Showing posts with label Antarctic. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Antarctic. Show all posts

Video: Get a Whale's Eye View of Antarctica

As part of a research project to study and protect whales in the Southern Ocean, researchers have attached noninvasive cameras and sensors to some humpbacks. This has allowed them to track the animals and learn more about their habits. It has also allowed them to capture footage like that found in this short clip, which follows a whale as it zips through the water just off the coast of Antarctica. It is a unique and beautiful way to get a look at that part of the world as only a whale sees it.

Aussie Antarctic Solo Sailor Dimasted in Rough Weather in the Southern Ocean

Way back in January I wrote a post about Aussie Lisa Blair, a sailor who was embarking on an attempt to complete a solo circumnavigation around Antarctica along the Southern Ocean. Now, some 72 day after she set out on this epic adventure, Blair has run into trouble amidst bad weather, high winds, and freezing temperatures.

Earlier today, Blair sent out a PAN PAN, which is a signal that she was facing imminent danger and was in need of assistance. Her ship, the Climate Action, ran into trouble when it was hit with 40 knot (46 mph/74 km/h) winds, which broke a mast and knocked the vessel over at least once as swells grew to 7 meters in size.

At the moment, Lisa is no longer in any immediate danger and is preparing to make her way to Cape Town. She was approximately 895 nautical miles (1029 miles/1674 km) from that point when she ran into trouble, but according to reports Blair will now rig an emergency storm sail and motor her way to the South African city for repairs. She'll be met and assisted by another ship that is registered in Hong Kong.

When she embarked on this voyage back in January, Blair was hoping to become the first woman to sail solo and unsupported around Antarctica. She left from Albany, Australia with the intention of breaking the speed record for such an attempt. That record is currently held by Russian adventurer Fedor Konyukhov and stands at 102 days, 35 minutes, and 50 seconds. Lisa had set her sights on doing it in just 94 days.

By all accounts, Blair is safe and uninjured by the storm, but her ship is now crippled. Barring any more bad weather, she should be able to limp it into port in Cape Town where the damage will be assessed further. For now though, this is the end of her solo attempt. Whether or not she can repair the ship, restock her supplies, and try again at a later date remains to be seen.

At this point, it will be a number of days before she arrives back on land. Search and rescue teams in Cape Town have been notified of the situation and are standing by to lend assistance if needed.

Video: A Profile of Explorer Mike Horn

One of the expeditions we followed closely this past Antarctic season was Mike Horn's attempt to cross traverse the continent solo by kite ski. He was of course successful in that endeavor, and is now pushing forward with the second part of his Pole2Pole journey, in which he is circumnavigating the planet north to south via both Poles. In this video, we get a profile of Horn and his past accomplishment, as well as an inside look at at his Antarctic traverse. If you're not aware of what drives this man, you'll learn a lot more about him here. If you already know Mike and his ambitious journeys, you'll likely come away even more impressed.

Popular Mechanics Shares the 10 Greatest Wildernesses in the World

Looking to truly get away for awhile? Than perhaps Popular Mechanics can help. The site has published an interesting article that names the 10 greatest wildernesses on the planet, giving us some suggestions on where to go on our next adventure to places that few other people ever get to see.

Some of the destination on the list are classic adventure spots. For instance, both Patagonia and Antarctica make the cut for obvious reasons. Other places on the PM top ten aren't quite so familiar however, which makes them all the more intriguing. For instance, Bouvet Island in the Atlantic Ocean is considered the most remote island in the world, while Annamite Range of mountains in Vietnam are lauded for their inaccessibility as well. Some of the places on the list are a bit too remote however, as I doubt too many of us will ever see the Mariana Trench for instance.

Still, this is a fun list to look at and dream about. The majority of the destinations are certainly within the reach of most of us, given some time, planning, and money. In fact, I've actually been to a few of the places on this list already, and I have no doubt that more than a few of you have been as well. But if you're looking for some ideas on where to go on your next adventure, this isn't a bad place to start.

Read the entire story here.

Arctic 2017: The Gear for Skiing to the North Pole

Have you ever wondered what gear is required to ski to the North Pole? How does it vary from what you need when you go to the South Pole instead? That's the subject of an interesting article over at ExWeb, which is examining the equipment needed to ski through the Arctic ahead of the start of the expedition season there. 

To find out just what gear is needed, ExWeb reached out to veteran polar explorer Dixie Dansercoer, who has visited the North and South Pole on more than 30 occasions throughout his illustrious career.  One of those expeditions was – at the time – the longest non-motorized journey across the Antarctic, when he traveled by kite-ski across the frozen continent back in 2012. In other words, if anyone knows a thing or two about traveling in the cold regions of our planet, it's Dixie.

