Station and Ceremonial Pole, December 2008
[photo by Nick Powell, Antarctic Photo Library]

NEWS

A strange addition to the Antarctic nongovernmental ventures...on the 15 November "Tonight" show, Colin O'Brady announced he's planning a rowboat trip across the Drake Passage for this December. Jump to more information below!

first Herc at Pole this seasonThe first LC-130 finally arrived at Pole on 9 November as seen here...in this photo from Robert Schwarz...who left Pole for the last time on it just after taking this photo. From reliable sources I've learned that the price charged to NSF for Herc flights (as well as the C-17 flights between NZ and McM) have gone up significantly this year...hence the late deployment of the New York Air National Guard from Schenectady, NY. But...the first Herc flight to Pole last season happened 3 days later, on the 12th. The details...this spreadsheet documents the first flight dates to Pole from 1956 although I'm missing 3 years of info. old arch sections to be used as a snow wallAlso of interest...the photo at right (also from Robert) does not depict the beginning of the South Pole Sculpture Garden...rather, some of the old arch sections are being used to build a wall around the MAPO building and telescope mount. The Keck Array instrument that Robert monitored, as well as the DASI mount which supported it, will be removed and replaced with a new mount supporting the first receiver of the BICEP Array as well as relocated Keck receivers.

The season for nongovernmental skiers/trekkers/other visitors to Pole is now well underway. The first to start out, Australian Geoff Wilson, is now heading south from near Novo, and other travelers have been flown to ALE's Union Glacier camp beginning with their first visitor flight from Punta Arenas on 10 November. This 11 November ExplorersWeb article gives a good overview of the expedition plans, and of course I've updated my more detailed references to all of the ventures here, as I've been doing for the previous 21 seasons.

the first pax BaslerFlight updates...on Wednesday 23 October, the Basler returned from McMurdo for the opening flight of the season (right, photo by Mark Kirkeby). It would return the next day with more summer folks. Summer is underway and some of the winterovers are already in NZ. Later in the week two more transiting Baslers passed through, these were chartered by the Australian and Chinese programs. What about the NYANG LC-130's? The first of these were scheduled to leave Schnectady on Monday 28 October (25 October National Air Guard news article) and get to Pole on 11 November.

Polar Star updates...last week it finally was out of a six-month drydock period and anchored in San Francisco Bay after some sea trials...and by the 25th it was back in its Seattle homeport. The icebreaker can be followed by anyone on its public Facebook page.

the Modular Causeway System at McMurdo in January 2012I've already mentioned that there will be two cargo vessels this season in order to deliver all of the required construction material and equipment for the McMurdo AIMS project. But (according to sources in McMurdo and elsewhere)...it seems that due to an unusually warm winter (there was open water at McMurdo until late July), there isn't an ice pier. So...once again the ship offload will require a Modular Causeway System (MCS) aka a pontoon pier, as was used in January 2012. At left is a photo of the pontoon pier being moved into position in January 2012 (my full coverage of that evolution is here).

On Tuesday 15 October (US time) I flew to Columbus, Ohio to attend the "Women in Antarctica" symposium at the Byrd Polar Research Center. I got there a day early so that I could dig through some of the old Operation Deep Freeze cruisebooks. The event timing focused on the 1969-70 science project in the Dry Valleys led by Dr. Lois Jones, and two of the members of that team were present and gave talks. The research team (and two other women on the ice at the time) also had become the first women to visit the South Pole in November 1959. Nearly 100 people attended. The event was featured in this 23 October Antarctic Sun article which also highlights some of the many women involved with the U.S. Antarctic Program. Some of these women were present at the Columbus symposium. Christina Koch and Jessica Meir getting ready for their spacewalkperhaps 75% women and a number of friends, and I had lunch one day with Kelly Falkner, the NSF Polar Programs director. And on Friday, while this symposium was underway, about 200 miles above us the first all-woman spacewalk was underway on the International Space Station...including Christina Hammock Koch (whom I wintered with at Pole in 2005--she also spent time at Palmer and Summit Camp) and Jessica Meir was a researcher at McMurdo on a project studying emperor penguins. Here are several NASA blogs about the spacewalk as well as an 18 October Washington Post article with video. At right is a NASA photo of Christina (left) and Jessica preparing for the spacewalk (from one of those NASA blogs).

the first plane after the winterAlso on Tuesday 15 November (South Pole time) the isolation of winter ended briefly, as this Basler showed up en route to McMurdo from Rothera. It was only on deck long enough to refuel, but it did bring freshies. It was a nice day, not much wind and a balmy -71ºF/-58ºC. This photo is from (and of) Gavin Reynolds. This aircraft (or perhaps another) would later return from McMurdo for the first official/opening flight of the season. A second transiting aircraft--this time a Twin Otter--arrived from Rothera on Saturday. Because it flies slower than the Basler, the three crew members stayed overnight before continuing to McMurdo the next day. Meanwhile, the end-of-winter major station cleaning was finishing up, as was another winter project--repainting the power plant floor.

ozone balloon time lapseSeptember means that it's ozone season at (and above) Pole...meaning that the NOAA folks have been launching two ozone balloons per week to examine the "ozone hole." That gives Robert Schwarz opportunities to take those unusual balloon launch timelapse photos, such as the one at right from 9 September. Interestingly, this year the ozone levels are a bit unusual, as the ozone hole is looking smaller, and the "lowest ozone" over Pole may be the highest in awhile due to a crazy tiny and offset polar stratospheric vortex. This is producing "sudden stratospheric warming," the most significant since September 2002. NOAA ozone poster The weakening of the vortex may result in the strongest Antarctic warming on record, and as the upper atmospheric temperature rises, the ozone-destroying super-cold polar stratospheric clouds are inhibited from forming, and the disrupted winds will carry more ozone-rich air from the tropics to the polar region. More on this process in this excellent 6 September article from The Conversation (Australia). As for the details, the graphed data from these ozone balloon launches can be seen on this NOAA page, while a simplified explanation of what happens to ozone in the atmosphere is depicted in the poster at left, which was prepared by NOAA researcher (and 2009 Pole winterover) Patrick Cullis and CU Boulder PhD student Kelsey Tayne. Much more of NOAA's ozone information and data, including huge graphic and pdf versions of that poster, can be found on this Global Monitoring Division page.

The Polar Star has been at Mare Island (CA) Dry Dock for repairs and refurbishment since the end of April...and is scheduled to head back to Seattle at the end of September. Here is a good 12 September KPIX San Francisco news report about the vessel, including an excellent video. And, as for the new "polar security cutters" aka icebreakers, this 16 September USNI article "Polar Security Cutter Fuses Performance Requirements With Maintenance Needs" describes some of the engineering innovations for the new vessels, a June Seapower describes that the first three new cutters will be based in Seattle along with the Polar Star, Healy, and the parted-out Polar Sea. (thank you Chris Rock). These and other articles and information are on my page covering the icebreaker procurement progress, which I am continuing to update as needed.

Polies having a video teleconference with the International Space StationOn 7 September, Pole had a video teleconference with the astronauts aboard the International Space Station, who include NASA astronaut Christina Hammock Koch and ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano. Unfortunately, for privacy reasons the Polies were not permitted to share photos of the astronauts, so here at right is a photo of...the Polies, from Sheryl Seagraves. Here's another photo (which Sheryl DID have permission to post) showing the video screen with a view of earth from space. Christina wintered in 2005 with me as well as with two of the 2019 winterovers (Robert Schwarz and Bill Johnson). Oh, the people at Palmer Station had a similar videoconference a week later on 14 September.

