Antarctica 2019: Finding a Rhythm at the Bottom of the World

With December now upon us, we’re well into the 2019 Antarctic expedition season. More skiers have now hit the ice and the first climbers heading to Mt. Vinson should be arriving on the frozen continent very soon. In fact, ALE has a flight scheduled to Union Glacier for tomorrow, which could be brining those first climbers to the permeant camp that is found there. But while the tallest mountain on the continent awaits those individuals, the South Pole skiers are continuing to make progress towards their goal, although there are still many miles and days ahead before they are through.

Mollie Hughes was one of the first skiers to hit the ice this year and her early days in the Antarctic were marred by whiteouts and storms. While some of the other skiers are just now finishing their first week, she’s been on the trail for 20 days and counting. Strong winds have made skiing difficult in recent days, but she continues to press forward and towards the completion of her second degree as she finds a good rhythm for the long, ten-hour days she is traveling these days.

Fellow Brit Wendy Searle is on a similar schedule, but since she’s chasing a speed record, she has had to find that rhythm even more quickly. Today complete’s her first full week on the ice and so far it has been a productive one. A few days back, she was pinned in the tent for a few extra hours do to 60-know winds (69 mph/111 km/h), but eventually things subsided and she was able to dig out and keep moving. There haven’t been a lot of indications on much mileage she is covering so far, so its hard to tell how she’s doing relative to the speed record. For now. we’ll just have to wait until she gets closer to the Pole, but she’s hoping to arrive there in less than 39 days.

Her competition in this race is Jenny Davis, who also got underway late last week. Her first day on the ice was last Wednesday, which is just one day behind Searle. So far, Davis hasn’t shared many dispatches, so we’re can’t report much on her progress, other than the fact that Neil Hunter saw her blitz by him a few days back as she heads towards 90ºS.

Speaking of Neil Hunter, he’s also a week into his expedition to the South Pole. He’s been sharing daily updates that include his current position, which still sits within the 80th degree. He’s been knocking off good distances each day, covering 12-14 nautical miles (13.8-16.1 miles/22.2-26 km), which is really solid work for this early in the journey. Today he reports mild conditions, blue skies, light winds, and a great all-around experience.

Finally, Australian Geoff Wilson has reached the Pole of Inaccessibility, which is the first major milestone on his massive journey. In doing so, he has become the first Australian to reach that point, which is defined as the place in the Antarctic that is furthest from any coast. Getting there hasn’t been easy, as Wilson has been dealing with ferocious winds and extreme cold so far. Those winds have allowed him to kite some long distances, but have also been perilous too. This is just the start of his epic 5200 km sojourn however, with the next stop coming at the geographic South Pole. Still a long way to go for Wilson, who plans on being out on the ice for 90 days before he’s through.

That’s all for today. More updates soon.

Kraig Becker