Dansercoer shares his five favorite pieces of gear for going to the North Pole with ExWeb, listing such items as his drysuit (an essential piece of equipment when heading north), safety items, gear for more efficient cooking, and a set of customized trekking poles. Other gear that Arctic explorers take with them include inflatable rafts for crossing the open sections of the ocean and a shotgun to scare away the polar bears, something that isn't necessary in the Antarctic. 

Additionally, Dixie shares some of his experiences with kiting to the South Pole and beyond, offering some insights in that area as well. This year, both Mike Horn and Johanna Davidson made extensive use of kites during their expeditions, with Horn breaking Dansercoer's longest distance record in the process.

As we get ready for the start of the Arctic season, these interviews and stories help us to understand what the teams will be facing when they begin their journey. It will be an incredibly difficult expedition to say the least, and the odds are stacked against them for being successful. Still, we'll be watching and following along closely, hoping for success. The season should get underway next week, weather permitting. Stay tuned for more. 

Video: Footage of the Massive Crack in the Larsen Ice Shelf

If you've read this blog with any regularity over the past couple of months, you've seen me post several disturbing stories about how climate change is starting to have an impact on the Antarctic, including a recent article about a massive crack on the Larsen Ice Shelf that is spreading at an alarming rate. Today, we have video footage of that giant rift courtesy of the British Antarctic Survey. The clip was shot while flying over the crack a few weeks back, and it gives us a bird's eye view of just how large it truly is. In a manner of months, the crack is expected to reach all the way across the ice shelf, at which time it will collapse under its own massive weight, creating what could potentially be the largest ice berg of all time. It will also allow the glacier that is trapped behind it to tumble unfettered into the Southern Ocean, potentially causing rising ocean levels around the world.

Antarctica 2016: Mike Horn Scheduled to Depart Antarctica Today

The long 2016 Antarctic season may finally come to an end today, as Swiss explorer Mike Horn is expected to finally regroup with his crew aboard his ship the Pangaea and leave the frozen continent at last. Weather permitting, horn and his crew will sail for the city of Hobart, Tasmania, a voyage that is expected to take about six days to complete.

As you may recall, Mike reached the Antarctic coast early last week, having completed his 5100 km (3168 mile) traverse of the continent – via the South Pole – by kite ski. That journey took 57 days to complete and except for enjoying a few meals at the Pole with some of the researchers there, he was solo the entire time.

The original plan was for the Pangaea to pick him and proceed towards Australia. But the ship suffered some issues while waiting for him to arrive, so it had to sail to Tasmania to get repairs. Now, those repairs are apparently finished, and the crew has returned to pick up Horn and his gear and move on to the next phase of his expedition, which will eventually involve sailing north to the Arctic, where he'll traverse the ice cap there, once again kite skiing to the North Pole.

Over the past week, Mike has been staying at French research station while he awaited pick-up. He admits that it has been nice to have the company of others and have plenty of food and shelter, but at times he says that he misses the solitude and challenge that comes with living in his own tent as well. The past few days have seen massive storms with 200 km/h (124 mph) winds, and those conditions actually made him wistful to be back out in the elements. Such is the make-up of an explorer who thrives on adventure and pushing himself to the limit.

Hopefully now the weather has improved enough for Horn to rejoin the crew of the Pangaea and begin sailing north. As difficult as this expedition has been at times, he's only halfway to his goal.

Antarctica 2016: Mike Horn Completes Longest Kite Ski Expedition Ever

As reported a few days back, Mike Horn has completed his traverse of the Antarctic continent by kite ski, and is now waiting for pick-up by his ship the Pangaea. It has been a very long couple of months out on the ice, but the first leg of his epic Pole 2 Pole expedition is done, although he is not safely off the frozen continent just yet, and it is unclear as to when exactly he'll be able to depart.

According to ExWeb, Mike covered approximately 5100 km (3168 miles) over the course of his 57 day journey. Of that, 2215 km (1376 miles) were just spent reaching the South Pole, while the other 2885 km (1792 miles) were covered continuing on to the far coast. If those distances are accurate – and there is no reason to believe they aren't – Horn's expedition will mark the longest kite ski journey across the Antarctic ever. ExWeb does point out however that Mike received some meals while at the South Pole, so his journey isn't considered solo or unassisted, even though both legs coming and going from the Pole fall into those categories.

The final few days of the journey were not easy ones. Whiteout conditions persisted throughout and massive sastrugi – hard ridges on the ice – made it tough to make progress. At times, Mike's kite would pull him along at a rapid pace, but his sled would get caught on the sastrugi, creating a tug-of-war situation with Horn in the middle. There were also points where his kite would suddenly come to a stop, and the heavy sled would barrel into the back of the skier, knocking him to the ground. Those must have been very frustrating moments to say the least.

Now, Mike is believed to be at Dumon d'Urville, a French science station along the coast. He is waiting for Pangaea to pick him up, but at this point it is unclear as to when that will happen. As reported earlier in the week, the ship experienced electrical failure and was forced to set sail for Tasmania for repairs. There is no word yet on when those repairs will be completed and how long it will take to return to get Horn. One thing is for certain however, the austral winter is on its way, and it will become much more challenging to come and go from the Antarctic in the days ahead.

