Go to my news archive page for now.
The pandemic has not ended, but expeditions happened! ALE was operating their Union Glacier camp as well as their camps at Pole and Vinson...and they supported "some" of these ventures...all of which have now ended, as it is getting colder in Antarctica. Here is a good final 21 January update from Martin Walsh at Explorersweb.
- Chasing the Light Antarctica 2021
- looks to have been the first nongovernmental venture to arrive on the continent...they reached Novo on 10 November. This project is two Brits, Justin Packshaw and Jamie Facer Childs, who are kite-skiing about 2500 miles...first to the Pole of Inaccessibility (POI), thence to Pole, Hercules Inlet and Union Glacier. They'll be taking medical and environmental data for NASA, the European Space Agency, Stanford, and the University of Central Florida...more details about this are in this 9 December Gizmodo article "Space Agencies Are Tracking Two Explorers...". Here is Martin Walsh's 11 November Explorersweb article about their plans. They arrived at Novo on 11 November SP time...they set out a couple of days later. On 6 December they marked 500 miles/800 km of travel, reporting at 77.8ºS-10.9ºE. But a couple of days later they decided not to visit the POI but head directly to Pole due to a shortage of food. By the 15th (their Day 32) they'd completed 1042 km/647 miles. They'd reported light or unfavorable winds in the last few days. As of the 19th they'd had a couple of exhausting long days and had covered 1,250 km/777 miles. On the 24th they tried to start out but the wind was too light to take them anywhere. As of 29 December they had 380 miles/611 km to go to reach Pole with only 14 days of food left...but the 30th brought better winds and they completed 72 km on course. And things kept getting better...on 4 January they did 82 km on course and were only 133 miles from Pole. On the 7th they had great wind and did 104 km/65 miles so by the 8th they were only 64 km/40 miles from Pole. They reached Pole on the 8th and were hanging out and eating well. At right, a photo of Justin and Jamie in front of you know what, from Justin's Instagram. They opted to not continue to Hercules Inlet.
- Called off! Antártico Remando en Solitario (Antarctic Paddling Solo) (Spanish language site)
- is Spanish endurance athlete Antonio de la Rosa, who among other things completed a SUP trip from San Francisco to Hawaii in 2019. He's planning an unusual trip...interestingly, his website describes this as a solo rowing trip from Cape Horn to the Antarctic Peninsula, followed by a sail to South Georgia with hopefully a stop at Elephant Island from where he would duplicate the route of Shackleton to Cove Inlet near King Haakon Bay. He has been in Punta Arenas for awhile...I'm not sure of his starting point...and originally he was planning to begin around 20 November, but the shipping container with his boat was delayed for 3 weeks...supply chain problems(!) The container finally arrived on 28 November. I haven't found specs on his boat Ocean Defender, which appears to be about 22 feet long with an enclosable cockpit. He'd originally considered including a manhaul to Pole, but that part is off. He had his boat towed from PA to Puerto Williams. From his Facebook page, his boat was scheduled to arrive around 26 November. After suffering a bit of a fever, he and his boat were being towed from Punta Arenas to Puerto Williams as of 6 December, a trip that would take several days. Alas, per a 6 December Facebook post he was diagnosed positive for COVID. Just in...on the 12th he announced that he was calling the trip off for this season. On Christmas Eve he saw his boat Ocean Defender pulled out of the water and stored until his attempt next year, per .
