Antarctica: medical air drop, and notorious sastrugi fields

Taking it one day, one sastrugi, at a time.

(Correne Coetzer, South Pole update December 16-21)

The Twin Otter pilots dropped Carl Alvey’s team medical supplies for 40 days. Henry Worsley entered the forewarned notorious sastrugi fields in 87 degrees South.

On Antarctica, the distances are long and featureless. Skiers are motivating themselves to handle it. Henry is focusing on one sastrugi at a time, Stew breaks it down day by day and has small targets which eventually just add up to the bigger goal, Doug says when he looks at the miles left to travel, it is spirit-crushing. “It seems utterly impossible from where I currently sit. It’s hard sometimes to control those negative thoughts despite all my experience and training. When I speak to youth sports teams, I tell them to break those seemingly impossible tasks into “chunks” and to tackle the smaller portions one at a time. That way the end goal becomes manageable. Today it was just hard to put that into practice myself.”

Note: Definitions below according to

assisted = resupplies

supported = kite/car/skidoo support u2028

HENRY WORSLEY UK solo, Unassisted Unsupported traverse 1100nm / 2037km, Berkner Island – Geographic South Pole – Shackleton Glacier (Ross Ice Shelf), Started November 13, 2015.

Good weather conditions, “a blessing”. Henry is losing weight, and said he is not as strong as he was at the start. He entered the brutal sastrugi fields of 87 degrees. The rock hard ice formations are non-stop packed and feet apart. Key is, not to be over phased by the scale and distance involved, said Henry. “I have to accept it and keep moving. There is obviously nothing I can do about it.” He focuses on one ridge at a time, which made for lower miles. Another 70 miles of these to cover. His body needed urgent rest and a couple of anti-inflammatories.

Distances: 13.9nm, 14.nm (“only .2 more, but to me, at this stage, it matters”), 0nm (rest day), 17.1 nm, 14.1nm (12 hour days), 12.7nm.

Day 38 Dec. 20

S87º 14.818 W51º 42.289, 7598 ft

Accumulated Distance 404.8 Nautical Miles

Temperature -24 °C Wind Speed 3 Mph

LUKE ROBERTSON UK/Scotland, solo, Unassisted Unsupported 1130km, Hercules Inlet to Geographic South Pole, Started December 5, 2015.

Luke’s solar panels are not working, reported his home team. He has a backup power source which is pretty slow to charge so can receive messages but not reply or send updates.

Thu Dec 17th, 20152:49:30 am

Whiteout conditions all of today too, but means no scenery to stand around and gawp at!

Elev: 918.26 m Lat: -82.165643 Lon: -080.644090

Sat Dec 19th, 20153:07:00 am

Elev: 1079.00 m Lat: -82.635898 Lon: -80.665333

Sunday December 20, 2015

Lat -82.958203 Lon -080.767300 Elev1118m

Tue Dec 22nd, 20153:27:45 am

“Batteries still down. Good progress. Receiving all msgs. Thanks!”

Elevation: 1206.68 m Lat: -83.410638 Lon: -080.741486

DOUG TUMMINELLO USA solo, Unassisted Unsupported 1130km, Hercules Inlet – Geographic South Pole, Started December 6, 2015, at 7 pm, skiing for an hour.

Soft snow, low visibility, foot blisters, strain on his ankle due to problems with one ski and skin, right toes that got numb, add to the challenge of hauling a full load (no resupplies). “It’s really hard work – like dragging through concrete.”

Doug covered 8 to 11 nautical miles in 9 to 11 hour days.

Position 12/21/2015 8:44:00 AM

Lat -81.903108 Lon -080.657243 Elev 889.56 m

MICHELE PONTRANDOLFO (Italy) solo, Unassisted Kite-supported, traverse: Coast at Novolazarevskaya – Geographic South Pole – Hercules Inlet, Started November 19, 2015.

During the past few days, Michele got favorable kiting winds and covered 27km, 0km, 61,52km 71km and 59km. He is still traveling uphill and encountered sastrugi, which made him fell over a few times while kiting. Temperatures range from -22ºC to -34ºC.

Position Sun Dec 20th, 20155:02 pm

S 74º 13’48.77” E 007º 09’36.04”, elev 3176 m

Dec. 21 4:21 pm

S 74º 14’54.32” E 007º 6’43.91”, elev 3153

ERIC PHILIPS (Australia, solo)

Unassisted Kite-Supported

Queen Maud Land “Discovery Trip”

He completed his ski, kite and climb solo trip in QML.