Once he is retrieved from the ice, the original plan was to sail to Australia and New Zealand for some exploration and adventures there before turning north to the Arctic and the second phase of the Pole 2 Pole expedition. That will involve a crossing of the Arctic Icecap in much the same fashion as the Antarctic. We'll have to wait to see if those plans change in any way, but the Arctic season will be up on us soon enough, and that season has already gotten shorter and more dangerous than years past.

I'll post more updates when we have further news of the Pangaea and Mike's situation.

Crack in Antarctic Ice Shelf Grew 17 Miles in Length Since December

I've posted some sobering reports on the impact of climate change on the Antarctic in recent months, but this one may be the most stunning of all. According to an article published by The New York Times yesterday, a crack in the Larsen Ice Shelf is growing at an incredibly rapid rate, signaling a possible complete collapse in the coming months, potentially creating the largest iceberg ever recorded.

According to scientists who have been monitoring the crack, it has grown by as much as 17 miles in the past two months. According to the Times, the speed at which it is spreading is accelerating as well, now growing at a rate of more than five football fields each and every day. At this point, the crack is now just 20 miles away from reaching its end point, which will result in the entire chunk of ice breaking free and slipping into the ocean, something that could happen as early as April or May of this year.

This is alarming for a number of reasons. Not only will it create the biggest iceberg of all time, but as that iceberg begins to float away from the frozen continent, it will begin to melt, and possibly breaking up into smaller icebergs that could cause problems for ships. But, more importantly, the ice shelf serves as a buffer between the ocean waters and the glaciers that sit on the continent itself. Without the ice shelf to help protect it, the glaciers will begin to melt at a much higher rate too, and will tumble directly into the water. If this continues to happen across Antarctic – and evidence suggests it will – we could see the start of a major rice in ocean levels around the world.

I know that there are still a lot of people out there who want to deny the impact of climate change. But, there is something happening to our planet, and the polar regions are the canary in the coal mine. In recent years, we've seen substantial change in both the Arctic and Antarctic, and those changes only seems to be speeding up. Perhaps with the austral winter now nearly upon us, we'll see things slow down at least temporarily, but the Larsen Ice Shelf is about to collapse, and at this point it isn't a question of "if" but "when."

To find out more about his, check out the entire story at NYTimes.com.

Antarctica 2016: Mike Horn Waits for Pick-Up

It seems that the 2016 Antarctic season is the one that never ends. On more than one occasion when I've posted updates recently I've said that the end is in sight. But, there is still one man out on the ice, and he is struggling to reach the finish line, where he won't find his lift off the frozen continent waiting for him after all.

Swedish explorer Mike Horn is the lone skier still making his way across the Antarctic. As you probably recall, Horn is in the midst of making a traverse of the continent via the South Pole using kite skis. He has completed nearly the entire journey, but hasn't quite reached the far side of the Antarctic just yet. But when he does, his time on the ice won't quite be over as he had expected.

While all of the other South Pole skiers have received outside assistance from a logistics company like ALE, Horn was dropped off on the coastline by his own ship, the Pangaea, which then planned to sail to the far side of the continent and wait for him. In fact, the ship was in place just last week, waiting for Mike to wrap up his traverse, which was hampered by either a lack of winds or whiteout conditions. But according to Mike, the Pangaea suffered an electrical failure and was forced to sail for Tasmania for repairs. That means that when he does arrive back at the coast in another day or two, the ship won't be there waiting for him after all.

Progress over the past week or so has been slow. Some days, all Horn can do is sit in place as the weather howls around him. The winds have been so rough that they have torn one of his kites – which he has since repaired – and left him unable to proceed. He hasn't posted an update since Sunday, but the online tracker on his website shows progress and it seems that Mike is now just a short distance from the coast. How long he'll have to wait for a pick-up remains to be seen however.

The austral winter is now starting to close in, and conditions will soon take a turn for the worse. Horn should still have time to get off the continent, and he is nearly at the coast. But, temperatures will be dropping dramatically in the days ahead and the storms will only become more powerful. Hopefully he won't have to wait too long for his ride.

We'll keep an eye on things and watch how the last few days of his expedition develop. Hopefully he'll be safely retrieved from the ice soon. For now though, he is safe and pressing forward as planned.

Antarctica 2016: And Then There Was One...

The 2016 Antarctic season is all but over. Only one skier remains out on the ice, as everyone else has wrapped up their expeditions and headed home. And true to form, the frozen continent has already started to make things more difficult, with colder temperatures, blizzard-like conditions, and thankfully for this explorer, howling winds.

