by Kraig Becker
While most young men his age are busy with their college studies or getting a fledgling careers on track, 19-year old Parker Liautaud has much higher aspirations in mind. Later this year he will travel to the Antarctic where he’ll attempt to set a new speed record for traveling on foot from the coast to the South Pole – covering a distance of nearly 400 miles in the process. If successful, he’ll also become the youngest man to ever make that journey as well.
Weather permitting, Parker plans to launch his South Pole expedition from the Ross Ice Shelf on December 3. He and his expedition partner Dough Stoup will be traveling unsupported, which means they will pull heavy sleds containing all of their gear and supplies behind them as they go. On their way to the Pole they’ll face high winds, unexpected storms and difficult whiteout conditions, all of which will make forward progress nearly impossible at times. Temperatures will range from -18°F down to as low as -70°F as the two men struggle to cross the highest, driest, coldest desert on the planet.
If Parker and Doug hope to have a chance at the record there will be little room for error and certainly no rest days along the way. In order to reach the South Pole in record time they will need to complete the entire journey in just 22 days. In order to accomplish that very difficult task they’ll have to average 18 miles per day, often in extreme conditions. They plan to ski roughly 12-hours each day while spending another four hours making and breaking camp. The rest of the time will be spent resting and regaining their energy to do it all again on the following day.
This Antarctic adventure isn’t just about setting a speed record however. Parker will also deploy a new lightweight, high tech weather station that will take a variety of readings as he travels across the frozen continent. That device will collect meteorological data every 30 minutes which could provide important insights into the impact of climate change on the region. The team will also collect samples of Antarctic snow that will later have their isotopic composition analyzed as well. Those samples could also prove invaluable in understanding the way our planet is changing.
Despite being just 19-years old, Parker is already a veteran polar explorer. He and Doug have skied to the North Pole together on three previous expeditions, although none of them have covered as much distance as this South Pole speed attempt. Still, traveling in the Arctic presents its own set of unique challenges and those experiences will have prepared Parker well for this expedition.
You’ll be able to follow the journey at WillisResillience.com. Right now the site has a clock counting down to the start of the expedition but promises more information will be coming soon.