A New Zealand doctor and his brother-in-law are attempting something that’s never been achieved in Antarctica before — the first unsupported crossing of the icy continent.
Richard Stephenson, 40, from Dunedin, and his brother-in-law Gareth Andrews will begin the 2600km journey with little more than a sled and some skis.
They are expecting it to take about 110 days and will start in November next year.
The pair will begin at the edge of the ice shelf and make their way across the continent, to the other ice shelf, by skiing while dragging their supplies in a sled.
If the literature of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries—by the likes of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, and Jules Verne—imagined a link between the polar regions and insanity, the Belgica expedition confirmed it. The decades of frenzied Antarctic exploration that followed the voyage cemented the continent’s reputation as an inherently maddening place. Still today in Antarctic research stations, as modern amenities dull the ferocity of the environment and digital communications keep year-round personnel in touch with the outside world, madness lurks in the corridors.
How do you choose your next adventure when there are so many options available?
Wizarding up ideas for adventures is one of my favourite things to do. I find it enjoyable, exciting, but also easy. If I was a specialist I would need to search for something higher, harder and faster within my niche every time I wanted a new challenge. But because I am a generalist, I make the next adventure more challenging by making it differently challenging to previous projects. It is an important part of keeping adventure fresh for me.
I am surprised how often people tell me that they really want to do an adventure but don’t know what to do. Hopefully this walk-through of the way I come up with ideas might get your own adventure cogs whirring…
- Cycling round the world
- The Marathon des Sables
- The South Pole
- The Arctic Ocean
- Rowing the Atlantic
Dr. James Bowyer, a medical doctor for the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), tells of life in Antarctica.
Since 2019, Dr. Bowyer has been based at the Rothera Research Station, a centre for biological research and a hub for supporting deep-field and air operations.
Standing on the Devon coast, my phone rings.
“Hi James, we’d like you to look after Rothera for us. Are you happy to take the job?”
“Yes, of course!”
After an hour-long interview only that morning, I have just signed up to work in Antarctica for eighteen months, providing medical cover for a research station of 27 people in the winter, 160 in summer. I would be the only doctor for at least half of that time, with only narrow windows for medical evacuation in case something goes wrong. My patch in the summer consists of an area the size of Europe, with deep-field teams scattered in some of the harshest environments on Earth.
Following Colin O’Brady’s claim to have completed the first unsupported and unassisted crossing of Antarctica, the polar adventure world came together to point out the inaccuracies of the 33-year old American’s highly publicised and inaccurate claims. They then set about to develop a standard of definitions relating to polar travel.
So in the wake of the O’Brady saga, veteran polar guide Eric Philips, along with other senior members of the polar community, decided that standardization was overdue in the polar world. Over the past two years, they developed The Polar Expeditions Classification Scheme (PECS), which was launched earlier this week.
This passion took on a new life when I was diagnosed with a benign tumor in my abdomen five years ago. After a painful surgery and treatment, I made the decision—while still recovering in a hospital bed—to apply to run the Marathon de Sables, a 155.5-mile ultramarathon through the Sahara Desert, starting in Ouarzazate, Morocco. I moved to Morocco to train and live in a tent among other female athletes from around the world, and ended up being the 16th female to cross the finish line after five days.
Adventure to me is about being idle. That doesn’t mean you have to go on a huge expensive expedition—you can simply just set up camp in the wild close to home for the weekend. It’s about getting outdoors and disconnecting from the pressures of mundane life.
But I wasn’t going to give up. In November 2019, I strapped on my skis and made my second attempt. This time around, for the first 500 miles, I was skiing at world-record pace. Then an injury, one they call polar thigh, set in. (The motion of skiing into a headwind or tailwind can compress your legwear, and if there you don’t have enough insulation or any cold air gets trapped, you can suffer from polar thigh.) For me, it started as these small clusters of ulcers on my leg, which continued to get bigger and bigger over time.
More » Jenny Davis (web site)
Bai Bin, a Chinese man, has become the first to finished a 24,000 km, 433 days (14-month), fourteen country run from Antarctica to the Arctic Ocean.
