The Antarctic summer is shaping up to be the busiest season since 2011-12. A few familiar names and a slew of new South Pole hopefuls are gearing up to start in November or December.
Let’s break down the shipments that have been announced so far.
There are three variants of partial crossings of Antarctica this season. So far, no one has attempted a full crossing of the continent.
Gareth Andrews and Richard Stephenson
Australian Gareth Andrews and Kiwi Richard Stephenson are aiming for a slightly elongated version of the journey that Colin O’Brady and Lou Rudd took in 2018. They will start from the north of Berkner Island, head for the South Pole, then head to the nearest “coast”, the Ross Ice Shelf, to complete their 2,023 km journey. However, their endpoint is not a true coastal arrival, as they plan to end their journey at the inner edge of the permanent pack ice.
The couple originally referred to their expedition as “The Last Great First”, a title that comes up once every two years. Instead, they’ve aptly renamed it Antarctica 2023. Their partial crossing is certainly not the last big first, although it would be an impressively long journey.
As they still prominently advertise their expedition as unsupported, it will be interesting to see if they use the graded and marked route from the South Pole to the Ross Ice Shelf. The route, used by polar scientists, eliminates the need to navigate and offers a smooth ride without crevices or the bumpy sastrugi that skiers dread.
Last year, Preet Chandi completed his 1,126 km solo expedition from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole in an impressive 40 days. This year she returns for an even longer slog – a partial solo traverse of around 1,000 miles. Presumably, like last year, Chandi departs from Hercules Inlet towards the South Pole. From there it will continue to the Ross Ice Shelf.
Chandi is flying to Chile soon and plans to leave with a 120kg pulka in early November.
Australian Defense Force
An Australian Army team (veterans and serving personnel) will also support a variation of the same partial crossing. The six-person team consists of expedition leader Emily Chapman, Vincent Carlsen, Jack Forbes, Sean Taylor, Kelly Kavanagh and Tim Geronimo.
They hope to complete their Messner Start-South Pole-Ross Ice Shelf route in 72 days.
Hercules Inlet to the South Pole
A host of teams and solo skiers will be skiing from Hercules Inlet to the Pole.
Mikko Vermas and Tero Teelahti will go on an unassisted expedition, each pulling 110kg sleds. They hope to cover the 1,130 km from Hercules Inlet to the pole in 40 to 50 days. The duo have some experience, having already skied to the North Pole in 2006.
Canadian Caroline Côté has set herself an ambitious goal. Côté will travel solo and unassisted, hoping to break the women’s speed record to the pole from Hercules Inlet. Sweden’s Johanna Davidsson holds the record, set in 2016, with a time of 38 days and 23 hours.
Côté joins at least one other speed record hopeful, Wendy Searle. Searle set the Hercules Inlet to South Pole speed record in 2020, but missed the women’s record by about three days.
Other solo skiers include Polish adventurer Mateusz Waligora, Norwegian Hedvig Hjertaker and Scot Benjamin Weber. Nick Hollis will also start from Hercules Inlet but it is not known if he will be skiing alone.
Messner Start Guided Groups
Inspire22 is a 10-person team of a mix of British military and civilians, led by Canadian Devon McDiarmid. They present their expedition as a primarily scientific endeavor to “explore the metabolic cost of sustained polar travel”.
Polar legend Borge Ousland’s company, Ousland Explorers, will guide a small team from the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust. Bengt Rotmo will guide Laura Andrews and Mike Dawson (former Olympian) from the Kiwi, as well as Norway’s Marthe Brendefur. The Trust selected the three team members from hundreds of hopefuls between the ages of 18 and 35 who applied.
To wrap up the Messner Start Guided Groups, two teams from Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions (ALE) will also set off on the approximately 1,000 km route to the pole.