CIRCUS ANTARCTICA – 5-part series on PolarJournal | Polarjournal

The British explorers Scott, Bowers, Wilson, Evans and Oates reached the South Pole on January 18, 1912 – and found Roald Amundsen’s tent there. The Norwegian beat them to it and was already at the Pole on December 14, 1911. While Amundsen was hailed as the “winner” upon his return, Scott and his demoralized men perished on the way back.

One of the most famous pictures of Antarctica: Scott, Bowers, Wilson and Evans (from left to right) on January 18, 1912 at the Geographic South Pole next to Roald Amundsen’s tent (Photo: Lawrence Oates, 1912)
Today at the South Pole stands the massive US Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, which bears the names of the leaders of the first two expedition teams to the South Pole. The legendary metal sphere at the “Ceremonial Pole” is a relic of the first South Pole station from 1957 (Photo: Christoph Höbenreich, 2013)

In the five-part article CIRCUS ANTARCTICA, Christoph Höbenreich shows how the sport-oriented expedition at and around the South Pole has developed since its “conquest” in 1911. There are no limits to creativity, almost anything seems possible. It is exciting to observe what is happening on the white continent today and in the future.

However, in order to be able to understand and correctly classify the services rendered, a clear, transparent and comprehensible classification and language is required in modern expeditionary work. While there have been long recognised classification systems in alpinism and climbing, as well as in sailing, paragliding and canoeing, in order to make not only the difficulties of the sport assessable, but also the performances achieved comparable, these have so far only existed in rudimentary form for sporting ambitious ice journeys in polar regions. A new classification model is now intended to bring more clarity and structure to modern polar expeditions and the reporting on them.

Over the years Christoph has developed into an absolute polar expedition expert. (Photo: Michael Guggolz, 2017)

In a five-part sequel, PolarJournal will post another episode each Saturday at 08:30. For the first time on Saturday 22 May 2021

First we have some questions for Christoph Höbenreich:

POLARJOURNAL: Your article “Circus Antarctica” contains many exciting facts and figures about modern, sport-oriented polar expeditions, which were previously known only to insiders. What made you put this together?

HÖBENREICH: While in Antarctica the heroic undertakings of the pioneers in the golden age of exploration are relatively well known, the public basically knows nothing about the no less exciting expeditions of the last 30 years and the present, or is even misled by sometimes unobjective expedition reports. Therefore I wanted to give a short insight into modern polar expeditions and the hustle and bustle of modern polar athletes in Antarctica.

POLARJOURNAL: Why do we need a polar expedition classification scheme?

HÖBENREICH: In light of all the record seekers with an almost insane no-limits mentality in a field where anyone can claim to have done the fastest, longest, most extreme, or most extraordinary performance, there has been a call for an objective system of comparison. The new scheme, initiated by Australian Eric Philips and developed over a year by an international group of polar expedition experts, is intended to bring more clarity and structure to the comparison of their achievements and modern polar expeditions as a whole for the general public and for extreme athletes who travel to the icy ends of the earth or set new records.

POLARJOURNAL: What do you wish from modern polar travellers?

HÖBENREICH: Of course, in the wilderness of Antarctica and the Arctic, fortunately everyone can and should be able to do whatever he or she wants (provided he or she complies with the respective laws and official requirements), whether it’s fun and games, forays and discoveries into uncharted territory, or top sporting performances. However, in order for the public, the media and potential sponsors to be able to correctly assess and realistically evaluate developments and differences in polar expeditions, it is necessary to have truthful and serious reporting on services actually rendered with adequate language by the polar travellers themselves. And in addition to knowledge of polar history and polar geography, a dash of self-criticism as well as respect for nature and the pioneering achievements of predecessors does not hurt.

POLARJOURNAL: What about your polar dreams?

HÖBENREICH: I not only had the skill and stamina, but above all the good fortune to be able to discover dreamlike ice worlds together with like-minded people on numerous polar pioneering and discovery expeditions. I have been able to fulfill and realize many polar dreams. I was even able to travel to my two polar dream regions Franz Josef Land in the Arctic and New Swabia (Queen Maud Land) in East Antarctica several times and explore them under my own steam. There I am infinitely grateful and happy. Realized dreams make room for new ones. And who knows, maybe by some lucky coincidence there will be another opportunity to set off with a small team to one of these remote corners of the earth. There is still so much unknown to discover, to climb, to traverse. One can hardly describe or depict this unique fascination of the silence, the wildness and the beauty of the ice and also the culture of individual polar travel with skis, tent and sledge. You simply have to experience them “in depth” yourself in order to be able to “experience” and “grasp” this incomparable world authentically.

POLARJOURNAL: Which do you prefer – the Arctic or the Antarctic?

HÖBENREICH: Antarctica, actually. You don’t have to worry about a polar bear peeking in at the tent during the night, as almost happened to me in Franz Josef Land.

So don’t miss it. Read the exciting report by Christoph Höbenreich in the next 5 weeks.

Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal

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