I’ve been off the grid and enjoying an escape to tropical climes over the past few days, but while I’ve been away in the Caribbean the 2019 Antarctic expedition season has continued to ramp up. As we speak, Australian Geoff Wilson is already enduring some tough conditions, while several other South Pole skiers prepare to embark on their journeys across the frozen continent.
We’ll start with an update on Wilson, who has now been in Antarctica for a week, but is truly just getting underway with his attempt to set a record for the longest solo expedition ever. Yesterday he set off from the Russian Novo Station and was dropped at Thor’s Hammer, a mountain that serves as the starting point for his 5200 km (3231 mile) journey that will see him visit both the geographic South Pole, as well as the Pole of Inaccessibility, amongst other remote and wild places. Wilson says that he is now in acclimatization mode as he gets use to hauling his heavy sled across the frozen ground. He’ll have a little help from his kites, which should make travel a lot easier once he becomes accustomed to the winds. But these early days will surely test his resolve. Not helping the situation are the -30ºC/-22ºF temperatures that he is currently enduring, making his return to Antarctica a bitterly cold one thus far.
Wilson was the first explorer to arrive in Antarctica this season but he won’t have the place all to himself for much longer. At least two other skiers should arrive at Union Glacier ahead of their attempts to ski solo to the South Pole in the next day or two. Earlier today, British adventurer Mollie Hughes shared the news that she has a scheduled flight to the camp, but everything is weather dependent of course. So far she hasn’t indicated that she has left Punta Arenas for the Antarctic yet.
Similarly, a few days back, Neil Hunter posted that he was packed and ready to depart the U.K. as well, heading to Punta Arenas where his gear and supplies are already waiting. He should arrive there sometime this week and will spend a few days collecting his belongings and getting organized before he heads out. At the moment, the next open flight to Union Glacier operated by ALE isn’t set to take place until November 18, but I would expect that particular aircraft to be hauling several prominent individuals that we’ll be following closely throughout the year.
I’ll continue to keep a close eye on the proceedings both in Punta Arenas and Antarctica over the next few days. There are some interesting expeditions that are getting close to getting underway, but no specific details have been shared just yet. When that changes, I’ll start following those explorers and adventurers closely, bringing regular updates throughout the season. As always, it should be an interesting one.