- Royal Enfield 90º South Quest for the Pole
- is an unusual motorcycle expedition planned by Royal Enfield's India division. The page above includes a video trailer and mentions and depicts their strange route...the bikes were shipped to Novo...where the two riders Santhosh Vijay Kumar and Dean Coxson were scheduled to arrive on 26 November. They will be driven by Arctic Trucks to a starting point on the Ross Ice Shelf described as an Indian research station (?? none found), getting there on about 13 December. From there they will ride 478 miles to Pole along the South Pole Traverse route, arriving on about 22 December. They then will be driven to Union Glacier, getting there about 3 January where they will catch flights back to India, while the bikes are to be shipped to the UK. Schedule source: this YouTube interview with Santosh posted on 3 December
and linked from this 4 December drivespark.com page. While the royalenfield page does not fully name the riders, this advpulse.com article identified them as the Royal Enfield employees named above, and also described some of the motorcycle modifications. And here is a link to the pdf press release about this expedition. And...this 15 October Roadracingworld article about the expedition DOES mention Arctic Trucks and also describes bike modifications. I must note that this would not be the first motorcycle to reach Pole...that was Shinji Kazama in 1991-92...he rode a modified Yamaha liquid-cooled DR200 and often used a ski attached to the front tire, which the Enfield riders will not do. The Arctic Trucks team, Jóhannes Guðmundsson and Arnar Gunnarsson, headed to Novo via Cape Town the last week of November. There also are two "content creators" along. They have been posting updates on this Facebook page, although these were not timely. Despite the news I saw earlier, the Royal Enfield team must have arrived at Novo at the beginning of December. They were to be there for about 4 days, acclimatized, got both bikes started, and let a couple of scientists take test rides on the Himalayans. But...that FB page was not giving tracking information as apparently they started their trip on 7 December per this 22 December EVOindia news article indicates they actually completed their ride to Pole in only 9 days, arriving on 16 December after starting from 87ºS. No details about their actual route, but this APN News article states they traveled on a "compacted snow track" which implies they used the South Pole Traverse route. Here's a photo shared on 22 December from Royal Enfield's Twitter feed.
- Valkyrie Racing
- planned a 356 mile Antarctic drive heading south toward Pole and back from Union Glacier...in a heavily modified 1956 Porsche 356 A, which one of the drivers, Renée Brinkerhoff, originally acquired in 2011. She has driven it in a number of severe road rallies around the world
mentioned here. Her second driver will be
the veteran polar explorer Jason de Carteret. The vehicle was heavily modified, including most visibly a set of skis attached to the front axle and a Mattrack-type track set on the rear axle. More detailed specs are available here, and a good friend familiar with Porsches and Antarctic travel has speculated how many miles the rear axle will last before breaking. The vehicle was shipped by air in a container to Union Glacier, where the team arrived on 6 December. Arctic Trucks was, surprisingly, not involved in this venture...perhaps as the team was not doing a lengthy traverse...rather, short trips in different directions out from camp. Their updates on their Facebook page have noted a number of problems from frozen carburetors and air filter to sheared hub and ski kingpin bolts. Old media...this August 2020 New York Times article. They did complete their 356 miles on 11 December, as of the 15th, the team was awaiting good weather so they could fly north to Chile...which they did on the 17th.
- Masatatsu Abe (this link is to the English translation of his Japanese page, the original is here)
- the Japanese explorer and rickshaw driver who successfully walked to Pole in 2018-19, embarked on a venture he'd originally announced for 2019-20--a retracing of the rest of the route to Pole from Japanese explorer Nobu Shirase's 1911-12 furthest south, 80ºS-15ºW on the Ross Ice Shelf (Wikipedia page about Shirase describing his Antarctic and Arctic explorations). He arrived in Punta Arenas on 30 October and did what I did there in the 80s before heading to Antarctica...went shopping, and went for a run along the coast. The bottom of this (English translation) page shows the most recent update with this link to earlier updates. The top of that page features a map of Antarctica with his current location (as of 5 November he was in Punta Arenas) although Abe's route up to the plateau is not identified. This 29 September Explorersweb article by Martin Walsh describes Abe's expedition plans. Abe is also sharing some updates on his personal Facebook page. He was on the ALE flight that arrived at Union Glacier on 15 November, he was flown to his starting point on 18 November; by the 24th he'd traveled 60 km, and by the 30th he'd traveled 120 km/76 miles and was at 80.46ºS. Interestingly, he was mostly heading east...on 6 December he was at 80.95ºS-166º17'W. By the 14th he'd traveled 326 km/202 miles and was heading south nominally following Amundsen's route. On the 18th he encountered 22 mph headwinds...and stopped at 82º26'S-164ºW. Interestingly, on the 20th (his day 37) he saw a bird in the distance, on the 22nd he was at 80º-54'S, and on Christmas Day he spotted the SPoT route. By the 31st he was at 84º-28' and could see the Queen Maud range in the distance. By 4 January he was approaching the base of the Leverett Glacier, but in his most recent blog post he was contemplating quitting early. "The final decision will be made at the next contact." But...he persisted. As of 8 January he was heading up the Axel Heiberg glacier, at 85º26'S-164º50'W, and on the 10th he was at 85º-26'S. As of 10 January it was decided that his venture would be suspended...he would try to reach a flat area where the pickup aircraft could land. As of 13 January he'd been hanging out at 85º26'S-164º56'W for two days. And as of 19 January I'd seen no recent updates and assumed he was still at that point waiting for pickup. By 20 January he'd apparently been picked up and flown to Union Glacier, and by 22 January he was back in South America. At right, a hero shot of him at his southernmost point from his Facebook page, which he posted was at 85º26'S-165º50'W. He said he was flying the flag of the White Army...which I cannot identify or find an explanation of elsewhere.