Mike Horn is still working on completing his traverse of the Antarctic continent. He reports that the winds returned with a vengeance yesterday, saying they are the strongest he's encountered yet. Considering the fact that he is kite skiing, having strong winds is better than no winds at all. Propelled along by these gusts, he's now 92 km (57 miles) closer to his goal, but he still has 430 km (267 miles) yet to go before he reaches the coastline, and the safety of his ship, the Pangaea.

In his most recent update, Horn says that he has been facing a constant battle with the winds, which have helped get his kites in the air, but haven't always been cooperative. Any kite-skier will tell you that you want strong winds, but not too strong, as they can be unruly and difficult to maneuver in. That's what the Swiss explorer has been dealing with over the past few days, coupled with large sastrugi on the surface that have made things interesting as well.

As you may recall, Mike is attempting to circumnavigate the globe via the poles, and this is just the first of his major ice cap crossings. Once he reaches his ship, he'll actually set sail for New Zealand and Australia, before heading north to the Arctic. But, there is still plenty of work to be done before he leaves the Antarctic.

Depending on wind conditions and how well he can work the kite, Horn could reach the coast line in as few as two days. But, if he manages to maintain the pace he has had over the past couple of days, he's more likely to finish around the end of the week. Should the winds disappear however, that time could extend further.

We'll continue to follow Mike's progress until he's off the ice. That shouldn't be too much longer, but his adventure isn't over just yet. The Antarctic summer is quickly coming to an end though, and he'll be departing just in the nick of time it seems.

Antarctica 2016: Two More Skiers Complete Their Antarctic Expeditions

The final days of the 2016 Antarctic season are truly upon us now, as the last plane scheduled to leave the frozen continent – weather permitting of course – will fly out today or tomorrow, bringing an end to an eventful few months there. As the final days tick away, two more skiers have completed their expeditions at long last, and are now preparing to head home.

Finnish adventurer Risto Hallikainen has finished his return journey to Hercules Inlet, arriving back at that point on January 24, 71 days after he began his round-trip journey via the South Pole. Along the way, he covered 2260 km (1404 miles), becoming the first Finn to make the there-and-back-again Antarctic trip. After camping at Hercules briefly, he was picked up and flown back to Union Glacier, where he should be on the last flight out to Punta Arenas, Chile.

Similarly, ExWeb is reporting that Polish solo skier Malgorzata Wojtaczka has reached the South Pole as well, brining an end to her expedition, which also began at Hercules Inlet. She started on November 18, and reached 90ºS on yesterday, on January 25. Her expedition took 69 days.

I tried to follow Malgorzata throughout her journey, but didn't end up reporting on her progress much, mostly because updates were few and far between. It is good to know that she has now arrived safely, and will be flying back to Union Glacier from the Pole as well.

Also awaiting the final flight out is the British Military Team, which also completed a traverse of the Antarctic continent. The boys arrived back at Union Glacier a few days ago, and are now eager to start making their way home. They spent 67 days out on the ice, covering the journey to the South Pole and the return trip across the Shackleton Glacier. After resting up, they're eager to return to the U.K.

Finally, Mike Horn will soon be the last of the skiers out on the ice. As everyone else prepares to leave aboard an ALE aircraft, he continues to kite-ski across the continent to meet his waiting ship. The winds have returned to help push him along, but he still has some miles yet to cover before he's done. From there, he'll sail into the South Pacific where other adventures await. Eventually he'll make his way north though, where he hopes to traverse the Arctic icecap in similar fashion. You know we'll be following that adventure closely too.

That's all for today. More updates over the next few days as the news warrants.

Antarctica 2016: Wrapping Things Up on the Frozen Continent

It has been an eventful season in the Antarctic, with a number of impressive accomplishments along the way. Way back in November, when things first started to ramp up, the end of the season seemed like a long way off. But now, with just a few more days to go before the team at ALE closes the Union Glacier camp for another year, the final squads are finishing up their expeditions and reaching their goals at long last.

We'll start with an update on the British Military Team, which consists of Lou Rudd, Oliver Stoten, Chris Brooke, Alex Brazier, and James Facer-Childs. We've been following the five men all season long as they spent 67 days out on the ice, first skiing to the South Pole and then continuing on back to the coast. Last Saturday – January 21 – they reached that goal at long last, covering some 1100 miles (1770 km) along the way.

Yesterday, the team posted an update to its blog, reporting that they had arrived back at Union Glacier on Sunday, where they received a warm welcome indeed. They are scheduled to fly back to Punta Arenas on Thursday of this week, so for now they get to relax and enjoy being in the Antarctic for a few more days. Once they arrive in Chile, it'll be on to the U.K., where there friends and family await. By the time the get home, it will have been nearly three months since they've seen them.

From all reports, it seems the entire group is in good health and good spirits. It has been a long and grueling expedition, but they always worked well together and the companionship they shared helped to get them through some very tough days out on the ice. Especially near the end, when poor weather and surface conditions made the final few days more difficult than anticipated. Now, they are relaxing, regaining some strength, and preparing to go home.


