Friday, 6 December 2013
As expected, Richard Parks relaunched his bid to set a new speed record for skiing from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole yesterday. He reports that he faced a strong headwind for most of the day, and of course he is skiing up hill at the moment. Still, Parks managed to cover 31.5 km (19 miles), which is a solid start for his speed attempt. He'll need to pick up the pace in the days ahead, but for now he seems content with his progress. Just 1118.5 km (696 miles) to go and the clock continues to tick.
Jumping over to the Beardmore Glacier, the Scott Expedition has been forced to abandon their skis for now and don crampons instead. They've hit a large expanse of blue ice, which is incredibly hard and smooth, leaving no traction for the skis. It has made pulling the sleds a lot easier, as they effortlessly glide across the ice at the moment. The team started at along the coast at 43 meters (141 ft) above sea level, but have now climbed up to 1014 meters (3326 ft) as they continue to make their way up to the Antarctic Plateau. They've now been out on the ice for 43 days and still have about 2092 km (1300 miles) to go on their round-trip journey to the South Pole and back to the coast.
Aussie Geoff Wilson was dismayed to discover the promised winds have not appeared as predicted. You may recall that he is kite skiing to the South Pole and had hoped to be making great progress on that journey, but unpredictable winds have stymied his attempts so far, leaving him no choice but to ski along like everyone else. The doldrums continued today with practically no wind to assist him, which is disheartening for Wilson, who may not reach his goal if the winds don't turn in his favor. Sadly, the forecast doesn't look great in that regard for the next few days either. Geoff also reports that he had a call on his sat phone from Faysal Hanneche, who was also attempting to kite to the Pole. It turns out Faysal has injured his knee in a fall during the high winds of a few days back and won't be able to continue his expedition. Details are scarce at the moment, but it seems he'll be evacuated from the ice as soon as possible.
The three teams racing in the 2013 South Pole Allied Challenge get a much needed break today. This is their first mandatory rest day in which all teams must take 24 hours off before resuming their race to the South Pole. This is day 5 of the expedition and they still have 10 or 11 days to go before they are done. They happen to be well ahead of all of the other skiers because they started their journey at the 87th degree, rather than along the coast. Still, they are making good time and progress has been steady, if exhausting, for the skiers so far.
South Pole cyclist Daniel Burton continues to struggle. Yesterday he was battered by katabatic winds that made it nearly impossible for him to make much progress. With that in mind, he set up camp early and tried to stay out of those winds as best he could. Later in the day, when they had died down, he resumed his ride, albeit at a painfully slow pace. Once he hits the plateau, things should improve somewhat, but until then it is an uphill battle.
Finally, 16-year old Lewis Clarke has been making steady progress on his attempt to become the youngest person to ever ski the full length to the Pole. He and his guide, Carl Alvey wont' be setting any speed records, but they are putting in the miles they need to complete the journey in a reasonable time. So far they've been covering 21 km (13 miles) per day as they struggle up to the plateau as well. They should pick up the pace nicely once they reach that point and again as they get closer to their destination. Good weather has been on their side so far though and we all know that won't last for long in Antarctica.
That's all from the frozen continent for today. I'll update again next week as the news merits it.
The Adventure Journal had the opportunity to sit down with Alex and ask him about this venture. He says that for the most part, he'll be completely alone on the ice, although he does plan to meet with journalists and bloggers for a time. He also says that he doesn't want to be labeled as an environmentalist, but he remains an explorer instead. Bellini hopes that this adventure will allow him to share the urgent need for us to address climate change as he documents the death of an iceberg first hand.
In the interview, Alex also talks about his inspirations for this adventure, what it was like to row across the Pacific, but run into trouble just 65 miles from the finish line and how he'll select his iceberg. In regards to that last point, he says that the iceberg is still being formed, but that it will exist northwest of Greenland "between 70°N and 74°N."
It will certainly be interesting to see how this plays out. Living alone on an iceberg for a year should provide some unique challenges, particularly as the space begins to grow smaller and smaller. You can find out more in the video below and on Alex's website. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter for more updates as well.
Thursday, 5 December 2013
As I turned on the news this evening, the announcement that Nelson Mandela had passed was at the head of the newscast. It is a sad day for the entire world. What a giant he was in the history of man. As I took a moment to remember his accomplishments, fortitude, and struggles Peter, Paul, and Mary’s rendition of “No Easy Walk to Freedom” kept playing in my head. We have all lost a most inspirational icon.
Back on the home front, the big news is the incoming cold front. It’s sweeping across the country, and the gulf coast will not be immune to it. While the cold temperatures here can’t compare to the ice and snow and blizzards of those further north, my main worry is my extend-a-stay propane tank. It’s registering at 1/4 of a tank right now, and I have to work tomorrow. The refuge pays for propane refills, and I checked to see if the propane place is open on Saturday, but no staff is around on weekends to approve the purchase. It’s a minor trouble really, as I can switch to the on board tank or pay for the refill myself.
On my way back to the rig yesterday after work, I came upon a huge gathering of Northern Pintails in a flooded rice field. These ducks mainly feed on seeds.
Dabbling ducks like Northern Pintails can erupt straight up from the water without having to run along the water first to gain speed. The coming cold front is really driving lots of waterfowl down here.
I finally ran out of my favorite sponge candy that I got in Fargo, ND, in September. I decided to Google sponge candy. Several readers have provided me with recipes, but I’m not sure I want to try that in the rig. It turned out the Vermont Country Store has sponge candy that isn’t coated in chocolate. While I like dark chocolate, I really prefer my sponge candy without it. I’ve ordered a couple of bags, so I hope it’s as good as I remember from when I was young. I’ll be stalking my mailbox until it gets here next week.
Two of my bird feeders have been set up outside for the last week. Today I finally had some action. A small flock of chipping sparrows stopped by. I hope they tell their friends. I think I also saw a cardinal skulking around outside the fence. This compound isn’t the best habitat for birds because of all the cement, but I’m trying to be optimistic about it. That’s about it for tonight. I’m battening down the hatches tonight as the temps have dropped well over 20* in very short order.
Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later, Judy