve them. Canadian adventurer Laval St. Germain, who was forced to abandon his attempt to the ski to the South Pole in December, was able to eventually get to Vinson late in the month and has since successfully climbed the mountain. That marks the end of his bid to climb the Seven Summits, having topped out on the highest peaks on each of the other six continents previously. He is now back in Punta Arenas and preparing to head home.
The expedition season in the Antarctic is quickly coming to a close. There are only a handful of skiers still out on the ice and most will arrive at the South Pole sometime within the next week or so. After one of the most grueling seasons in recent memory, I think everyone will be happy to see this one be put behind them. More to come soon.