And astute viewers of that photo of Polies in the large conference room will observe that the cardboard window covers had just been removed!

On 1 September, WINFLY FINALLY happened. The first flight arrived at McMurdo on 1 September, THIRTEEN days late. Sustained bad weather was, as usual, at fault, and the storm also caused power outages in town.

The end of August means for Pole: nautical twilight, when the Sun is between 12 and 6 degrees below the horizon. so the remaining auroras are increasingly washed out. Otherwise, things are quiet...August events have included the 8-ball pool tournament (for which the table was refurbished for the 4th time) and the Winter Film Festival (an interesting video about this from Viktor Barricklow). And for McMurdo: departing winterovers' travel plans are trashed, freshies scheduled for McM are...hopefully donated to ChCh charities, and Christchurch hotels etc. are overfilled with folks waiting to head south because of bad weather. The first WINFLY flight was supposed to happen on 19 August, but Mother Antarctica has been having other ideas, ie Phase 1 conditions.

I do like to hear about Antarctic winterover reunions, as I've attended several for the Pole and Palmer winterovers. Turns out that half a dozen of the 2001 Polie winterovers gathered recently at friend Paul Daniel's place in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. Here's the Grosse Pointe Times article, with an amazing photo!

proposed Kunlun code of conduct areaBetween 1-11 July, the 2019 Antarctic Treaty meeting (ATCM XLII) was held in Prague, Czech Republic. Once again there was nothing interesting enough to see coverage in the American media, but this was NOT the case in Australia. China's proposed "code of conduct" for their Kunlun base at Dome A was apparently defeated, according to this ABC (Australia) article "Australia declares China's plan for Antarctic conduct has 'no formal standing.'", as well as this related article "Defence wants to roll out military tech in Antarctica despite Treaty ban on military activity." Dome A is, of course, in the midst of Australia's Antarctic territory. As early as 2014 China had proposed an ASMA for the Kunlun area, but this had also been rejected. Of interest here is the fact that the proposed area is quite similar in both size and nomenclature to the ASMA surrounding Pole...but as a friend pointed out, unlike Pole, Kunlun does not get the hordes of visitors arriving by foot, ski, vehicle, and aircraft. At right is a map of China's proposed "code of conduct" area; here are links to the intersession discussion about the Code of Conduct as well as to the proposed code (MS Word documents).

Less media-worthy but of interest to Antarcticans...the Russians made a preliminary announcement of plans to replace the winterover facilities at Vostok with space for 35 summer people or 15 wo's (to be completed in 2023-24); and the Poles proposed a major replacement of their Arctowski Station facilities on King George Island, scheduled for completion in 2022-23.

new Scott Base proposalToo early for mention at this Antarctic Treaty meeting--New Zealand is proposing a major replacement of most Scott Base facilities (left)...early info is here!

This has been out for awhile, but it is a sad 2 August Los Angeles Times article about the Polar Star's voyage to McMurdo last year. There will be at least one new US icebreaker eventually, but our American neighbors to the north are planning to build SIX new icebreakers!

Another amazing bit of July 2019 journalism appeared in Scientific American about Pole life at least during the summer: "The Last Good Gig: A Summer at the South Pole," by Michael Nayak. Subtitle quote: "Nobody has lukewarm feelings about Antarctica, and some people don’t fit in anywhere else."

construction and demo plans for McMurdoA bit more information about the McMurdo upgrade...NSF released the draft environmental impact evaluation in February, although I just recently found it. Lots of detail about schedule, planning, and the specific projects--as well as discussion of future projects not officially part of the approved AIMS project. Here's the link. The graphic at right is from the report...note that it differs a bit from some of the earlier information I've seen. For example, the VEOC is depicted with a rectangular footprint, whereas earlier preliminary design drawings showed it as a T-shaped structure. I'll add more details as I wade through the environmental statement (which the US presented at the recent 1-11 July Antarctic Treaty meeting mentioned above).

coldest temperature of 2019Late winter often brings the coldest temperatures of the year...at left is documentation of what will probably be the coldest temperature for the 2019 season: -107.1ºF/-77.3ºC. Earlier in the winter, South Pole saw its first triple-digit temperature of the year (-100.5ºF/-73.6ºC) on 18 July. This was the coldest it got, and the -100 lasted less than a day.

A side note...last year there was NO tanker delivery to McMurdo...only the one cargo vessel. In 2019-20 there will be a tanker, as well as TWO cargo vessels. One will be the traditional vessel doing a return trip from Port Hueneme...the other will be a one-way southbound charter to deliver supplies, materials, and construction equipment for the AIMS project.

IceCube is getting an update! In June, NSF formally approved funding for a $37 million upgrade...to install seven new and deeper strings near the center of the existing array. This will enable the detection of lower-energy neutrinos...to overlap with the detection ranges of other neutrino detectors around the world. The project won't actually happen until 2022-23, but preliminary planning last summer involved the digging out and inspection of the IceCube drill camp modules which have been stored on the berm. Several new detector types will be used, including some being tested for a still-out-there IceCube-Gen2 project. Coverage from IceCube includes 2 16 July press releases--"NSF mid-scale award sets off the first extension of IceCube" and "The IceCube Upgrade: An international effort", as well as this article from the Wisconsin State Journal.

Surprise visitors...the international team "One More Orbit" overflew Pole on 9 July as a part of their record-setting globe circumnavigation over the poles. The 8-person crew aboard a Gulfstream G650ER jet started and finished from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and completed their trip in 46 hours 40 minutes 22 seconds, including 3 "pit-stop" refuelings in Punta Arenas, Mauritius, and Kazakhstan. They beat the previous record by almost 6 hours...and the crew was the first to include 2 women--another record. Here's an MSN news article as well as the project website, which includes a map of their flight route. While over Pole, some of the winterovers had an opportunity to speak with the pilot over radio.

Interestingly, there will be another overflight in November...postponed from last summer, by pilot Robert DeLaurentis in his much modified Gulfstream Turbo 900 aircraft. The project, titled "Flying through Life," will not be a record-setting attempt...rather a 3-month project involving stope in many countries as well as overflights of both poles.

midwinter greeting cardMidwinters Day is happened! Technically it occurred at 0354 22 June South Pole time...some of the traditional midwinter events (such as showing "The Shining" happened last weekend. The big midwinter dinner happened on the 22nd. At right is the midwinter greeting card that the station sent out to other polar stations...here's a larger image along with more info/photos about the card, midwinter, and the dinner. The tradition of sharing midwinter greetings is an old one...somehow the greetings have become much more elaborate since we sent out this one in June 1977.

