Antarctica 2019: No South Pole Speed Records This Year

After a long and busy holiday break, we’re winding things back up here at Adventure Blog world headquarters. That means getting caught up on all of the things that went down while we were away, starting with an update on the 2019-2020 Antarctic Expedition season. With January now officially here, the clock is ticking on the end of that season, which should come near the end of the month. That means that curtain will soon drop on another challenging couple of months on the frozen continent, even as the South Pole skiers close in on the finish line. Amongst them are Jenny Davis and Wendy Searle, the two women who have been pursuing a new speed record for reaching that location. But as the new year kicks into high gear, we now know definitely that neither of those two ladies will achieve that goal.

As noted in past updates from this season, both Davis and Searle had been quite guarded when it came to sharing their locations and distances traveled throughout their days on the ice. Davis even had a tracking system in place, but it was never activated to share her location with friends, family, and followers back home. Our best guess is that neither of the ladies wanted to tip off the other as to how well they were proceeding. But over the holiday break, as it became increasingly clearer that neither was going to set a new speed record, both became more transparent about their progress. Suddenly Jenny’s tracker was activated and Wendy began sharing her mileage and locational data too. As a result, we know that both are closing in on the Pole, but still have a ways to go even as their deadline has come and gone.

The goal for both Davis and Searle was to reach 90ºS in roughly 38 days. The previous record was just a shade under 39 days, and both felt like they could best that number given the proper conditions. But, as of today, Davis has now been on the ice for 41 days and still has 70 miles (112 km) to go until she is done. Meanwhile, Searle is now 42 days into her own journey and expects to wrap up by Wednesday or Thursday of this week. That’s probably a few days ahead of her rival, who will likely cross the finish line by next weekend.

While neither of the two British women will set a new speed record this year, they both have been traveling at a very good pace. To ski from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole in roughly 45 days is quite an accomplishment. We know that the surface conditions this season have been better than last, allowing for faster travel, but it was also quite warm at times this year as well, which softened up the snow, creating a difficult surface to ski on. Whiteout conditions have been prevalent in recent days as well, making it difficult to travel, but that is more typical for anyone crossing the Antarctic, even during the austral summer. All of the Antarctic explorers know and accept those challenges before setting out.

The other expeditions that we’ve been following closely this season continue to unfold nicely. We’ll have updates on their locations in another post later in the week. Most are now closing in on their goals, which don’t always include reaching the South Pole. Stay tuned for more news on their positions in a few days time.

Kraig Becker