I wrote yesterday a short memory of the 1989-90 TransAntarctica Expedition – dreamed up by American Will Steger and Frenchman Jean-Louis Etienne, after a fluke run-in three years earlier when each was on his way to the North Pole. While TAE may have been the biggest expedition to Antarctica in years (they spent something like $12 million over several years to pull it off), each season there are various characters on the seventh continent with big dreams of their own.
My friend Eric Larsen is there now, and a half-dozen other skiing teams (no more dogs, alas), all closing in on the South Pole at the very height of the austral summer. My friend Kraig Becker and his Adventure Blog does a great job of keeping up with the expeditions; here’s his dispatch from yesterday:
“While the rest of us celebrated the holidays with friends and family in the comfort of our homes, the Antarctic teams spent the days on the trail, heading due south, and closing in on their goal – The South Pole.
“The most recent update from Antarctica come from the Kaspersky Commonwealth Team, where we learn that the girls are a mere 20 nautical miles from the Pole. The ladies have been out on the ice for 36 days, and it appears that they will hit 90ºS tomorrow. The team was hoping that they would be able to see the polar research station located at the Pole on the horizon today, but so far they’ve had no luck in spotting it, which is adding a bit of frustration on the final days of the expedition. The girls also say that they will never take hot, running water and flush toilets for granted ever again.
“The last update from Ryan Waters and Cecilie Skog haven’t sent a dispatch since Christmas Eve, when they were within 100 nautical miles of the Pole, and it is quite possible that they have arrived at their destination today or tomorrow at the latest. They celebrated the holiday with a half-day on the trail, and some time in the tent, but since then, nothing has been heard.
“Similarly, Eric Larsen, and his team haven’t sent a dispatch since Christmas Day, which was their 39th day out of Patriot Hills. Eric and the boys spent the day locating their final supply cache, before turning South once again. With their sleds full once again, it was slow going throughout the day, which was mostly up hill. They’re now within two degrees of the Pole, and they hope to reach their destination within eight or nine days, which would put them in on the 2nd or 3rd of January, if everything goes according to plan.
“Meagan McGrath also sent an audio dispatch on Christmas Day with updates on her progress as well. She says she had a fantastic day out on the ice, and is covering great distances in the past few days, and spent much of the holiday thinking of her friends and family, who she is missing badly, but is still enjoying her journey so far. There was no update on her location, but because she was forced to restart early on, Meagan is still a good distance away from the Pole.
“Finally, the Shackleton’s Unfinished Business Team have wasted no time in their journey to the Pole, and according to their latest dispatch today, they are now at 89.2ºS and covered 9.3 nautical miles today. At this rate, they’ll finish off that final degree in the next few days, and they’ll stand at the Pole for the New Year.
“It appears that the next few days will be a busy one at the bottom of the world. Watch for updates from all the teams as they begin to arrive at the South Pole. The Antarctic season for 2009 will begin to wind down in the next few weeks, but not before plenty of action on Mt. Vinson as well, where the climbers will be looking to claim one of the seven summits.”