Otherwise, there is a fair amount of construction news for the upcoming summer...mostly at McMurdo, although the Palmer pier replacement project is scheduled to get underway. Pole, the first phase of the "blue building" lift (ARO?) is scheduled as well as upgrades to the kitchen exhaust system. At McM, Dorm 203 (formerly dorms 203-205 are scheduled to be demo'd at the end of the summer along with several warehouses, and new lodging begins in January near building 175. During the 2020 winter, NSF will move from the Chalet to Building 165, as the Chalet will become a "social space" to replace the eventual demo of the Coffee House and Southern bar. There also will be a fair amount of excavation and blasting for site preparation and aggregate production. More on this later.

a PHI helicopter during the 2018-19 seasonA new USAP helicopter support contract awarded to Air Center Helicopters on 29 April, after a 1-year solicitation process. The new company, located in Burleson, TX (a south suburb of Fort Worth) is replacing Petroleum Helicopters, Inc. (PHI), the Louisiana company which has provided program helicopter support ever since replacing the Navy's VXE-6 after the 1995-96 season. Interestingly, PHI filed for bankruptcy in March of 2019. The November 2018 photo at left depicts a PHI helicopter supporting groundwater research in the Dry Valleys (more information and links).

historic black hole imageOld news perhaps (well, millions of light years), but on 10 April a consortium of observatories and organizations released an actual image of a black hole (right) created from observations taken in April 2017. One of these observatories in the Event Horizon Telescope consortium was...the SPT at Pole. The story is here. While the actualthe new Polar Security Cutter black hole itself was below the Pole horizon, valuable observations were taken of a nearby variable quasar which was used as a calibrator source for the black hole observations.

On 23 April, it was officially announced that a contract for a new heavy icebreaker (aka "Polar Security Cutter") had been awarded to VT Halter Marine Inc., of Pascagoula, Mississippi. The price is $746 million, with options for two additional heavy icebreakers (if approved by Congress) that would bring the total price to $1.94 billion. Construction on the first vessel is planned for 2021 with delivery in 2024, although the contract includes financial incentives for earlier delivery. There are too many news reports and press releases with financial and technical details, so I've addressed and linked to them here. The conceptual image at left was provided by VT Halter Marine in their 7 April press release.

Polar Star in drydockAnd in other icebreaker news, in late April the Polar Star was headed to the Bay Area for another yard period at Mare Island Dry Dock, LLC. And on 30 April she was maneuvered from Berth 12 into Dry Dock #3, as seen in the photo at left. That photo was one of several posted on the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star Facebook page...and anyone should be able to see those photos here.

the Vehicle and Equipment Operations CenterI've mentioned before that the first part of the major McMurdo modernization known as AIMS was funded in February...one of the first projects to be constructed will be the new heavy shop, otherwise known as the Vehicle & Equipment Operations Center (VEOC) (right). I've dug into the details about AIMS as well as about the "pre-AIMS" projects that are already underway. Here's what is and will be happening.

And there's also that "polar security cutter" project, otherwise known as new heavy icebreakers for the Coast Guard. This 1 April military.com article (thanks to Russell Rapp for sharing) indicates that the contract for the new icebreaker could be awarded as soon as April 2019, and it also clarifies what the 2019 budget means--that budget appropriated $665 million for the first heavy icebreaker (per this U.S. Naval Institute article), but it turns out that heavy icebreakers are more expensive than that. The 1 April article includes an interview with Coast Guard Commandant ADM Karl Schultz, who pointed out that the first of the three planned icebreakers could cost between $925 and $940 million, that additional money for the first icebreaker was also available from previous appropriations, and that the second and third heavy icebreakers would be cheaper. So what contract might soon be awarded? Here's the RFP which was originally issued on 14 February 2018. Needless to say most of the technical details are classified, but the main takeaway is that (per Amendment 10) the technical proposal was due on 24 August 2018 and the price proposal was due on 16 October. There are reportedly 5 bidders, and if you are curious about how to build an icebreaker, many of the amendments include interesting technical Q&A.

Lots o stuff has been going on since I last updated things here. New stuff at Pole...the sun "officially" set at the equinox, which happened when the Sun crossed the equator into the northern hemisphere at 1558 on 21 March. But as usual, it hung around a bit longer, until 1330 on the 23rd. Which conveniently happened to be the same day as the sunset dinner. Other new northern hemisphere stuff--there's an auction of Antarctic surplus stuff this month--online, with the goods actually at Port Hueneme. Here's the website..

the 2019 Pole markerAnd it's time for the annual update for the Pole winterover statistics, as well as a closer look at the 2019 Pole marker and how it was fabricated!

Speaking of icebreakers...old news perhaps except that this was just announced...on 10 February the Polar Star experienced a FIRE on board as they headed north, 650 miles from McMurdo. One of many engineering casualties on this still-not-over deployment. Fortunately, the fire was extinguished after about two hours, and no injuries were reported. Here is the 28 February Coast Guard press release as well as this 1 March gCaptain article.

More news about the budget bill that was signed into law on 15 February, as it relates to science and the polar reasons. NSF's total budget was increased 3.7% to $8.075 billion (AAAS Science news article), which includes $103 million to begin work on "renovations to its facilities in the Antarctic" (otherwise known as AIMS project) initially at McMurdo. Here's the NSF press release, the AIMS project site, as well as my coverage of one of the first projects, the IT&C Primary Operations Facility, now underway and with its own webcam. Also, this 22 February Anchorage Daily News article has additional information about the Coast Guard icebreaker project.

The Polar Star in WellingtonMore marine news...first, on its way north from McMurdo, the Polar Star made a first-ever port call in Wellington...arriving on Monday the 18th. It was scheduled to leave on the 22nd after giving the ship's crew some liberty in New Zealand's capital city. Two news articles with photos--from stuff.co.nz and radionz.co.nz (thanks Russell Rapp and Chris Rock). But there's more...at right is a great photo of the Polar Star with Wellington in the background....this photo is from USAP veteran/2008 Palmer winterover Carla Appel...here she is sitting in the Captain's chair on the bridge. Carla's photos were taken by Ola Thorsen.

Elsewhere at sea on the other side of the continent, the Nathaniel B. Palmer has been involved in the multinational Thwaites Glacier Collaboration project...but it was diverted to Rothera to allow one of the people on board to be landed and medevaced by air to Punta Arenas. Here is the NSF press release. Also, Rolling Stone reporter Jeff Goodell was aboard and was blogging about the cruise here. And further east, on the other side of the Antarctic Peninsula in the Weddell Sea, the South African icebreaker SA Agulhas II was headed for another project researching the Larsen C Ice Shelf when it first searched for Shackleton's sunken ship Endurance. Alas, the AUV (mini submarine) sent down to explore the sea bottom...got lost. So no data. Here is the BBC News coverage. one of the BAS AUV'sAt right, a photo of one of the AUV's from the expedition website.

From Washington DC...a couple of news tidbits below the headlines...the passage of the spending bill means there will be no further shutdowns of the National Science Foundation this fiscal year, and also, the Coast Guard received $655 million for continuing funding of the first "Polar Security Cutters" (aka icebreaker)! There is also $20 million for long-lead material procurement for a second new heavy icebreaker. Here's the U.S. Naval Institute article (thanks Russell Rapp!).

the last of the summer people board the aircraftAnd the winter has begun at Pole! The last flight of the season headed north on Thursday (Valentines Day!) leaving 42 souls at the bottom of the world for 8 months (photo from Sheryl Seagraves). A few Pole statistics...there were about 78 LC-130 flights; meanwhile the three South Pole Traverses (SPoT) delivered 313,891 gallons of fuel and 40,000 lbs. of cargo, while 40,000 lbs. of steel was shipped north.

And ship offload is over...at about 0200 on 10 February the cargo vessel Ocean Giant left the ice pier (without icebreaker assistance!) and headed north (remember, no fuel tanker this year). A few statistics: 10.5 million pounds of cargo were delivered and 9.1 million pounds of cargo (retrograde, science equipment and samples, and trash) were shipped north.

