The Antarctic Expedition season has most definitely turned the corner towards the finish line, with most of the expedition skiers now having arrived at the South Pole. A few still remain out on the ice, but their numbers are diminishing dramatically as the days begin to run short. According to ALE, the last flight out for clients is set for January 20, although it will have cargo planes carrying gear, supplies, and staff flying back to Punta Arenas, Chile on January 29. That would be the absolute drop-dead date for anyone traveling with them. That essentially means that most of the expeditions should be done by the start of next week, with perhaps a few stragglers here and there. Because of this narrowing schedule, the last skiers had picked up the pace over the past few days, with a couple of notable arrivals at the South Pole as a result.
The biggest news from the Pole this week is the arrival of Richard Parks at 90ºS. As noted earlier in the week, we had expected to follow Parks all season long, but kept his travels under wraps and didn’t share many of the details until late in the game. As with last year, he was once again taking a run at the speed record for skiing from Hercules Inlet to the Pole, and even though he came up a bit short in that attempt, he still managed to best his own record for a Brit covering that distance. This time out, it took him 28 days to complete the journey, beating his old record of 29 days, 19 hours, 24 minutes which he set back in 2014.
Parks had hoped to top Norwegian Christian Eide’s overall record, which stands at 24 days, 1 hour, and 13 minutes. He was so confident that he could achieve that goal that he only packed enough food for 25 days. He was on rations at the end, hauling a very heavy sled with very few calories to burn. Of course, he also had to deal with whiteout conditions and extremely cold temperatures on his way to the bottom of the world. Still, it was better than last year when he had to be evacuated from the Antarctic due to health issues.
Also arriving at the South Pole today was Neil Hunter, who took 51 days to get to the finish line. It has been a long, challenging journey for Hunter, who is skiing to raise awareness of the things that diabetic athletes can do when they set their mind to it. His final day was done in good weather, but cold temps and in his final blog post he shares what it’s like to approach the South Pole at long last. He says that for a time, he slowed down and stopped throughout the day to soak in the Antarctic and enjoy the last of the solitude that he had there. Not long after that, he spotted the buildings on the horizon, still some 5 nautical miles in the distance. It took him several hours to cover that distance and he felt that he might never get there, but eventually he made his way to the end, where the staff greeted him triumphantly.
That wraps up the expedition skiers that I’ve been watching closely this season. As mentioned above, there are still a few others out on the ice, but they’ve been challenging to track and haven’t shared a lot of information all season long. I’ll continue to keep an eye out for updates however, and I’ll share any news that comes my way.
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