- Erik Bertrand Larssen
- from Norway, planned a solo unsupported expedition to Pole from Berkner Island. He was also on the ALE flight arriving at Union Glacier on 15 November. He's also posting some updates on Facebook as well as on a podcast (only in Norwegian), although this page of his website posts daily travel updates in English. He began his travels on 19 November and so far has been covering about 25 km per day while crossing Berkner Island. He took 2 rest days on the 17th and 18th due to fever and a sore throat, As of 24 December (his Day 37) he was at 85º10'S-51º59'W, and he planned to celebrate by taking an early night with cake and perhaps some phone calls. On 30 December (his day 43) he'd reached 86º-25'S and was having trouble with his skis delaminating. As of 5 January SP time, his most recent update was from 3 January when he was at 87º-11'S. And as of 8 January he was at 88º17'S-51º59'W. 11 January he was at 88º40' S and resting up for his push in the next 5 days. By 15 January he was at 89º48'S--only 13 miles from Pole, which he should reach by Sunday 16 January. Which he did! At right, his hero shot from his Facebook page.
- Preet Chandi
- a Sikh British Army officer, is attempting to ski solo and unsupported from Hercules Inlet to Pole. This is her first expedition to Antarctica. She trained in Greenland during the northern summer and expected to head to Punta Arenas around 5 November. Here is a 21 October British Army news page about her expedition which includes a 14-minute Q&A video about the venture. She is also posting updates on the @polarpreet pages on Facebook and Instagram. This 3 November BBC News article said she'd head south from the UK on Sunday...and that people tell her that she "...doesn't look like a polar explorer." On 15 November (PA time) she said she expected to fly to Union Glacier on the 18th. She was dropped off at her starting point on 25 November SP time and did a few hours before making camp. She's posting daily audio updates on her website...although her exact location isn't mentioned, as of 30 November she was at about 81.5ºS, and by 9 December she was at 83.5ºS. By her Day 21 (15 December) she'd reached Thiels Corner (85º-5'S-80º-47'W)...an occupied ALE fuel depot about halfway to Pole. On the 20th she was at about 86º-45'S, by the 25th she was at 88º-10'S, and on the 29th she was within the last degree. As of New Years Eve she had about 40 miles to go...she'll be the first trekker (other than the last degree folks) to reach Pole...which she did on 3 January her time! She scored this 4 January NPR article noting that she is is the first woman of color to complete a solo expedition in Antarctica. By 15 January she'd returned to the UK per this BBC News article.