Beginning at the Great Wall Station in March 2018, Bai Bin arrived at the Arctic Ocean in Inuvik, N.W.T. in May 2019. Continue reading
On November 8, 2017, a plane dropped Saunders — who was 40 at the time — at Berkner Island, just off the coast of the Weddell Sea (to see a map, click here). Like Ernest Shackleton (although Shackleton was ultimately unsuccessful), Saunders was aiming to reach a point on the southern coast where the Ross Ice Shelf meets the land. For the next seven weeks, his only connections to the outside world were a satellite phone (only for emergencies), a tracker to keep a remote team aware of his position on an hourly basis, and a smartphone he used to write emails and blog posts. He skied an average of 15.5 miles during 9- to 10-hour days while pulling a sledge that held all the food and equipment he’d need for the journey and weighed 300 pounds at the trip’s start.
- You’re going to have to eat a lot of raw butter.
- Washing is a painful experience.
- Take it one step at a time.
- Choose your companions carefully. You may have to eat them.
- Going mental.
- The tent is a surprisingly nice place to be.
- Take a notebook and pencil.
- Frostbite is about sweat, genetics and experience.
- Expect delays. Planes rarely run on schedule.
- There is often a huge sense of isolation and disconnect when you come back to everyday life.
Read the whole article.
From Antarctica New Zealand:
“I’m such an excited scientist right now!”
Dr Regina Eisert, marine mammal expert at the University of Canterbury, still can’t believe the underwater footage her team captured on a recent Antarctic expedition to study killer whales.
“The whole whale glides past – this is such a lucky shot!” she says as she watches her computer screen.
With a serenity that belies its massive size, a minke whale floats gracefully through the frame. Little is known about Antarctic minke whales that can grow up to 10 m long and weigh 9 tonnes. Dr Eisert believes this may be the first time a minke whale has been filmed underwater, and in the sea ice, in the Ross Sea.
Dr Eisert is particularly excited as she didn’t think anything had been captured on a new prototype underwater camera designed by Antarctic film expert Anthony Powell of Antzworks.
“The plan was to film continuously across the icebreaker channel that is prepared for the re-supply vessel to cross McMurdo Sound. The water’s so clear, you can see right across the 50-80 m lane and monitor all the whales that use the channel,” Dr Eisert says. “Unfortunately, the system only recorded for just a few hours, due to teething problems for this new technology in the field. We had no idea that we had this footage until Anthony found it when checking the camera back in Christchurch!”
Dr Eisert’s research programme focusses on fish-eating (Type C) killer whales, but she also became interested in minke whales when she realised that they are champions of ice navigation, beating even the Type-C killer whales in their ability to infiltrate deep into McMurdo Sound.
According to IWC estimates, there are about 180,000 minke whales in Area V, the area of Southern Ocean that includes the Ross Sea region. Dr Eisert says while this species is likely to be an important part of the Ross Sea food web, little is known about their precise role in the ecosystem. Minke whales are also the only whales that are still hunted in the Southern Ocean, ostensibly for scientific purposes. But there are other ways to study whales that cause no harm, such as photo-identification and dart biopsies.
When a minke swims by, Dr Eisert and her team take a photo – and a skin samples using a small dart.
“We can learn so much from a small tissue sample, such as their diet – we think they just eat krill, but do they eat small fish as well? Also, DNA analysis can tell us whether Ross Sea minkes are separate from other minke whales on the Antarctic Peninsula or further north, or if they are all part of one larger population,” she says.
As filter feeders that primarily target krill, Dr Eisert says minke whales feed low in the food web and follow the retreating sea ice to find the richest feeding grounds.
“This means they’re excellent indicators of ‘ecosystem hotspots’ – particularly productive areas. This information in turn feeds into environmental stewardship, in particular by supporting the objectives of the Ross Sea region Marine Protected Area (MPA).”
The Ross Sea region MPA came into effect on 1 December 2017. It covers 1.55 million square kilometres, and is the world’s largest marine protected area. Ongoing research and monitoring are required to show that the MPA meets its objectives and to ensure the MPA’s continued existence.
Dr Eisert’s team travelled to Scott Base with Antarctica New Zealand in January, and she hopes analysis of the samples and images they collected will begin a valuable data set for Ross Sea minke whale research.
Footage also available on Vimeo.
Rare footage of minke whale a ‘lucky shot” – Otago Daily Times