Yesterday I shared the news that Wendy Searle had arrived at the South Pole, tired but triumphant after a 25 hour push to the end. Today, we get a similar update, this time from Searle’s erstwhile rival Jenny Davis, who put in a similar herculean effort to reach the finish line. Both Searle and Davis were chasing the speed record this Antarctic season, starting within a day or so of each other back in November. Now that they’ve wrapped up their expeditions across the frozen continent, the two ladies have also finished within about a day of one another too. And while neither of them is going home with a new speed record, they both have a lot to be proud of.
According to Davis’s support team, she also made a big push to reach the finish line, which was probably quite painful in her current state. Jenny is suffering from a serious case of polar thigh, which is a condition that comes from extended exertion in extremely cold conditions, creating chafing and sores on the inner legs. She suffered with the condition on her shortened attempt to reach the Pole last year as well and apparently it was painful enough this year to have an impact on her speed. Her main cook stove was also malfunctioning down the stretch, making it hard to cook meals and melt snow for drinking water too. The challenges presented by that equipment failure may have played a part in her deciding to ski the final distance in one big push as well.
Davis’s GPS tracker says that she covered 703 miles (1131 km) on her journey to the South Pole. It also records her time at 45 days, but that includes some time before she started and today, after her arrival. Unlike Searle, Davis hasn’t announced an “official time” for the expedition, although without achieving a speed record that really doesn’t matter much. I will say, her time of “43 days and some hours” is really quite impressive, as that means she averaged about 16 miles (25 km) per day, each and every day, while dragging a heavy sled. Not half bad.
Congrats Jenny on finally reach 90ºS!
It looks like Davis won’t be the only female skier to reach the South Pole today. As I write this, Mollie Hughes is just 2 nautical miles from the finish line herself, and closing in on the end. She writes on Facebook that she is “trying to take it all in” as she near the end of a very long expedition. She started more than ten days ahead of either Searle and Davis, and is finishing around the same time as they have. Those extra days have been a grind for sure, but Mollie has kept a positive attitude the entire time, even amidst the silence and loneliness that is Antarctica.
Finally, Neil Hunter is closing in on the 89th degree and has now spent 44 days out on the ice. He also now has less than 100 nautical miles (115 miles/160 km) to go until he reaches the Pole and shouldn’t have too much difficulty doing so before the season ends in a few weeks. Perhaps best of all, he has left the large sastrugi field found between the 87th and 88th degrees behind him and is picking up some speed now that the ground has leveled off. I suspect he’ll arrive at the bottom of the world sometime late next week, but we’ll continue to keep a close eye on his progress all the way to the end.
That’s it for today’s update. Things are starting to wrap up quickly now.