Antarctica Update: An Eclipse and a Major Route Change

For most Antarctic expeditions, the weather has improved in the last two days; but as always, it remains tough going on the coldest continent.

Packshaw and Facer-Childs kite-ski expedition

Packshaw and Facer-Childs’ slow start has forced a dramatic route change. After three weeks on the ice, they had only covered 484km. Recently, they’ve sped up a bit and have covered 892km by day 27. But it hasn’t been enough to stay on schedule. With less food remaining than planned, they have elected to skip the Pole of Inaccessibility and head straight for the South Pole.

The new route heads straight to the South Pole. Photo: Chasing the Light


They took a rest day on December 7. Recharged, they managed a solid 88km on December 8. They were using their large 18m kite on 50m lines and zipped along despite relatively light winds. They are now 1,355km from the South Pole.

Martin Hewitt and Lou Rudd

Hewitt had been having a pretty rough time in our last update. His Achilles tendon is still giving him trouble but he seems to be managing it. Rudd resorted to cutting up bits of a sleeping mat to pad out the heels of Hewitt’s boots to try and relieve some of the stress on the tendon.

Hewitt and Rudd just finished their second 10-day food sack, and Rudd estimates that their pulks are now around 20kg lighter. They’re also about the cross 84˚S, putting them one degree away from the Theil Mountains and the halfway point of their journey.

Solo expeditions

After a few days slogging through soft snow, Preet Chandi found better conditions this week. She marched past 83˚S on day 14 of her expedition, and her daily updates are very positive. She’s been roughly sticking to the routine of 90 minutes skiing and a 10-minute break. “Every now and again I have to stop in between as well, especially if I get too hot or too cold,” she wrote in a recent update on Instagram.

Preet Chandi has passed 83˚S. Photo: Preet Chandi


Masatatsu Abe set out from an unusual start point but has now joined Roald Amundson’s original route to the Pole. He’s on day 20 of his expedition and ALE has warned him that he will be entering an area that may harbor crevasses. So far, he hasn’t encountered any.

Abe is already having to manage a facial injury. “I don’t know if it was frostbite or chilblains, but my cheeks were damaged. You have to be careful not to get a serious problem…I have to walk for another 40 days, which is long and painful,” he said in an update.

Abe shows off his cheek injury. Photo: Masatatsu Abe


Abe also mentioned the Antarctic total solar eclipse on December 4. This is a very rare occurrence: The last total eclipse in Antarctica was back in 2003. Unfortunately, despite setting an alarm, Abe was too tired to get up for the spectacle.

The Washington Post has published some incredible footage of the eclipse.

Antarctica, eclipsed. Photo: Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera

ALE guided expedition

The ALE-guided ski group, traveling from the Axel Heiberg Glacier to the South Pole, has also been suffering in the soft snow as they work up the incline toward the plateau. They appear to be averaging about seven hours of skiing per day.

Action heating up on Mount Vinson

ALE reports that the first 10 ALE climbers have topped out on Mount Vinson. Their names have not yet been released.