After nearly a month and a half on the ice, British adventurer Wendy Searle has reached the South Pole at long last. Searle updated her website earlier today to share the news of her arrival to 90ºS, which comes as a big relief despite the fact that she didn’t achieve a new speed record as originally planned. Still, she covered the distance from Hercules Inlet to Pole in an impressive time, completing a journey that was at times both demanding and exhilarating at the same time.
Upon arrival at the finish line last yesterday, Searle stopped the clock on her South Pole expedition, completing the journey in an impressive 42 days, 16 hours, and 23 minutes. That’s well off the speed record set by Johanna Davidsson in 2016, which still stands as the time to beat at 38 days, 23 hours, and 5 minutes. Searle says that in order to achieve that pace she had to ski everyday for the past 43 days without a day off for 11 hours at a go. She also says that reaching the South Pole wasn’t just the end of a month and a half expedition, but a five year journey that included fund raising, research, training, and planning, all of which culminated with this project to travel on foot across the Antarctic.
Over the course of the final push, Wendy skied for nearly 25 hours straight. She says that last night she only stopped long enough to set up her tent, cook herself a meal, and continue pushing forward. It seems she planned her journey exactly right, as she arrived at the Pole with exactly one breakfast meal and one dinner left. She also used the last of her fuel for cooking her final dinner and melting snow yesterday. In other words, she glided in on fumes, but with an empty sled, just as polar explorers hope to do.
If you’ve followed my regular Antarctic coverage this year, you know that Wendy had a rival for the speed record in the form of endurance athlete Jenny Davis. They started roughly a day apart and throughout most of the journey the two ladies were very careful about revealing their current positions and mileage covered. As it stands, neither of them got the speed record, but I’d be willing to bet that both would say that the other inspired them to push harder towards their goals. As of this blog post, Davis is now 21 miles (33.7 km) from the South Pole and will likely reach that point sometime tomorrow. She’s suffered from a serous case of polar thigh, which has been particularly painful down the stretch, and she’s coign in with a malfunctioning stove that has made cooking food and melting snow a challenge. Still, after failing to reach the Pole last year due to illness, her arrival will be a serious cause for celebration too.
Stay tuned, the Antarctic season is coming to an end in the next few weeks, but there is still plenty to report and follow.