Dick Bowers and Paul SipleSome sad news. Richard (Dick) Bowers passed away on 29 January 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana at the age of 90. He was the Navy Seabee construction engineer in charge of constructing the original South Pole Station in 1956-57. In the photo (right) he is at left with scientific leader Paul Siple at the first Pole Christmas party, which was held in the science building on 23 December, as the first group of construction personnel were to leave on the 24th. The two men had celebrated the previous Christmas in a drafty tent on Hut Point, where LTJG Bowers had also directed some of the 1955-56 construction of McMurdo. He had wintered at McM in 1956. Here is his obituary as well as an April 2019 Antarctic Sun tribute article. I was fortunate to have met Dick several times at Antarctic reunion gatherings, he was a great person. The photo at right is by Dick Prescott from the USAP photo library (link to original).

Ocean Giant at the ice pierOn about 30 January the cargo vessel Ocean Giant showed up at McMurdo, and ship offload is now in full swing. At left, a webcam photo from the 31st, after McMurdo got a dusting of snow. Previously, on 25 January: the Polar Star docked at the ice pier (below right) (check the webcams to see what is going on now). The cargo vessel Ocean Giant should be appearing in a couple of days. As for the tanker...well, there will not be one this year. Thanks to tankage capacity, the wind turbines, and energy conservation, this will be the first season since before IGY when no tanker will show up. Back in the day (50s/60s) before there was enough tankage, the program would require several tankers to keep McMurdo and the inland stations well supplied.

Polar Star21 January...the seasons are changing. The NGO "tourist" season is over, as the last of the ski trekkers (Masatatsu Abe) had arrived on the 17th. By the 21st the ALE camp was closed up, and the last staff and clients flew back to Union Glacier on a Basler per this Mattieu Tordeur blog post (in French). Earlier, Mattieu had high praise for the ALE camp's cook Zach...here reporting that Zach had previously wintered at Pole. Hmmm...I'm thinking this must be sous chef Zach Kinberg who wintered in 2017. And at McMurdo, the shipping season is underway. The Polar Star has been sighted off McMurdo...yes, "despite breakdowns and missed pay, Polar Star reaches Antarctica" per the 18 January Maritime Executive article of that title (thanks Chris Rock and Russell Rapp). As for the breakdowns, yes...electrical problems including a couple of electrical outages, failure of one of the two evaporator (fresh water making) systems, and (as happened last year) another propeller shaft seal leak which required divers to make repairs. Here's a 22 January workboat.com article, and a 29 January KVAL TV (Eugene, OR) report about the icebreaker's latest difficulties.

There have been a number of news articles in the past couple of weeks about the rapid melting of Antarctic ice, including this brief 14 January Washington Post article that says "Antarctica is melting more than six times faster than it did in the 1980s." The source of this news...an article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences first released on 8 January. It is open access, so have a look at the basic findings!

new radome at leftAt Pole, one of the biggest efforts is the upgrade of the DSCS satcom systems (more photos/info). A new radome was erected next to the RF building, it is being fitted out, and the module installed next to the 9-meter GOES terminal is being fitted out so that that dish can be used for DSCS. This past weekend saw the fourth annual "berming man" work project/party...otherwise known as part of the continuing effort to make unwanted stuff on the berm go away. Other stuff being made to go away (perhaps)--a few more pieces of the summer camp area. Discussion and planning was underway to safely demo some buried structures, including "Chades" (the head module that once was surrounded by Hypertats), inside Building 68and the Building 68 substation, which may still be providing power to some summer camp facilities. At left, one of my July 2008 photos inside the Building 68 substation from when I was asbuilting things...access was from a roof hatch and down the ladder. Not many folks have been in here since.

rock drill at work on the earth station siteMeanwhile, the construction activities underway at McMurdo include a significant project to install new buried fiber optic cable...site clearance for the new Ross Island Earth Station uphill from T-site and west of the wind turbines. This project will ultimately replace Black Island as the primary satellite terminal. The photo at left (from David Huntsman) shows a rock drill at work on the site--Crater Hill is in the background. The effort this season is involving 648 holes in support of six blasts. More than 55,000 cubic yards of material (soil, permafrost, and rock) must be removed from the hilltop for the foundations and to provide clear visibility. Here's a general site plan...the project details are available here. The earth station will access satellites to be launched by a NOAA partnership which "includes the NOAA collaboration with the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT). EUMETSAT will launch a series of enhanced satellites beginning in Fall 2021 that will outstrip the current capacity of the present BITF satellite communications infrastructure supporting the collaboration between NSF and NOAA." Another major project just getting started is the new Network Operations Center. SSC addition constructionI've described this project here before; the first phase involves an addition to the south side of the SSC. Site clearance is currently underway, while construction is scheduled to begin in February. Because of the anticipated interest in the project, an additional McMurdo webcam is keeping an eye on it...at right is a sample (13 January) image; the link is here.

1 January sea ice mapIt's January...and that means that the McMurdo shipping season is already getting underway. First, at the end of December the cargo vessel Ocean Giant was in Port Hueneme loading nearly 7 million tons of cargo, including 498 containers, as described in this navaltoday.com article. The vessel departed on 3 January; by the 13th it was more than halfway to Lyttelton, where it will call on the 19th. As for the ice conditions, on 3 January the NSIDC reported that the Antarctic sea ice extent on New Years Day was 2.11 million square miles, the lowest extent observed in the 40-year satellite record. The extent map is at left, here is the full report. What this means...I've heard a report from the Polar Star that they have only 16 miles of ice to cut through, compared to 40+ miles last year. As of the evening of 12 January, Polar Star was working at 77º-42'S, well south of Cape Royds and several miles west of Tent Island. As for the tanker, it doesn't look like the Maersk Peary will be the one this year...as of the 13th it was in the Med en route to Rotterdam. Meanwhile, the McMurdo ice pier webcam has also been put in operation--go here and select that tab.

ICESat-2 Traverse pre-departure hero shotScience stuff..On New Years Eve, the second year of the NASA ICESat-2 traverse got underway. This year, glaciologist Kelly Brunt is accompanied by fellow NASA glaciologist Adam Greeley, with support from equipment operator Matt Means and mountaineer Chris Simmons. They'll do another quadrant along the 88th parallel adjacent to the sector done last year, doing a high-precision GPS survey in support of the recently-launched ICESAT-2 satellite. They'll be out for about 2 weeks. At right, a panorama of the traverse equipment that Kelly shared (photo by Matt Means). And here's a closeup of some of the equipment, including those pre-pitched tents (photo by Adam Greeley).

That pesky government shutdown...it isn't any fun for the furloughed employees, but "the U.S. Antarctic program remains operational 'for the foreseeable future.'" per NSF OPP director Kelly Falkner...from this 28 December Washington Post article. Meanwhile, the "great race" across the continent between Colin O'Brady and Lou Rudd is over. Colin O'Brady at the end of his trekColin finished first, and Lou met up with him at the finish two days later. The New York Times covered both their finishes in articles about Colin's finish and about Lou. And of course it must be noted again that neither man admitted that they used a "road" aka the South Pole Traverse (SPoT) route for 1/3 of their travels...as cussed and discussed by ExplorersWeb. The article includes Colin O'Brady's finish line hero shot (left)...behind him is the SPoT route marker denoting the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf. I have more coverage and discussion here.

Traverse news...the first of 3 traverses arrived on 4 December...and the second one (SPoT 2) showed up on the 16th. Interestingly, Thor, one of the people on SPoT 2, posted this highly interesting blog about the trip. I like his sense of humor!