Canadian solo skier Sébastien Lapierre arrived at the South Pole back on January 9, having spent 42 days skiing to the South Pole. He shares his story in an interview with ExWeb that you can read here. In the interview, Sébastien talks about the pace of his journey, what it was like arriving at the Pole, the weather conditions he faced along the way, his favorite pieces of gear, and much more. Definitely worth a read if you want to gain some insights on an expedition across Antarctica.

Finally, Swiss explorer Mike Horn continues his traverse of the Antarctic continent via kite ski. Well, he continues when he has some wind to help propel him along. It has been feast or famine in that department lately, with some days passing without much in the way of movement at all, while on others he's knocking off as many as 211 km (131 miles) at a time.

Horn's ship, the Pangaea, has now circled the continent and is waiting to pick him up on the far side, where he'll sail into the South Pacific to pursue some adventures in New Zealand and Australia before proceeding north for an eventual attempt at crossing the Arctic ice cap via the North Pole as well. This is all part of his Pole 2 Pole expedition, during which he is attempting to circumnavigate the globe in a north-south direction, rather than east-west.

Unlike the rest of the teams that have been exploring the Antarctic this season, Horn doesn't have to come and go on ALE's schedule. With his own mode of transportation, he isn't racing the same clock as teams arriving back at Union Glacier. Still, the weather will start to take a turn for the worse in the weeks ahead, and he will want to be gone before winter returns. That shouldn't be problem however and it won't be too many more days before he wraps things up either.

We'll still be keeping an eye on the Antarctic for awhile yet, watching to see how things unfold. But, for the most part the season is now at an end.

Aussie Woman to Attempt Solo Sailing Circumnavigation of Antarctica

Aussie sailor Lisa Blair is about to set out on a very difficult sailing expedition. So much so, that no woman has ever accomplished it solo before. Next week, she will attempt to become the first female – and only third person ever – to sail solo and unassisted around Antarctica, navigating the challenging Southern Ocean, which remains treacherous even in the 21st century.

The journey is expected to take about three months to complete. She'll first depart from Albany in Western Australia, and will head south into the waters off the coast of the Antarctic. In order to maintain her solo and unassisted status, she'll need to spend the entire voyage onboard her ship, without making land stops of any kind, nor having personal contact with another person. She'll also have to sail completely without assistance.

In order to write her name in the history books, Blair must keep her ship below 45ºS latitude at all times. She'll also have to pass three of the most treacherous spots of land on Earth in the form of Cape Leeuwin, Cape Horn, and Cape Agulhas. Along the way, she hopes to set a new speed record for the Antarctic circumnavigation, besting the time set by Russian adventurer Fedor Konyukhov back in 2008. He managed to sail around the frozen continent in 102 days, 56 minutes, 50 seconds, covering some 16,400 miles (26,393 km) in the process.

Blair had intended to set out by now, but weather and upgrades to her ship have caused a few delays to the start of the expedition. The countdown clock on her website indicates that she will now get underway on Tuesday or Wednesday of next week, provided there are no more unexpected interruptions. When she does depart, she'll also be taking part in the Antarctica Cup Ocean Race as the lone competitor. The race is actually between Lisa and the clock, although she will try to stay in one of three electronically mapped "lanes," each of which have 18 individual "gates" that she'll pass through along the course.

Hopefully all will go according to plan, and Blair will start her epic voyage next week. You'll be able to follow Lisa's progress on her website as she makes her way through this wild and uncharted part of the world. It should be an amazing trip.

Antarctica 2016: More Updates From the Ice

Yesterday I mentioned that the 2016-2017 Antarctic season is quickly coming to an end, and that updates would probably be few and far between moving forward. But, it turns out there is still more to tell, and although the end is indeed in sight, things aren't quite done yet. I have a couple of stories to share from the frozen continent, as well as a few corrections form my previous post too.

We'll start with an update on the Halley VI research station, which you might recall I wrote about back in early December. At the time, it was revealed that the station would have to be relocated due to a massive ice crack opening across the surface. That crack was forcing a large section of ice along the surface of the continent to shift towards the sea, and Halley VI found itself on the wrong side of the equation.

The original plan was to wait until this season was over, then close the base in preparation for moving it to a new – safer – location. Now, it has been announced that the research station has been shut down early as a precautionary measure, as another crack has been discovered near by that could expedite the shifting of the ice even further. Halley VI is in the process of being relocated however, so hopefully it will be repositioned in a safer location soon. The entire station was designed to be mobile, and is now being transferred to a spot some 23 km (14 miles) away from its current location.


