A race for the South Pole

  • A race for the South Pole
    23.11.2013 17:46


    Antarctica has been the destination of many great explorers over the last 100 years. This week, Prince Harry and 12 other wounded veterans will be taking on the white frozen desert in a race to the pole for charity. The trek will be over 200 miles long and will be a gruelling feet of endurance. The race will hopefully start on the 30th of November and will take around 18 days to complete.

    Harry who is the patron for the British team will be against teams from USA, patron Alexander Skarsgard and the Commonwealth – (Australia and Canada) whose patron is Dominic West.

    The teams arrived in Novo, a base in Antarctica, two days late after low visibility and snow storms stopped aircraft leaving Cape Town. The weather is extremely unpredictable at this time of the year as it is the transitional period between winter and summer. With the ice retreating, bases near the sea such as Novo and the British base Halley VI will have more open water and a bigger chance for unsettled weather.  

    The British team who finally arrived in Novo now prepare for the task ahead. They will spend their time training on skis and allowing their bodies to adjust to the cold temperatures and 24 hour daylight. Their gear, which they will haul behind them in paulks, will need to be as light as possible but not compromise their safety, allowing them to travel 10 to 15 miles a day.

    They will start in a plateau not far from Novo. The team will be subject to temperatures as low as -10 C (during the day) at the start of there expedition, however these temperatures will decrease rapidly as the travel further south. Even in the summer, temperatures at the pole can go down as low as -40 C and the teams can expect to face such temperatures on the journey. This will make it extremely hard going as pulling the sledge will be very hot work and yet they will not be able to remove cloths for fear of freezing, or burning, under the sun, with no stratospheric ozone to protect them. It is hard to forget the lowest temperature ever recorded was −89.2 °C in Vostok Station, Antarctica. 

    Due to the icy smooth surface and downward gradients to coastal areas, the katabatic winds are notoriously strong, gale force at times, and can change without a moments notice. This will be one thing all the teams fear, as this can bring white out conditions and heavy snow fall in a matter of minutes. They will then face an agonising wait in their cramped tents in hope that the full might of Antarctica will ease so they may continue the race or, in the worst event get more food. Once these storms hit no help can arrive and the team will be well and truly alone.

    The modern equipment such as jackets of lightweight down encased in light plastics will make their journey slightly more bearable than when Scot or Shakelton made their voyages. However it will still be a tough feat, mentally, emotionally and physically especially as some of these men and women will be working with prosthetic limbs.

    By: John Griffiths