As for other nongovernmental venturers...they've all been struggling with bad weather and lots of snow (!) Some folks have quit, and a noob has just started. Oh, the New York Times published an update on the Rudd/O'Brady competition on 18 December. But My updates are now more current, although I had remiss in updating things...just spent a couple of weeks rambling and tramping in New Zealand.

Mt. Newall repeater generator buildingMORE sad news...two more USAP deaths on the ice. In this case it was two fire techs who were working on systems at the remote repeater site on Mt. Newall in the Dry Valleys. They were discovered on 12 December by a helicopter pilot who was waiting for them to return to his aircraft for the flight back to McMurdo--the pilot found them unconscious on the floor. One of the workers was pronounced dead at the scene; the other was pronounced dead a few hours later at the McMurdo medical clinic. The site was originally set up in the 1980s to support field operations in the Dry Valleys, and it later would transmit seismic and other data from several CTBT monitoring stations. The site includes a wind turbine and solar panels as well as diesel generator backup and a large battery bank, and it is equipped with a CO2 fire suppression system. The CO2, or perhaps carbon monoxide, may have caused the deaths. At right is a photo of the site, the main repeater site building is behind the green New Zealand repeater building. Here is the 13 December New York Times article, the 12 December NSF press release, and my coverage, updated in late January.

There's another McMurdo webcam out there! In addition to the various USAP webcams available here, a University of Oregon project has set up an underwater webcam known as the McMurdo Oceanographic Observatory (MOO). It is 70 feet deep, offshore of McMurdo Station, and it has several different cameras which can be seen here.

An interesting media update on the race between Colin O'Brady and Lou Rudd to cross Antarctica alone and unassisted, is in this 29 November New York Times article. They are on essentially the same route but are some miles apart and haven't seen each other since they started. As of 3 December SP time, Colin had traveled 408 miles and was 102 miles from Pole, while Lou Rudd was about 35 miles behind him. My links and more information for these and other expeditions are below. As of 23 December the race was almost over, as both men were speeding down the Leverett Glacier traverse route with less than 200 miles to go.

***

Some older items of interest (other old news is in the archive):

WIRED magazine has a feature article on Jerry Marty, Carlton Walker, and the station construction in the July 2002 issue. Read about the settlement problems...why the place wasn't considered fit for occupancy for the 2002 winter.

no way southPole land cargo traverses in the works...in October 2002 NSF flew a specially equipped D8 from Christchurch to McMurdo aboard a C17...this equipment was be used to prepare a road south towards the Leverett Glacier, eventually hopefully to Pole. This is to augment the LC-130 flights for station construction cargo as well as for ICE CUBE and forthcoming science projects. More information...

Another new science project...in 2002 a 10-meter submillimeter telescope (up from 8 meters!) that will search for new galaxy clusters and study dark energy. Plans were to attach it to the DSL (dark sector lab) University of Chicago press release. It was originally scheduled to have a ground shield that is larger than the Dome (built by Temcor, the same company that built the dome...). The telescope was completed in 2006-07, and the huge ground shield was eventually cancelled.

On 8/13/02 NSF had a meeting with potential contractors and suppliers for a possible fiber optic cable to Dome C. Yes, you read that right (news article). Since Pole is way below the horizon for the commercial geosynchronous satellites, one option is to run a cable about 1050 miles to the newly constructed French/Italian Concordia Station at Dome C. (This station is scheduled for full-time occupancy next winter.) The project calls for several years of studies and trials, with the actual stuff involving traverses to get the cable to Pole and Dome C as well as along the route.

Back in mid March 2002 two other iceberg events happened. First, there was another piece of the Thwaites Ice Tongue (75°S-108°W) about 2100 square miles (Guardian article and archived NOAA press release) which got designated B22. And then there was the collapse of another hunk of the Larsen ice shelf east of the Antarctic Peninsula. The Larsen Ice Shelf B disintegrated within the past couple of months, as evidenced by photos and animations from the NSIDC in Boulder, which also has links to other coverage. The BBC has an excellent article about both events.

The venerable New South Polar Times mailing list moved to a home on Yahoo, thanks to 2001 w/o science tech Andrea Grant. There have been no posts in the past few years, but the archived posts are here.

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) had a major feature on the Pole construction in their December 2000 magazine, including articles by Frank Brier and Jerry Marty. That section is no longer online, although I did archive the original article by Dennis Berry and Forrest Braun (BBFM Engineers, Anchorage) which features the details of foundation design and the jacking systems.

Here is the link to my 1999 Doc Jerri medevac coverage. The spectacular April 2001 medevac flight to Pole is covered here. And my archive of other news, links to press releases, and older media coverage is here.

Other Antarctic news sites...

Explorersweb and its newer offshoot Pythom have been covering exploration news ever since the early 2000's. The sites were originally created by Tom and Tina Sjogren, the "Wearable" expedition folks that trekked to Pole in 2001-02. During the past year the sites have been relaunched...at present (July 2018) it appears that the Pythom.com site is covering primarily space and science news, while Explorers Web continues to cover climbing, water, and polar expeditions, although one needs to use the search bar to locate specific coverage. The Sjogrens are still involved with the site.

Brendon Grunewald's old 70 South news site later evolved into the Polar Conservation Organisation , but that site also seems to have disappeared.

The Antarctic Sun is extremely prolific of late. The editor through July 2015 was friend Peter Rejcek, a 2004 Polie winterover.. He's currently a traveling freelancer; some of his work can be found on singularityhub. The current editor, also a friend, is Michael Lucibella. Sun archives run back to 1996-97, the final year when the McMurdo newspaper was a Navy publication, the Antarctic Sun Times. Before then in the old days it went by other names....here is that story.

 NZ Antarctic Philately pages by Steven McLachlan . The news page features many current events through 2006, including many pictures from the various private expeditions at Pole. He also has information on the 99-00 cruises of the Polar Duke south of NZ in support of German and Italian science projects, 98-99 construction of the new base at Dome C...

The Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) published biweekly newsletters on NGA (private) expeditions, cruises and tourist events. Unfortunately this was discontinued in May 2003, and the archives are no longer available. But they do feature a separate news page for the official Australian program.

The NSF Polar Programs (PLR) page contains links and a search engine. Most recent press releases are also here, scroll to the bottom.

The rest of the story... can now be read online or offline in the newsletter of the Antarctican Society. Highly recommended. Here is the latest contact info as well as the historical background about the group.

[top] | [home]

Weather information...  has been moved to a separate page.

About the satellites...has also been moved to a separate page.

[top] | [home]  

SPORTS (?!)

The 2019 Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM XLII) was held in Prague, Czech Republic, between 1-11 July. Once again I saw absolutely NO American media coverage...but that was not the case in Australia. This is because the Chinese delegation proposed a "code of conduct" for their Kunlun Station at Dome A...in the midst of Australia's claim. It was rejected, as was a 2014 effort to create an ASMA there. Here's the ABC News (Australia) article) about this, the discussion report about the Chinese request, China's proposed code of conduct text, and a map of the proposed area, which interestingly resembled the Pole ASMA in both size and nomenclature. Of course, Kunlun (unlike Pole) doesn't get any NGO visitors--skiers, trekkers, tourists, pilots, etc. I always look for a Russian report about the Lake Vostok drilling project, but there have been no reports in recent years, although Russia did propose the construction of new winterover station facilities. The 2020 meeting will be 25 May-4 June in Helsinki, Finland. Here is the official Treaty home page. From there you can navigate to the final reports, or you can search the various meeting papers by selecting the "Meeting From/To" and/or the submitting nations/delegations.