Mike Horn has checked in today to say that he has had his best day yet out on the ice. After several days of light winds, the gusts returned in force, and as a result he covered an impressive 247 km (153 miles) as he makes his way to the far coast to rendezvous with his ship, the Pangea. From there, he'll make his way to the South Pacific, for a visit to New Zealand and Australia, before sailing north to attempt a traverse of the Arctic ice cap as well. The Swiss explorer reports that the landscape he was skiing through today has changed dramatically as well, with massive sastrugi and even crevasses reappearing. That could slow him down as he moves forward, but for now it is more of a nuisance than anything else.

Finally, I wanted to post a couple of corrections to yesterday's story. First, I reported that Emma Kelty had spent some time in the hospital due to dehydration and a lung infection. In fact, she did visit a hospital to get a dose of antibiotics, but didn't have to stay there for very long. It was a standard check in, and not at all the medical situation that I saw posted elsewhere. I also mentioned that she was out on the ice for 52 days, but I stand corrected in this area as well. It actually took her less than 51 days to complete her crossing of the frozen continent. Thanks for the corrections Emma!

And I also mentioned the Reedy Glacier Team yesterday and the remarkable job they did opening a new route to the South Pole. That squad consists of Keith Tuffley, Rob Smith, and Eric Phillips, which I indicated had traversed that route on skies. It turns out, Rob and Eric skied the entire distance, while Keith rode his bike at least half the way. Not a minor accomplishment to say the least.

Just wanted to get those house keeping duties out of the way. More updates to come as the news warrants it.

Antarctica 2016: The End in Sight

Update: It seems the information I received on Emma Kelty's condition was incorrect. While she did go to the hospital as reported, it was to receive a round of antibiotics and not for other reasons stated below. She was also out on the ice for 50.5 days as well.

It has been more than a week and a half since we last posted an update on the progress of the various Antarctic skiers. Over that time, a lot has happened, with several comings and goings from the South Pole, arrivals back at the coast, and other happenings – both good and bad. Now, as the end of the season is in sight, there is much to tell.

We'll start with Johanna Davidsson, the solo female skier who reached the Pole in record time a few weeks back. After setting that impressive mark, Johanna wasn't content to just get on a plane and fly back to Union Glacier, but instead kite-skied back to the coast. She completed that trip quickly as well, wrapping up her return trip on January 10. It has been a very productive season for her to say the least.

The other female skier that we watched closely this season was Brit Emma Kelty, who spent 52 days out on the ice skiing from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole. She reached that point back on January 5, and was then flown back to Union Glacier having abandoned her attempt at a return trip after running out of time. A few days later she flew to Punta Arenas, Chile as well where she was immediately hospitalized  for dehydration, a lung infection, and a bad case of polar thigh. That last ailment strikes the upper legs in very cold conditions, and is caused by the friction of fabric and skin when rubbed together over a long period of time. It can cause extreme irritation and even a nasty infection, which can be very painful if left untreated. Unfortunately, Emma wasn't able to do much about it until after she was off the ice, which had made for a painful wound. Thankfully, she was released from the hospital last week, and flew home to the U.K. on Friday the 13th.


The six-man British Military team has been skiing back to the coast from the South Pole and making good time. They now report that they are less than 60 nautical miles (69 miles/111 km) from the coast, and completely wrapping up their round-trip journey across the Antarctic. The return journey hasn't been an easy one however, as they have traveled across the Shackleton Glacier. The weather has been difficult as usual, and just today the squad made a navigational error that caused them to have to descend down the side of a mountain, rather than backtrack to correct their course. Still, they are on track to reach the finish line in the next few days, and should be ready to fly out of Antarctica ahead of the final deadline of January 27.

Swiss explorer Mike Horn is still in the midst of his traverse of the frozen continent. After reaching the South Pole via kite-ski on January 9, he has since resumed his journey to the far side of the continent. But, the winds have been very light, which has meant slow travel so far. After two days of not covering any distances at all, Mike reports a gentle breeze today that is helping him move, albeit at a very slow pace. But unlike the other skiers out on the ice, Mike isn't reliant on ALE to get him off the continent. He'll ski to the western coast, where his own ship the Pangea will pick him up as he resumes his Pole 2 Pole expedition.

Finnish skier Risto Hallikainen – who reached the South Pole back on December 28 – is on his return trip to the coast as well. His latest update came last Friday, when he reported that he was halfway to his goal. Risto will be racing the clock to return to Hercules before the final flight out, but right now things look like they are going according to plan.

Finally, Keith Tuffley, Rob Smith, and Eric Phillips reached the South Pole back on January 9 as well, following a very tough slog across the frozen continent. The trio opened a new route across the Reedy Glacier, reaching 90ºS after crossing 605 km (375 miles) in 34 days. It is believed that they are the first team to explore this part of the Antarctic since it was first surveyed more than 60 years ago. The team spent little time at the South Pole and returned to Union Glacier a few days later, before departing back to Chile, and home.

That's it for now. As you can see, the season is wrapping up very quickly at this point. Our next updates will only have a few teams to report on. Soon, another season will come to an end.

