End of the 2011-12 Antarctic Season
Published on 04.02.2012 - General Info
The group of tourists guided by Christian Eide at their arrival at Hercules Inlet : quite a feat for non professional people
© Expedition website
This last post about the abandon of the Belgians puts an end to our coverage of the 2011-12 Antarctic Season. We have followed 25 expeditions and sometimes more. We are aware that there were many more people on the field. Beginning with some Norwegians and tourists who have travelled to the SP -mainly covering the last two degrees- just to assist to the commemoration on both the 14 December and 17 January. But it was quite impossible for us to follow more than 25 teams.
A turn in polar tourism and in polar adventure
In a nutshell, this antarctic 2011-12 season will mark the history of the development of the tourism and adventure tourism on the 6th Continent.
First because of the two historic commemorations : the arrivals of both Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott at the South Pole a hundred years ago. Several ceremonies have been held in front of the globe not far from the Amundsen Scott american station in the presence of ministers of Nortway and Great Britain, and of hundreds of tourists, adventurers and so called explorers. A hundred years ago, the south Pole has been reached by Amundsen for the first time in history and of course everyone remembers the epic odyssey of the five Britons coming back to cape Evans, truly disappointed by the fact that they were not the firsts to conquer the Pole and dying all during their voyage.
Second because, never in the past, one could see so many polar expeditions on the field. Counting the people who have travelled the last two degrees (they were not really big expeditions), there were more than 35 expeditions reaching (or passintg by) the Pole this season. Among the big ones, let's name among others, Felicity Aston, Borge Ousland, Chistian Eide, Richard Weber, Ramón Larramendi, Eric McNair (guiding Sebastian Copeland) and Dixie Dansercoer.
Several world firsts !
Third, because we have witnessed several world firsts.
- Felicity Aston became the first women to cross the entire continent from coast to coast.
- Larramendi and his team of four have travelled 3,500 kil in 34 days, crossing Antarctica and reaching the South Pole for the first time ever on board a wind propelled vehicle.
- Norwegian Alexander Gamme broke the record for the longest unsupplied and unassisted trek in the Antarctic (2 260 kil). Gamme also took the unofficial sportsmanship award in waiting for Aussie skiers Cas and Jonesy (yellow skiers with flag) at the finish line.
- The duo Copeland/McNair has spent three months crossing the Antarctica continent, from East to West, coast to coast, through two of its Poles, over four thousand kilometers and has been the first to do so in the long history of polar expeditions.
- Belgians Dansecoer and Deltour (despite their abandon on day 74 of their travel) have broken the previous world record for unsupported and non-motorized distance travelled in Antarctica, covering 4 829,4 km in 70 days (the previous record was held by Norwegian explorer Rune Gjeldnes, who in February 2006 completed 4 804 km in 90 days).
- Aussies Justin Jones and James Castrission have become the first people to ski unsupported from the edge of the Antarctic to the South Pole and back. The expedition took 89 days and covered a total distance of just over 2,270 km!
- And of course last but not least the amazing feat achieved by Australian Pat Farmer who has succeeded to run almost every kilometer separating both North and South Pole.
Engines and tourists
Fourth, never before we have seen so many motor vehicles on the 6th Continent. Begining with a specially equipped vehicle which has been (after many breakdowns) from Hercules Inlet (driven by Jason De Carteret and Kieron Bradley) to the south Pole in 39 hours and 54 minutes -in its class, another world record too!
We had also the monster vehicles prepared by EWR and by Tony Martin, its CEO. They were on the Antarctic to manage the EWR centenial race, but before the protagonists arrived at Novolazarevskaya, Martin could drive from Novo to the other side of the continent (McMurdo station) in 23 days. Coming back with the same cars along the same route...
And finally fifth : we have followed two groups of tourists who have achieved unbelievable travels (for non professional polar adventurers). One guided by Christian Eide who has travelled from the foot of Axel Heiberg glacier to Hercules Inlet, passing through the South Pole. The second guided by Canadian Richard Weber who has travelled from the Messner start ('Ronne iceshelf) to the South Pole and has come back to Hercules Inlet ! A great victory for tourists too.