Nowadays there are a number of commercial marathon/ultramarathon ventures in the Antarctic...most commonly sought out by people who want to complete a marathon on all seven continents:

  • The oldest such event--the Antarctica Marathon--is actually held on King George Island, just off the Antarctic Peninsula. The first such event was on 28 January 1995; the 2018 event happened on 16 and 17 March. There were 112 marathon finishers for two separate races depending on vessel arrival; the winner was Todd Lubas with a time of 3:07. The fastest woman was Wendi Campbell with a time of 3:58 (all results). There were also 83 half marathon participants including 2 DNFs. In 2019 it is scheduled for 17 and 18 March...there are actually two separate vessels bringing contestants from Ushuaia to KGI for two separate races on those dates--there is a limitation of 100 runners for each race. Each trip includes 3 days in Buenos Aires before the race as well other exploration of the eastern Antarctic Peninsula after the race. The course starts and ends at Bellingshausen Station (the Russian base) and passes several other bases. It is organized by Marathon Tours & Travel in Boston; event registration includes a cruise ship voyage from Ushuaia--the event is sold out for 2019 and 2020, although they are accepting waiting list entries. The entry fee is only $250, but the total registration cost another $6,990 or more per person double occupancy (ex Buenos Aires) (there are no single occupancy cabins) for the vessel accommodations and other insurance, tax and visa fees. In 2017 there were 114 marathon finishers. The male winner was Luan Huynh from Aalborg, Denmark, with a time of 3:24:22, and the female winner was Lesley Mettler Auld from Seattle, in 4:06:14. There were also 21 half marathon finishers. Eight finishers of the races were from the Chilean and Chinese bases on KGI.

  • At Union Glacier (UG), the fourteenth Antarctic Ice Marathon was held on 24 November (UG time/UTC-3) 2017. This is currently the only "Antarctic marathon" actually held south of the Antarctic Circle and on the continent. There were a total of 58 competitors in the various events, including 38 men and 15 women who completed the marathon distance of 26.2 miles, and 4 men and 2 women who opted for the half marathon. The men's winner was Frank Johansen of Denmark with a time of 3:37:46. The woman winner, Kelly McClay from Beverly, MA, finished in 4:56:37. Twelve of the runners were raising money for the Navy Seal Foundation in honor of Brian Hoke, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2016. There was also a new event, the Antarctic Mile, run by Irishman Paul Robinson (who was not otherwise a competitor) in a time of 4:17.9. Impressive! For 2017 the 100k was held separately in mid January. There were 10 total competitors including Richard Donovan (yes, THAT Richard Donovan, winner of the first such event, the only NGO marathon held at Pole, in January 2002). The male 100k winner was Belgian Kurt Alderweireldt with a time of 11:13:53; the only woman participant was Jennifer Cheung from Hong Kong, she finished in 18:34:54. The 2018 marathon event is scheduled for 13 December; no future 100k events are scheduled at this time. The 2018 marathon or half can be booked for a mere €15,000 ex PA; here's the site with more information as well as the race results. This event has been held annually at PH/UG annually beginning in January 2006...but there actually have been fourteen such events staged by ANI/ALE--the first one was staged to finish at Pole on 21 January 2002...there were five finishers in that event, and no small amount of controversy (my coverage). The controversy resulted in a hiatus in what had been planned to be an annual event. In 2011, organizer Richard Donovan participated, with a 100 mile run in 24:35:02, and he completed the 100k in 2017 with a time of 21:05:34.

  • Another event, also on King George Island, is the White Continent Marathon (with a half-marathon and 50k), which has happened in January ever since 2013. Sponsored by Minneapolis-based Marathon Adventures, it includes return flights between PA and KGI and a day of camping on KGI either before or after the race. For 2020, participants are to gather in PA by 25 January, with the KGI race tentatively scheduled for 28 January. The event also includes participation in a Punta Arenas marathon. The price starts at $8,950 ex PA. The 2019 event happened on 25 January--the marathon winners were Michelle Voltz, age 48 (F), from Redwood City, CA, with a time of 3:48-03; and John Kolok, age 46 (M) from Mount Royal, NJ, with a time of 3:54:38. There were 51 marathon participants as well as 22 other participants in the 50k, half marathon, and 10k (some of these were Chinese residents at Great Wall Base). For the inaugural of this event in 2013, the PA marathon turned out to be the day before the flight to KGI, and things got interesting on the ice--the race was on 27 February, or at least most of it. Because of deteriorating weather on KGI, the marathon was cut short after only 17 runners had finished because "the pilot wanted to leave.The blog post describing this by one of the people who didn't finish--"serious runner" Joseph Coureur" is no longer available. After runners were given an opportunity to complete their remaining distance immediately after arriving back in PA, there were a total of 44 marathon finishers, including 9-year-old Nikolas Toocheck of Pennsylvania Runners World coverage). The winner was 31-year-old Steve Schaefer of Philadelphia (there were also 21 half-marathon finishers).

  • Another one out there is the "Last Desert" ship-based ultra; this is one of the 4 Deserts 250 km events. Their first event was the first "Gobi March" in 2003; the first "Last Desert" (Antarctica) event was in 2006 when 15 runners completed the first ever 100-mile (160 km) race on King George Island, Deception Island, and at Esperanza, the Argentine base located on Hope Bay at the north end of the Antarctic Peninsula. Since then the event has a total of 250 km at multiple sites, selected based on weather conditions. The Antarctic event happened again in 2007, 2008, and every other year since then. In November 2016 the event had 61 participants. That year there were six planned stages in different locations--each is a loop of varying length that runners had to complete as many times as they could under the time limit (or until the stage was ended due to weather). Oh, all competitors have to carry all of their food, camping gear, etc. (except water) for the entire race. In past races, the winning rank was determined on how early one completes 250 km on the various stages. In 2016 The first stage was a 14 km loop on 21 November on King George Island; stage 2 the next day was a 3 km circuit at Telefon Bay on Deception Island; Stage 3 the following day was at Paradise Bay on the continent; stage 4 on the 24th was a 4 km course at Dorian Bay on Wiencke Island in deep snow; it was cut short after 3 hours due to high winds. The 5th stage was a 3.1 km loop on Danko Island on 25 November--on this day the first four competitors reached the winning 250 km total. The sixth and final stage was on the 26th--a 2.4 km loop on Half Moon Island. All 61 competitors completed the entire course, and eight of them reached the 250 km goal. More links--the official 2016 news from each stage, and the blogs of some of the participants. Oh, one other thing...potential participants must have first completed two of the three other 4 Deserts events (the Atacama Crossing (Chile), the Gobi March (China/Mongolia), and the Sahara Race (Namibia) before being permitted/invited to participate in the Antarctic events. In the last race in 2018, there were 51 participants and 49 finishers; the winner was Ho Chung Wong, age 31 from Hong Kong. The 2020 race series begins with the vessel departure from Ushuaia on 21 November 2020. Ex Ushuaia cost is $12,900.

