The 2012 Antarctic exploration season is about to get underway and as usual there are a number of interesting expeditions set to begin over the next few weeks. Chief among them will be Aaron Linsdau’s attempt to become the first American to make a solo and unassisted journey from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole, and back again. A trek that is more than 1430 miles (2300 km) in length across the coldest, highest and driest continent on the planet.
Aaron’s adventure begins in Punta Arenas, Chile, the southernmost town on the planet and the gateway to Antarctica. He arrived there last week and has been spending his days sorting his gear and packing all the food he’ll need for the 90-day journey. Since he will be traveling unsupported, there will be no supply drops to provide him with extra food or fuel along the way. Instead he’ll have to take everything he’ll need with him when he goes and carry his gear and supplies with him at all times. He’ll do that by dragging a sled weighing approximately 330 pounds (152 kgs) while he skis across the snow and ice.
As I write this, Aaron is still in Punta Areans where he’s waiting for the first flight to Antarctica of the season. If the weather holds, that flight could come as early as tomorrow, delivering the American explorer to Union Glacier, where he’ll then hop a second flight to his starting point at Hercules Inlet. That location serves as the launching pad for most explorers headed to the South Pole on foot. The journey begins at sea level and proceeds more than 9300 feet up to the Antarctic Peninsula before things level off for the second half of the journey to the Pole.
Of course for Lindsdau, the South Pole will only be the halfway point of his expedition. Once he reaches 90° South, he’ll immediately turn around and start the long trek back to the coast where he started. To date, only three other men have completed this journey and all three did it last season. Aussies James Castrisson and Justin Jones undertook the round-trip expedition together, while Norwegian Aleksander Gamme made the journey solo. Both teams were attempting to become the first to complete the there-and-back-again SouthPole adventure and while Gamme was easily the faster of the three men, before he returned to Hercules Inlet he elected to stop and wait for his Australian rivals to catch-up. In a fantastic display of sportsmanship and cooperation, all three men crossed the finish line together.
By Kraig Becker
[Photo credit: Kasim Rafig]