CARL ALVEY (UK, ANI guide), EMMA TAMSIN KELTY (UK), Assisted (resupplies) Unsupported 1130km, Hercules Inlet – Geographic South Pole, Started December 5, 2015.

Emma is battling it out there, “This soft snow is really taking its toll. It’s like heavy cross-country skiing off piste pulling a snow plough behind….. For 7 hours a day plus 70 min break (10min break every 50 min) a day. As a pair, slowing up or stopping mid flow is difficult/ frustrating and in short timings are not flexible. So today was the day that I started to ski 1.2nm per hour …. Every lift of the ski to get over the next bump, snow pile or whatever it maybe (cause today there wasn’t any definition again) required masses of effort. So I called it a day…. After 2 hours of skiing, today [Dec 20].

On the 19th, ANI dropped them spare Norwegian bindings and 40 days worth of cream and dressings for Emma’s polar thigh [frostbite on upper legs].

Distance Covered in 15 days: 222.89 km / 138.5 mi

DEVON MCDIARMID (CA, ANI guide), STEW EDGE (UK), MOSTAFA SALAMEH (Jordan), SHAHROM ABDULLAH (Malaysia), Assisted Unsupported 890km, Ronne-Filchner Ice Shelf (Messner) – South Pole, Started Dec. 9, 2015.

Devon’s team had a bird fly by, which is a rare experience. The Pensacola Mountains came into view, in a distance. White-out made way for wind. They stayed clear of a big crevasse field.

Every day they keep the same routine of starting at 9 am, ski for an hour, rest ten minutes, until 5:15 pm, reported Mostafa. The men take turns to navigate every hour.

Stew reported he was sweating a lot and when they stopped for a break, he “super chilled really quickly. Even in my down vest I felt wet and cold. The only option was to strip and change my thermal top for a dry one. It made an immediate difference and I warmed straight away. My goggles were now frozen so I had to use my spare set. On the plateau where it can be -40 it would have probably required pitching the tent and getting into a sleeping bag. Lesson learned.” He also reported sastrugi up to 2 feet high and “the trick is to try and climb up on it using the middle part of our ski which has the skin on it and using the poles to drive forward. Once over the sled follows 10ft behind which requires a bit of extra force. Once over it quickly flies down the other side and the harness rope goes slack.”

The team reported that they are heading for a cache with food supplies. Before the expedition they told Explorersweb they will not have food caches (resupplies) along the way. Seems they have changed their mind.

There are three waypoints where ANI keeps the caches with resupplies for the resupply teams, as well as some emergency supplies for unassisted teams, in case they need it.

Stewart Edge position Sun Dec 20th, 2015 11:26:15 pm

14.81nm Elevation: 1090.43 m

Lat: S 84°15’23.2416″ Lon: W 075°52’47.4348″

Latest: S 84º 26’29.64” W 077º 31’52.03, elev 1174 m, camp13


Gateway port Cape Town, South Africa:

To ALCI /TAC base camp Novolazarevskaya / Novo

70° 46’37”S, 011° 49’26”E

Gateway port Punta Arenas, Chile, South America:

To ALE/ANI base camp, Union Glacier

79° 45’S, 083° 14’W elev 708m

Lat: -79.760591 Lon: -82.856698

Hercules Inlet is located at 80°S near Union Glacier, 1130 km from the Geographic South Pole.

The Ronne-Filchner Ice Shelf (Messner) start is 890 km in a straight line from the Pole.

Novolazarevskaya to South Pole of Inaccessibility (POI) is 1610 km in a straight line.

South Pole of Inaccessibility (POI)

2011-12 position: S82°06.696, E055°01.951 (Copeland/McNair-Landry)

On Dec. 14, 2014 Frédéric Dion reported the position the POI (at Lenin’s bust) as S82º 06.702′ E55º 2.087′ at an elevation of 3741 m.

Geographic South Pole (GSP): 90 degrees South

According to the Rules of Adventure at, to claim a “solo” achievement requires an unassisted status – therefore, no supplies carried by pilots or car drivers, or anything (food, fuel, etc) received from any person along the way. A solo person may be wind supported (kites/sails). Note that the Polar Rules were compiled by early Norwegian and British Polar explorers and are maintained today by the current community of veteran polar skiers.

1 nautical mile (nm) = 1.852 km

1 nm = 1.151 miles

1 knot = 1.852 km/h

1 degree of Latitude is 110 km / 60 nm / 70 miles

Sastrugi are hard snow bumps and can be as high as 10 feet

A nunatak is a top of a mountain visible above the snow surface.

#polar #southpole #southpole2014 #southpole2014-15 #antarctica

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