  • A new promotion in 2015 was the Antarctic portion of the Triple 7 Quest--which actually promised seven marathons on seven continents in seven days (!). Needless to say, Mother Antarctica intervened...their flight to the KGI marathon site on 14 February boomeranged 20 minutes before landing, and the participants didn't make it there until the 16th...the race was the next day. I haven't seen any results, but one of the participants, Kim Pursley of northern Maryland, was featured in this Baltimore Sun article. In 2017 the package was a trip to seven marathons on seven continents in January and February. In 2018 they expanded it to "8 marathons/8 continents/8 days" by adding Zealandia (aka New Zealand and its mostly submerged "continent") to the mix. The 2019 series starts in Auckland on 8 January and ends up on KGI...that race is actually also the White Continent Marathon (and half marathon) on 15 January mentioned above. The other races are also all distinct races organized by/in the various host cities. Registration is $15,995 which includes hotels and Antarctic flights but no other airfare. Unfortunately, the web site doesn't include any information on previous participants or winners. As of October 2018, the 2019 registration is closed and they are promoting the January 2020 events.

  • After seeing this 19 January 2017 Washington Post article, I've learned that there's yet another "7 marathons in 7 days" package venture out there--the World Marathon Challenge, which first happened in January 2015, with 12 full and half marathon participants. By 2018 there were 50 full, half, and wheelchair marathon participants. The 2018 male winner was Irishman Gary Thornton with a total time of 22:26:16, and the female winner was an American, Becca Pizzi, with a total time of 28:32:35. The 2019 event starts with the Antarctic marathon at Novo on 30 January...with races at Cape Town, Perth, Dubai, Lisbon, Cartagena, and Miami on the next six days. The 2019 price is €36,000 which included all flights except getting to Cape Town and getting home from Miami.

  • The apparently defunct Maraton Antartica, organized by a Chilean company, was to be its second year in 2014. That event was to have been on 28 February, but apparently it didn't happen, nor, apparently, did the one scheduled for 1 March 2015, which still appears on the website. It was also to be on KGI, including full and half marathons and a 10k--the next one is on 1 March 2015. The announced price was US$3,400 ex PA, including the flight to KGI, the same-day race, and a same-day return to PA. They were planning on a maximum of 60 registrants; as of late November there were only 5. In 2013 there were about 20 participants in the 3 events, most of whom were from Chile (there were 2 Australians, no North Americans). That race was on 28 February, the day after the aborted White Continent Marathon...and it was also cut short by weather, with no marathon finisher.

As for nongovernmental visitors to Pole, the 2011-12 season was the biggest ever for Pole, as it had been the centennial year of Amundsen's and Scott's arrival at what has been called an "awful place." But folks continue to show up. There are two principal tourist operators--flights from Punta Arenas to Union Glacier and beyond are operated by Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions (ALE) (which has now fully assimilated Adventure Network International/ANI). ALE continues to be actively booking tourists. The other operation is based out of the airstrip at Novo (Novolazarevskaya), a Russian base which is served by flights from Cape Town. It is operated by Antarctic Logistics Centre International (ALCI), which does not in itself offer tour services, but rather it works with other tour agencies such as White Desert, which has established a tourist destination "Whichaway Camp" near Novo (no, nowhere near the Whichaway Nunataks) with penguin colonies and mountains nearby. TAC also operates its "Oasis" guesthouse--the only hard-roofed commercial base on the Antarctic continent, about 10 miles from Novo at Schirmacher Oasis. TAC does not do bookings directly...one option for a stay at the Oasis Guesthouse is offered by Icetrek...€30,000 ex Cape Town. Novo is a 3000m blue ice runway originally built by ANI near the Russian Novolazarevskaya base, in the past it was known as Blue One, and on some maps you may see it designated as "White Desert." Perhaps the most serious travel agent booking Pole trips is the Chicago-based company Polar Explorers...they are booking trips to Pole via PA/Union Glacier starting at around US$51,250 ex PA.

Here's the current listing of NGO treks, ventures, a flight(!), and a rowboat trip(!!) planned for 2019-20. Expedition links from previous seasons are on the news archive page; see these links at the bottom of this page.

Colin O'Brady
now age 34, is following up his transcontinental trip of last season with what he is calling the "Impossible Row," which he first announced on Jimmy Fallon's "Tonight Show" on 15 November. Briefly, it is a six-man ocean row from the tip of South America to the Antarctic Peninsula in a 24-foot ocean rowing boat. This trip HAS been done before...in 1988 Ned Gillette and three others did it in a 28-foot aluminum craft, although their boat had a small sail occasionally used to maneuver the vessel near land. Here's a good memorial page by Eva Schandl with details and photos of the Sea Tomato venture, as well as a bit more information shared by participant, good friend, and 1980 Pole winterover Jay Morrison (he, Ned, and Mark Eichenberger of the crew are no longer with us).

