Compared to previous years, there is quite a bit going on towards the South Pole and beyond. As many adventurers as not since more than a decade try this season to reach the South Pole or even to make the Antarctic crossing. More or less at the same time as the British “Polar Preet”, adventurers from Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Finland, Poland, Italy, Scotland and Canada are or were also on the move.
Antarctica is experiencing a rush this southern summer not only by “normal” expedition travelers on ships, but also by numerous solo and team expeditions on the continent. Most of them would certainly have liked to have started their expeditions a year or two ago, but were then thwarted in many ways by the pandemic. On the one hand, many teams were unable to carry out their preparatory training as planned due to the travel restrictions, and on the other hand, gaining sponsors was made more difficult in a financially uncertain situation, not to mention traveling to Antarctica via Chile.
Nevertheless, according to Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions (ALE), seven expeditions started last season. However, not all of them reached their destination, mainly due to very challenging weather conditions.
With the (almost) worldwide improving corona situation last year, for this season many solo adventurers and teams were able to successfully complete all preparations until around November 2022 and are now on the road for a few weeks or already back home.
With their extraordinary expeditions, many of the adventurers not only want to test their personal limits and show what humans are capable of, but also draw attention to climate change and collect important climate data during their tour. Two of them are the Australian Gareth Andrews and the New Zealander Richard Stephenson. Both are physicians and consider themselves climate advocates. Starting on Berkner Island in the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf, they plan to cover the 2023 kilometers to the Ross Ice Shelf in about 75 days. After 57 days, they are still about 200 kilometers from the South Pole (https://antarctica2023.com.au/). The time they have left will hardly be enough to make it to their destination.
Unlucky from the start was extreme cyclist Omar Di Felice, who unfortunately had to abandon his attempt to cross Antarctica by bicycle for personal reasons after only seven days. In addition, his start was marked by extremely bad weather and he had to spend several days in a tent. His intention was also to use the expedition to raise awareness of climate change and to show that it is possible to travel everywhere in a climate-friendly way by bicycle. (http://ultracyclingman.com/)
Harpreet Chandi, likely better known as “Polar Preet,” is the first woman to attempt to cross Antarctica unsupported. She reached the South Pole two days ago and now “only” about 650 kilometers of the original 1,800 kilometers lie ahead of her. However, she has less than 20 days left before she will run out of provisions. Difficult snow conditions with soft powder snow and numerous sastrugi made her progress considerably more difficult. Nevertheless, she still wants to give her best: “My cutoff date is around 22nd Jan which means I will have to finish then. I could have finished at the South Pole but I thought about all the reasons I wanted to do this journey and wanting others to push their boundaries. So I’ll continue to push mine and do as much as I can in the time I have left.” (https://polarpreet.com/)
Also still on their way are the two Finns Mikko Vermas and Tero Teelahti (https://3poles.fi/en/), the Pole Mateusz Waligóra, the Scotsman Benjamin Weber (https://polarweber.com/), the Brit Nick Hollis (https://721challenge.com/) and a six-member Australian team (https://www.thespiritlivesantarctica.com). At 28, Norwegian Hedvig Hjertaker aims to become the youngest woman to reach the South Pole alone(https://hedvighjertaker.no/).
The ten-person Inspire22 expedition team, consisting of physicians, physiologists, polar guides, a teacher and an engineer, reached the South Pole two days ago and will return home with reams of data on human metabolism under extreme conditions(https://www.inspire22.co.uk/).
Already on January 6, the Antarctic Heritage Trust’s five-member Inspiring Explorers Expedition 2022 reached its destination with the South Pole(https://nzaht.org/encourage/inspiring-explorers-expedition-2022-south-pole-lp/).
This season it was hardly a problem to get to Antarctica and start the expedition, but on the way through the soft snow many of the adventurers had or still have difficulties to progress fast enough. Thus, it remains to be seen whether the respective goals can still be achieved or whether Antarctica will win this time.
Julia Hager, PolarJournal
More on the subject: