Friday, January 13, 2012

Antarctica 2011: The Clock Is Ticking...

The 2011/2012 Antarctic Season is starting to wind down as the teams close in on their final goals and the  days quickly march by. ALE has set the date for the last flight out at January 27th, which is just two weeks away from today. That means that a number of the explorers will be racing the clock right up until the end, and for some there is no room for error as they approach the home stretch.

One of those skiers is Norwegian Aleksander Gamme, who is attempting to become the first person to go solo and unsupported from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole and back again. He has been making good time, and covering large distances (56km in one day!), but as of Tuesday of this week, he still head half-way to go on the return trip. Still, Gamme seems to be strong, focused, and determined, and unless there is some unforeseen issue that arises, he seems poised to reach his goal. Bad weather or equipment failure could slow him down, but I believe he's going to make it back to Hercules in time for the flight out.

Aussies Cas and Jonesy are hoping to accomplish the same feat, and I'm not quite so optimistic about their chances. They have also picked up the pace, but as of this writing they still have 588km (365 miles) to go.  That means they'll need to continue to average roughly 42km (26 miles) per day on the return trip to make it back on time. As I mentioned earlier this week, that is doable, but it is going to be one tough challenge. Check out their latest video update from the ice below.

Meanwhile, one solo skier who is closing in on the finish line is Felicity Aston, who now is less than 200 nautical miles from Hercules. Felicity started her journey at the Ross Ice Shelf and is hoping to become the first woman to traverse the continent solo. She stopped by the South Pole on her journey as well, and is now making good time on her return to the coast. While she's not done yet, she does have a bit more of a cushion that some of the other skiers.

Sam Deltour and Dixie Dansercoer continue their epic traverse of Antarctica as well. They've been using kites to cover large distances, and so far, after 53 days out on the ice, they've covered more than 3345km (2078 miles). The duo took the past couple of days off to rest and recuperate, and now they're waiting for the wind to pick up again so they can resume their journey. They plan on staying in the Antarctic well into February as they pursue one of the longest expeditions ever to that cold and hostile place.

Finally, the Scott-Amundsen Centenary Race continues as the the Scott Team closes in on the Pole. As of today, they still have 63.6 nautical miles to go, but improved weather has meant that they've been able to pick up the pace some, and they now hope to be at the Pole to celebrate Robert Falcon Scott's arrival on Monday. Their mates on the Amundsen Team completed their journey a few days back, and now wait for their friends to join them.