In addition to Colin O'Brady, his team includes Cameron Bellamy, Fiann Paul, John Peterson, Jamie Douglas-Hamilton, and Andrew Towne. There's not much detail about the exact 600-to-800 mile route, but they plan to begin in December. This discovery.com page includes a bit more info and a link to a photo gallery of their training in Scotland. And unlike the Sea Tomato, O'Brady's craft will be followed by a 120-foot boat from the Discovery Channel, which is covering the trip for a documentary, although no support will be offered except in case of emergency.
Flying Thru Life
is a planned flight by Robert DeLaurentis from pole to pole scheduled for 2019-20 after being postponed from last season. He is scheduled to head south from San Diego's Gillespie Field on 16 November. This is by no means a fast flight, as he plans to stop in a number of countries along the way (route details)...the overflight of Pole is planned for New Years Day. He'll take off from PA, overfly Pole, and head to King George Island for refueling...a 20-hour flight in his modified twin-engine Turbo Commander. He will then make many stops in Africa and Europe before flying over the North Pole to Anchorage. He may carry representatives from his sponsors on some of the legs, but not on the Antarctic leg. Robert's plans are described in this 12 November KGTV San Diego article.
The Longest Journey
is Queensland physician Geoff Wilson, who is starting out on a really long solo kite/ski journey--3600 miles--from Thor's Hammer, a 2000-meter peak southwest of Novo, to Pole via the Pole of Inaccessibility (POI), and then a return to Novo via Dome A (Dome Argus), the site of China's summer Kunlun Station. Dome A is the highest plateau on the continent (14,000') and has never been ascended on foot. He was flown to Novo by ALCI on 6 November, and apparently driven to his starting point on 11 November by Arctic Trucks. I'm having a hard time determining his exact start point, it may be Fenris Mountain (71º53'S, 8º18'E, 2931m).
Mollie Hughes
age 29 from Edinburgh, is planning a 2019-20 solo unsupported ski expedition from Hercules Inlet to Pole. Previously she has summited Everest twice, from both the north and south sides. She hopes to become the youngest woman to do the solo/unsupported trip. Here is a 1 March 2019 Renfriewshire News article about her venture. In February she was training in Norway, to be followed by two weeks in eastern Greenland. Her Facebook page includes additional info, including details and photos of her training. She was on the first ALE passenger flight to Union Glacier on 10 November...fortunately her sled, stuck in Santiago for a week, arrived in PA in time for her flight south.
Southpole2020
is a 2019-2020 expedition being planned by Wendy Searle, a mother of four from Salisbury in the UK. Originally her plan was to be a 400-mile trip from the Ross Ice Shelf "coast of Antarctica" up a never-before-climbed glacier to the plateau and thence to Pole with an unnamed guide, but now her plans have shifted to setting the women's speed record from Hercules Inlet to Pole, solo/unsupported/unassisted. In May 2018, Wendy completed a 27-day crossing of the Greenland ice sheet guided by Lou Rudd. Here's a January 2019 Guardian article about her plans, and here's an interesting guest blog post she wrote before the Greenland crossing about "how to go to the toilet in the Arctic" and other relevant topics. She left Heathrow on 10 November en route to PA.
Jenny Davis
the London-based lawyer and athlete, plans to complete the solo/unassisted/unsupported ski trip from Hercules Inlet to Pole that she had to abort last season. After traveling more than 200 miles she was running out of food, and was later evacuated to Punta Arenas with a bowel infection and peritonitis. She plans to head south from England around 18 November
Neil Hunter
is a Royal Navy veteran, currently a police officer in Surrey, England. He will be flying from PA to Union Glacier on 18 November to begin his solo/unassisted/unsupported ski journey from Hercules Inlet to Pole. As a Type 2 diabetic, he'll be raising money to support Diabetes UK. He was scheduled to leave the UK around 11 November.
Anja Blacha
a 29-year-old German now living in Zurich, has plans for a solo unsupported/unassisted trek to Pole from Berkner Island...or more specifically the emperor penguin rookery at Gould Bay Camp Cache, which is 125 miles further north than most "Berkner Island" starts. She plans to complete the 870-mile trip in about 60 days. In 2017 she became the youngest German to complete the Seven Summits, earlier in 2019 she summited K2, and she's also crossed Greenland. I haven't found any website for her, but in mid-October she was interviewed by Ash Routen for Explorersweb, her Facebook account includes a recent video from RTL.de, and she's added several posts on Instagram since arriving at Union Glacier around 10 November.
Robert Swan
now age 63, will be attempting a trek which he calls "Last 300"...in other words, completing the last 300 miles of his 2017-18 Pole venture that he had to abort because, in his words, he was slowing the group down. After returning home, he had a hip replacement in September 2018. He'll be accompanied by filmmaker Kyle O’Donoghue and guides Johanna Davidsson and Kathinka Gyllenhammar. He'll start in the Thiel Mountains near the point from which he was evacuated in December 2017, halfway to the Pole from the Messner Start (82º10'S-65ºW), while leading the South Pole Energy Challenge. This last 300 miles will also complete Robert's long-term goal of crossing the entire continent, albeit not all at once. The first part of this crossing was the 1985-86 "Footsteps of Scott" expedition from Ross Island to Pole. In October 2019, while preparing for his trip, Robert visited his 104 year old mother in Teesdale, England per this Teesdale Mercury article.
The All Women Expedition to Antarctica (AWETA) (postponed from 2018-19)
is a planned 4-woman venture to be led by Malaysian Sharifah Mazlina (full name Sharifah Mazlina Syed Abdul Kadir), who previously made a ski/sailing trip from Pole to Patriot Hills in 2004-05, guided by Mike Sharp. This time she will be leading 3 other women--selection finalists Salehah Abu Nor, Siti Jumaida HJ Bensali, and Nurul Atiqah Tamarun--on a trek from Union Glacier to Pole beginning in November 2019. One of the goals is to retrieve a time capsule she left at Pole in 2004...while leaving another one to be uncovered by future generations of Malaysian women, perhaps in 2050. Three 2018 news articles--this one from This Week in Asia describes her 2004-05 venture, and this one from the Sun daily has more details about the training and the upcoming trip, and this New Straits Times article mentions the time capsules. Not much detail available from the website...the now-deleted FAQ was presented in Malay graphics. At a press conference on about 23 October 2018 they announced the postponement of the event to 2019-20 (graphic of announcement). The original plans involved six women...from the limited information on their Facebook page it appears that they are preparing to leave for Antarctica.
Richard Parks
has reportedly announced a trek to Pole per this 11 November ExplorersWeb article, but I can find nothing about it on his website or anywhere else...yet. Perhaps he's planning to surprise us.
Wen Xu
a 32 year old Chinese scientist and mountaineer, has also announced a major solo unsupported ski manhauling journey, starting from Berkner Island, to Pole, and finishing up at the base of the Axel Heiberg Glacier--3231 miles--longer than the distance covered by Lou Rudd and Colin O'Brady last summer. As with Richard Parks' plans, I can find no website or social media site for him, but this 13 November Adventure Blog post describes his plans and references this 22 October China Daily article.
Feng Jing
another Chinese explorer who in 2017-18 was the first Chinese woman to ski to the South Pole (from Hercules Inlet), has a unique expedition planned--a trip from the coast near Novo to the Pole of Inaccessibility. She'll be accompanied by guides Sarah McNair-Landry and Erik Boomer and they will not use kites. This 6 November Xinhuanet news article has more information...as the described distance of their journey is 1100 miles, presumably they'll be picked up at their POI destination.
Doubtful Olivia Gourley
currently 15, from Stewiake, Nova Scotia, is planning a Pole trip in 2019-20 along with her 42-year-old father Chris. Not a lot of details yet, but the two intend to start from the Union Glacier base and ski to Pole alone and unsupported/unresupplied. At age 11 Olivia had major spinal surgery to deal with scoliosis (abnormal spine curvature), but the following year she was fit enough for a 5-day hike with her father in high-altitude Peru. More here from this 21 August 2018 CTV News article with video. I've seen no recent news.

Happening in 2020-21:
 
Postponed from 2019-20 Team WETWO
is Phoebe Smith, a British writer, broadcaster and journalist, and Dwayne Fields, a Jamaican living in London. They've announced and are in training for a 2020-21 trip to Pole, starting from the Emperor penguin colony on Berkner Island. In 2010, Dwayne participated in the Polar Challenge, a 400-mile trek to the 1996 location of the north magnetic pole (Wikipedia information), and he'd previously announced Antarctic treks for 2012-13 and 2013-14 which didn't happen. In December 2019, Phoebe plans a training trek the length of the United Kingdom island hauling a wheeled sledge. And in 2021 they plan to take a group of underprivileged young people to Antarctica on a specially chartered expedition ship. This 9 November 2019 Isle of Wight County Press article has a bit more information about Phoebe.
Postponed from 2019-20 Baz (Barry John) Gray
is the Royal Marines Commando veteran who in 2018-19 skied solo and unsupported/unassisted from Hercules Inlet to Pole. Before he started that trip, he announced that in 2019-20 he'd do an 1800-mile solo Antarctica crossing from the north end of Berkner Island, across the plateau via Pole, and to McMurdo Sound via the Shackleton Glacier. There is little on his sponsor's website linked above, but this old PDF gives a bit of information about his trip plans. As of November 2019 I've seen no recent news on his website or elsewhere, but I have learned that he's now considering this trip for 2020-21.
Tom Warburton
a 21 year old British student, is training for a 2020-21 solo walk from Hercules Inlet to Pole...if he succeeds, he'll be the youngest person to do so. His plans were first reported by news media in April of 2019, including this 11 April Euronews article. Tom is currently a student at the University of Nottingham, and he'd originally considered doing this in 2019-20.

Here are my records of the nongovernmental expeditions (skiers/hikers/kiters/drivers/sledders etc...) for: 2018-19, 2017-18, 2016-17, 2015-16, 2014-15, 2013-14, 2012-13, 2011-12, 2010-11, 2009-10, 2008-09, 2007-08, 2006-07, 2005-06, 2004-05, 2003-04, 2002-03, 2001-02, 2000-01 and 1999-2000. Keep in mind that the older expedition web sites tend to disappear, although I keep many of the links around for historical interest. Note that the 2000-01 Russian "Millennium Expedition" (skydiving/ballooning) is covered on a separate page.

[top]