- Shortened... Adaptive Grand Slam
- is part of a project led by former British army officer Martin Hewitt (Wikipedia reference) to allow disabled people to reach both poles and climb the seven summits. This particular project, Adaptive Antarctica, involves only Martin (his left arm is paralyzed from 2007 gunshot wounds in Afghanistan) guided by Lou Rudd, who "raced" Colin O'Brady across Antarctica in 2018-19. They were flown to Hercules Inlet to begin their ski trip on 18 November. They are providing venture updates here, and their sponsor Shackleton is updating their progress map with links from this page. After the trip to Pole they planned a Mt. Vinson summit attempt, which would be their completion of the "grand slam." There is a 2 November inews.co.uk news article describing the trek, and mentioning that the two men were to fly from Punta Arenas to Union Glacier on 3 November...they actually flew south on 15 November. They are also posting updates on their Facebook page. After 7 days they'd traveled 80 km. By 11 December (Day 23) they were at 84º23'S-80º50'W. But...Martin has been suffering from Achilles tendonitis on his left leg...in part because he's skiing with one arm and the pulk load is unbalanced. Finally, despite painkillers and added cut-up Thermarest heel blocks, on 16 December, things got to unbearable for him to continue. From 85º-17'S-80º-44'W they were backtracking about 16 miles/26 km to ALE's Thiels Corner airfield, from where they will be flown to Union Glacier for a medical assessment. As of 17 December they were hoping they could still do the Vinson summit...and after reaching Thiels Corner (85º-5'S-80º-47'W) on the 17th they were also considering a last degree Pole trek if Martin's condition improved after some time at UG. They did fly back to UG on the 18th, where Martin spent time with the medical team, while Lou...competed in the Antarctic Ice Marathon that went off a couple of hours after their arrival. As of the 22nd, Lou was repacking supplies in preparation for a last degree trek, as Martin continued to recover well. On the 25th Martin did a 10 km test ski with a half-loaded pulk, and they were cleared to fly out to the start point of the last degree trek in a few days. As of the 29th they were still at UG...but they were flown to the last degree start point (actually 88º-54'S) on New Years Eve. By their Day 48 (4 January) they had reached 89º-46'S and were thinking about reaching Pole on 5 January their time--the centenary of Ernest Shackleton's death. And they did succeed by the 6th! By the 8th they were back at Union Glacier waiting for a flight to the Vinson base camp...and they were still waiting on the 11th. But then things happened...they were at the Vinson base camp on the 13th, the high camp on the 14th...and the summit on the 15th!
Martin's website originally claimed that he would be the first disabled person to trek to Pole "unsupported and unassisted," but this is not the case for several reasons. First...the term "unassisted" has been deprecated by the Polar Expeditions Classification Scheme (PECS)...and more significantly, the first disabled person to travel to Pole was Norwegian Cato Zahl Pedersen, who'd lost both arms in a high voltage incident. His 1994-95 venture was titled "Unarmed to the South Pole." Martin has since updated his website to refer to him as hoping to be the first disabled person to traverse to Pole and also climb Mt. Vinson.
- Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions (ALE)
- is also supporting two guided expeditions, one from Hercules Inlet and one from the Axel Heiberg Glacier--Akshay Nanavati, one of the participants of the Axel Heiberg trek, had to be medevaced back to UG due to frostbite, he will soon be flown back to Punta Arenas. And there are other ventures still out there...including at least one "last degree" trek which was completed about 17 December, and there are more to come. ALE has not posted any information about specific expeditions, but this 6 October Explorersweb article by Martin Walsh provides further information on the nonmechanized expeditions as well as Eric Philips' map showing the various expedition routes. They haven't posted any recent updates on these guided treks, but as of 7 December the first 10 people had summited Mt. Vinson. Oh! One of the upcoming last degree ventures as well as a Vinson summit will presumably be supported by ALE but will be guided by Tashi, Mingma, and Chhang Dawa Sherpa--three brothers who jointly own Nepal-based Seven Summit Treks. They hope to be the first Nepali team on Vinson...and actually for Dawa, Vinson would be the fifth of his seven summits. See the bottom of this 14 December Explorersweb article as well as the photo at right of the 3 brothers upon arrival in Punta Arenas on 17 December, shared by Dawa on social media. The three arrived at Union Glacier on about Christmas Day.
More to come as these pages are still under construction. Meanwhile...a couple of notes. Where specific dates/times are mentioned, I try to use South Pole summer time (UTC+13), but I'm not always able to determine this, particularly for older expeditions where the blog or website has disappeared. Sometimes they have used the time zone of ALE's Union Glacier camp (UTC-3, the same as Punta Arenas), or they may have used the time zone of the expedition's home country.
Other caveats...the information on many of the older expeditions comes from websites and news articles which are no longer online but are archived...and in many cases the photos and blog entries did not get archived. And...the meanings of the terms "unsupported" and "unassisted" have evolved over the years. Many ventures have used these terms, and rather than try to do an evaluation on older expeditions, I have used these terms as quoted from the original venture websites and/or news media.
Also important...Explorersweb posts frequent updates on the various ventures throughout the austral summer, so if you're interested I highly recommend that you visit their website and contact them to get on their email list.