Antarctica 2016: Two More Skiers Close in on the Pole

With time starting to run short at the bottom of the world, the teams skiing to the South Pole this season – and possibly beyond – are starting to feel the pinch. Most still have plenty of time to reach their final destination, but some are now altering their plans. With just three weeks to go until the season wraps up, it is crunch time on the Frozen Continent, and we should expect more arrivals at 90ºS shortly. In fact, two of the explorers should be at that point today.

First up, Emma Kelty expected to arrive at the Pole either yesterday or today, but she hasn't posted an update on where she is at just yet. She was closing in on her destination a few days back, but elected to slow down and savor her final days on the ice instead. Now, she should be at the Amundsen-Scott Research Station, although we're still awaiting word confirming that arrival.

If you've been following Emma's expedition you may be asking yourself why these are her "final days" on the ice. That's because she has decided to pull the plug on her efforts to ski back to Hercules Inlet. Because of a late start to the season – mostly due to weather delays – she simply doesn't have enough time to cover the 1285 km (700 miles) to get back to her starting point. On top of that, she has been battling a lung infection, which she has recovered from now, but it also served to slow her down some. Add in the fact that her supplies are dwindling too, and you can understand why she has given up on the idea of the return trip. Hopefully she is resting comfortably at the Pole right now, and awaiting a return flight to Union Glacier.

Emma isn't the only skier who is closing in on the South Pole. Mike Horn has made short work of his kite-ski journey, finding favorable winds over the past few days. Yesterday he covered 170 km (105 miles) alone, and is now within the last degree. That means that if he has any kind of wind today, he should arrive at the Pole in short order. Of course, this is just the midway point of his expedition, as he'll continue on to the coast where his shim – the Pangea – will be waiting to pick him up. Unlike most of the other skiers, Mike isn't working on a set timeline because he has his own lift off the continent. That said, if he continues at his current pace, it won't take him long to reach the coast again and continue on his Pole 2 Pole journey.


Finally, the Reedy Glacier Team of Keith Tuffley, Rob Smith, and Eric Phillips are also nearing the South Pole, although they still have a couple of days to go. The trio of explorers have opened up a new route to 90ºS by becoming the first people to traverse the glacier. They are also within the last degree of the Pole, and now expect to finish next Monday, January 9. The final days aren't going to be easy however, as the three men report bitterly cold conditions as the near the finish line.

That's it for now. I'll post another update sometime next week as we check in to see where everyone is at. The return skiers should be heading back at top speed now, while others will be wrapping up their expeditions altogether. It is a busy time as we near the end of the season.

Antarctica 2016: More Arrivals at the Pole

While the rest of us have been enjoying an extended holiday break, the skiers at the bottom of the world have been continuing their push towards various goals. The calendar may have now turned to 2017, but there are still several weeks left in the 2016 Antarctic season, and the explorers there are making the most of it.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Swedish solo-skier Johanna Davidsson arrived at the Pole on Christmas Eve, and in record time. Now, she's started her return journey back to Hercules Inlet by kite-ski. The winds haven't been all that favorable so far, so she has had to ski some days, but when they are blowing in her favor she's making good time. But, she admits she isn't rushing all that much and is enjoying "taking it easy" for the return trip. Going back to Hercules is usually easier and faster since much of it is down hill. Plus, when the winds are blowing it is possible to cover further distances. For instance, yesterday she managed to knock off 73 km (45.3 miles), which is equal to about 2-3 days of skiing towards the Pole.

Meanwhile, the Six-man British Military squad that we've been following all season reached the South Pole back on Christmas Day, and while they enjoyed a little down time there, they've already set off on the next leg of their expedition too. Now, they're looking to traverse the Shackleton Glacier on their return trip to the coast as well. They are currently traversing the tough Titan Dome, where conditions are very challenging, including -36ºC (-32.8ºF) temperatures. The team is tired, but in good sports and health, so they are pressing onwards.

Finnish skier Risto Hallikainen arrived at the South Pole over the holiday break as well, and has already launched his return journey to Hercules too. On his way to 90ºS he left behind a series of supply depots to help lighten his load, and give himself plenty of food and fuel for the return trip, which ExWeb says must be completed by January 27, which is when ALE will fly the last plane off th continent. The first supply depot will be picked up when Risto reaches 88ºS.

ExWeb reports that A four-person team guided by Ryan Waters, who was joined by Katrina Follows, Paul Adams, and Scott Kress arrived at the South Pole on December 30. The group has already flown back to the Union Glacier camp and are likely off the continent and on their way home.

Emma Kelty crossed the last degree on her way to the South Pole on New Year's Day. She hopes to arrive at 90ºS tomorrow or Wednesday, and after a brief stop will turn around and begin her attempt ski back to Hercules as well, time permitting. If she hopes to complete that journey, she'll need to pick up the pace however, as time is starting to become short. She's also hampered by a bad cough and deep, soft snow which is making it more difficult to make progress. Still, spirits are good and she is determined as ever.

