Antarctic garbage collectors

Published on 19.11.2008 - Finnish South Pole Expedition 2008

The two adventurers Suomela and Ikonen are aiming to become the first Finns to reach the South Pole from Hercules Inlet unassisted. They are incredibly well organised and have quickly put their daily routines into place as they make good progress.

ALE's Twin Otter had scarcely dropped them off on the ice at Hercules Inlet than the two Finns had set off in a southerly direction, even though it was already mid-afternoon. No question of setting up camp straight away, or allowing for the slightest delay. Instead, Suomela and Ikonen strapped on their skis and got going immediately. That evening, after about three hours, they had already gone 12.6 km. Also, to be certain that the purists can't dispute anything in the slightest, the two men skied two kilometres in the opposite direction to where they need to go to ensure that they passed through the starting line in exactly the right spot. "According to international ethics," wrote Ikonen, "an Antarctic expedition taking that route has to leave from the edge of the icecap at a point situated a few cables' length to the north of 80º south. Which means that the Finns' exact departure point was: 79°59.9668 S and 079° 37.838 W."

This is because the two men appear to be highly motivated and well organised, too. They had their daily routines in place on day 1 (rest breaks, man leading, speed and rate of progress, etc.). And on their very first day, after less than three hours of skiing, they had already covered 12.6 km. Usually in the evening, if the wind is not too strong, it takes them less than ten minutes to set up their tent and make a fire. So barely one hour after stopping, they can already start thinking about eating their evening meal.

As has been the case with the other expeditions, the first few days saw them having to cope with blizzards and the areas of crevasses, of which there appear to be more and more with each passing. "We are coming across crevasses," wrote Ikonen, "that are about ten metres across by several kilometres long. Fortunately at this time of the year, they are often covered with snow bridges that we can venture across them, albeit with the greatest care. Sometimes as we cross, we look down into the crevasse and frighten the life out of ourselves because we can't see the bottom!"

On 14th November, the two men became 'Antarctic garbage collectors' when they came across a yellow bag that looked like a discarded kite bag: obviously something left over from an earlier expedition. To think that pollution is already plaguing places like this! "Don't worry," wrote Ikonen, "the bag is now no longer there, because our eco-patrol picked it up."

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