Antarctic Roundup: Another Evacuation

This week in Antarctica features more drama. Another expedition has required an emergency evacuation, and the weather continues to frustrate Justin Packshaw and Jamie Facer-Childs.

Packshaw and Facer-Childs kite-ski expedition

Packshaw and Facer-Childs can’t seem to catch a break. “Patience and respect are qualities you need an abundance of here,” Packshaw wrote in a recent post. With only a smattering of good weather days, the duo will need all the patience they can muster.

Packshaw and Facer-Childs are heading south, but the prevailing wind has been blowing north. On some days, this means they travel long distances but make little progress. Day 37 was a good example; there was enough wind to travel and they clocked up 77km, but only 45 of those kilometres were toward the South Pole.

Forty days into the expedition, they have covered 1,328km.

Martin Hewitt and Lou Rudd

Hewitt and Rudd made it back to Thiels Corner, and ALE picked them up. Now back at Union Glacier, they hope that Hewitt’s Achilles tendonitis will clear up with lots of rest and anti-inflammatories.

If his Achilles tendon plays ball, Hewitt and Rudd plan to ski the last degree to the South Pole and then climb Mount Vinson.

Hewitt believes that his unevenly weighted sled and sastrugi (pictured here by Preet Chandi) led to his Achilles problem. Photo: Preet Chandi

Solo expeditions

In our last update, Preet Chandi was mulling whether to decrease her time skiing and get more sleep. Already ahead of schedule, she has chosen to keep pushing.

Chandi seems to be coping well, though she’s tired of the long uphill to the polar plateau: “Still lots and lots of uphill. At one point I was daydreaming about how it would feel going the other way with the wind behind me,” she said in a recent update.

Further south, Masatatsu Abe is either going a bit mad or is experiencing very different weather from the other expeditions. “The southern hemisphere has a high solar zenith around the summer solstice,” he wrote yesterday. “The maximum temperature is -4℃. It can’t be helped because it’s hot when there is no wind. Get naked and cool.”

Masatatsu Abe enjoying the warm weather. Photo: Masatatsu Abe


Abe is covering between 13 and 18km per day and has also experienced a few days with strong headwinds.

On December 21, he made a surprise find. Hundreds of kilometres from the sea, he found a bird on the ice. It was the first living thing Abe had seen in a month, but the bird wasn’t keen to hang out and flew off when he approached.

ALE guided group

The ALE guided group could have done with some of Abe’s warm weather. Team member Akshay Nanavati had to be evacuated due to fairly severe frostbite. “We were all cruising along when on the start of the seventh shift, I felt my right ring finger go numb,” Nanavati said. “I knew we only had two more shifts to go, I thought I’d just suck it up. But after a while, something was clearly wrong.”

Nanavati is now back at Union Glacier getting treatment. It looks like he’ll keep his fingers, but a long recovery period is ahead of him: “The doctor said if I expose these fingers to the cold any more, I’d lose them. My three fingers will essentially be out of commission for six months.”

Akshay Nanavati’s frostbitten fingers. Photo: Akshay Nanavati