Mike Horn is in the midst of his Antarctic Traverse by kite-ski, and while the winds have turned in his favor, it hasn't been an easy expedition so far. Yesterday alone he covered 160 km (99.4 miles), but it was over a hard surface covered in sastrugi that jarred his body at every turn. As a result, when he made camp he was exhausted and beat up, with 510 km (316 miles) to go to the Pole, which will only be the midway point as he makes his way to the other side of the continent. A few days back, it looked like the entire expedition was in jeopardy when Mike stopped for the night and discovered he had lost his cooking pot, which was custom made to integrate with his stove. He also lost several utensils, but the difficult part was how he would melt snow for water. Fortunately, he was able to jury-rig a system using his existing gear, and can continue to press on, but he was dangerously close to having to pull the plug altogether.

Canadian Sébastien Lapierre is closing in on the Pole, slowly but surely. He has now crossed over the 88th degree, and should arrive at the research station located there sometime next week. He has cleared the notorious sastrugi field in the 87th degree and is making better time now.

Finally, it should be noted that a new South Pole marker has been put in place at 90ºS. The old marker moves with the ice and had begun to drift way from the true location of the Pole, so a new one is put in place from time to time. After you've skied hundreds of miles to reach that point on the map, you definitely want to know you're standing in the right place.

That's it for now. More updates as the teams and solo skiers continue to make progress. Still lots to report on this unfolding season.

Antarctica 2016: Johanna Davidsson at the Pole and in Record Time!

Before taking a hiatus for the holidays last Friday, I posted a story about Swedish adventurer Johanna Davidsson, who was on the verge of reaching the South Pole, and breaking the speed record for a female skier to reach that point on the planet. Now, we can confirm that she has indeed completed that stage of her journey, and has established a new mark for the fastest time from Hercules Inlet to 90ºS by a woman.

In the original story that I posted, I wrote that Johanna was aiming to reach the South Pole by December 25 – Christmas Day. Instead, she crossed the finish line on December 24, which mean that her journey took 38 days, 23 hours, and 5 minutes. That's 10 full hours faster than Hannah McKeand did it back in 2006.

ExWeb reports that for Johanna, this was a completely unexpected record. It was never part of her plan to set a ski to the Pole in such a quick time, and had originally told the website that she planned on a 50 day journey. Instead, she found that her training and gear were more than up to the task, and while conditions were challenging at times, she was able to cover further distances than she had originally intended on daily basis.

The final stretch wasn't an easy one however. Whiteout conditions made skiing a challenge, and the snow was soft enough that it slowed Johanna's progress. But, she pushed on with her goal in sight, and was able to finish one very long day of skiing to make it the research station located at the bottom of the world, where she was welcomed by the staff there with a hot meal and champaign.

The journey isn't quite done just yet however. She'll rest briefly at the Pole before turning around and heading back to her starting point at Hercules Inlet. If she's successful, she'll become the first Swede to complete the round-trip journey.

Congrats to Johanna on an amazing job setting a new speed record. We'll be following along as you head back to the coast.

Antarctica 2016: Solo Skier Johanna Davidsson Closes in on the Pole and a New Record

Yesterday I posted an update from the Antarctic during which I shared info on a couple of expeditions I hadn't written about before, and made some quick updates on several of the skiers making their way to the South Pole. But one of the skiers I failed to post an update on was Swedish adventurer Johanna Davidsson, who is now closing in on polar history at the bottom of the world.

As of now, Johanna is just 57km (35 miles) from reaching Pole, which is still a daunting distance of course. But, in recent days she has been skiing as much as 35 km (21 miles) per day, which means that if she manages to put in a solid effort, she should reach 90ºS on Christmas Day. As quickly and as efficiently as she has been moving, that seems like a real possibility at this point.

As ExWeb points out, if she does manage to complete the journey by December 25 Johanna will set a new speed record for a woman skiing solo along the traditional Hercules Inlet to the South Pole route, which covers a distance of 1130 km (702 miles). The current record is held by British skier Hannah McKeand, and stands at 39 days, 9 hours, and 33 minutes. Since Johanna started on November 15, she even has a few days to spare and could beat that record rather soundly.

Obviously she still has quite a bit of distance to cover, and this record isn't int he bag yet. In fact, it wasn't even part of her original plan. She had just hoped to ski to the South Pole and hopefully kite-ski back to Hercules if time permitted. It seems like she should be able to do that if she still wants to. Reaching the Pole by Christmas gives her plenty of time for the return trip.

The days in the Antarctic can be long and tedious, with little to break up the monotony of skiing. Most of the skiers look forward to Christmas as they typically have saved a few special treats to enjoy on that day, and perhaps even a present or two. But for Johanna, it could mean something even more special. The completion of the first leg of her journey and a celebration at one of the most remote places on Earth.

Stay tuned!