Wednesday, January 18, 2012

South Pole Pictures!

First off, enjoy these pictures our team at the South Pole!

Celebration, reflection and relaxation, that's been the order of the day for the team during their stay at Union Glacier. One of the unexpected perks of travelling to the remote ends of the earth is meeting all kinds of interesting people. Seems strange to make so many friends in such, for the most part, uninhabited areas, but it's the way these trips always go. As more and more people return to Union Glacier from the South Pole, our team's celebration of their own successful expedition has steadily become a base-camp-wide celebration of a successful South Pole season.

The team expects to fly from Antarctica to Patagonia sometime in the next day or so. The transition from base camp to small Chilean city will further their reintegration to "normal" society. Hot air hand driers truly are things of beauty after weeks of rubbing warmth back into your hands out on the ice!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Return to Union Glacier

Today the team woke up at the South Pole. For the first time in over a week, the team took it easy after finishing breakfast. Instead of breaking camp, strapping on skis and making miles, they toured the Amundsen-Scott Research Station, a scientific research facility located just a few steps from the Pole.

After the tour the team enjoyed a leisurely lunch and then hopped on a plane bound for Union Glacier. At the moment, it looks like they will remain at base camp until the 19th, when they'll fly from Antarctica back to Punta Arenas in Patagonia. For now though, the team will enjoy a nice leisurely change of pace as well as a huge drop in elevation.

Stay tuned for more expedition pictures. Thanks for following!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

90 Degrees South

As expected, the team reached the South Pole today! They can't go any further south. If they take a step in any direction, they'll be heading north. Reaching the South Pole is an exceedingly rare and special accomplishment. The team achieved this great goal in spite of the whiteout conditions (or, "white hell", as Len would say) that were the meteorological theme of the expedition.

As usual, the team made 8 nautical miles in about 6 hours in overcast, windy conditions. Despite the blustery conditions, the team was able to see the South Pole for most of the day. The team ditched their sleds about 200 meters from 90 degrees south, and sprinted, unencumbered to the expedition finish line!

They took plenty of photos, celebrated and circumnavigated the world's time zones at the Pole before retiring to the heated "welcome tent"--a most welcome luxury. The exhausted team agreed to continue the celebration tomorrow, but, for now, they wanted a good night's rest more than anything.

In addition to more celebration, tomorrow the team will tour the Amundsen-Scott Research Station in the morning, and possibly catch a flight back to Union Glacier. Thanks so much for following and supporting the team during their expedition! Stay tuned for final wrap up entries.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

One Ski Day Left?

As expected, the team made another 8 nautical miles in 6 hours in pretty challenging weather conditions. To illustrate the total lack of contrast in the whiteout conditions the team had today, Keith reported that they were "skiing the milk jug all day long". Even so, after 8 miles, their current position is S 89*52', W 068*42'.

If not for the whiteout conditions, the team would've had a nice view of the South Pole today. In fact, during a short spell of clear weather, the team caught a glimpse of the Amundsen-Scott Research Center just next to the South Pole.

Despite the difficult conditions, the team is charged up, and plan to stand on the bottom of the world tomorrow! Stay tuned for the final stretch!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Two Days Away, Game On!

Once again the team made 8 nautical miles in just under 6 six hours today, and that brings them to S 89*44', W 078*02'. Since there are 60 minutes (equal to 1 nautical mile) in every degree of latitude, at 44' of the 89th degree, the team is just two of their typical travel days away from reaching the South Pole!

The difficult weather that the team expected to hit didn't quite hit as hard as originally predicted. They skied under sunny skies, though the wind picked up and the temperature dropped toward the end of the day.

The team is, as you might expect, in great spirits, but remained focused even though the goal seems so close. They aren't taking anything for granted, and are looking forward to putting in another full of work tomorrow.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Rocking Out, and Rocking On

"Only three more songs to go!" This is Keith's signal to the iPod wearing team that they've nearly met their mileage goal for the day. The team charges all their iPods using the solar panels that also power the satellite phone and other essential electronics. This, in addition to a clear horizon and a solid physical equilibrium, is another reason to hope for sunny skies--no sun, no iPod charging. Up to now the team has squeezed enough juice from the solar panels to rock out to their favorite tunes as they make miles.

Once again the team made 8 nautical miles in 6 hours, bringing them to S 89*36', W 081*15'. If you've been following the team since they started skiing, you may have noticed that they've already covered several longitudinal degrees. A degree of latitude is a constant 60 nautical miles wide everywhere on the globe, but the width of a degree of longitude scrunches way down as it approaches either Pole. That's why the team has covered so many longitudinal degrees during their expedition, and it's also why, when standing directly on the North or South Pole, you are simultaneously in every time zone on the planet!

Today the team had sunny skies, low wind and moderate temperatures while they were skiing, but all that changed as they pitched camp. It got windy, overcast and much colder. In fact, Keith reports that it was colder in the tent tonight than it was on any other night of the expedition. He predicts more challenging weather for the next few days, and says that it will be "game on" when they set out tomorrow morning!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Don't You Mean White Heaven?!

The team continues to travel quickly, safely and efficiently. Today they once again traveled 8 nautical miles in 6 hours. They started the day skiing under sunny skies with relatively balmy temperatures that averaged out to 5* Fahrenheit. Pina colada, anyone? As the day progressed, the skies became increasingly overcast to the point where the horizon disappeared, and the team found themselves in what Len described as "white hell"!

Despite the loss of visual contrast, the team is in great spirits. Just listen to Keith and Rob laughing in the background of Len's animated audio report!

So the team is making very good mileage in 6 hour days. Why don't they do 8 or 10 hours and make the Pole even faster? Well, there are many reasons like long term wear and tear, allowing ample recovery time, maintaining an agreeable daily schedule, but one of the major factors is water. The team must melt snow blocks for their drinking water. It is a time consuming project, but obviously a very important one. Proper hydration not only helps the body recover quickly from physical stress, but it also is a major factor in avoiding cold injuries. A dehydrated person's blood thickens, reducing circulation, especially to the common frostbite problem areas like fingers and toes.

Thanks for following. Stay tuned for more updates from Antarctica.