Helen Skelton claims a world record at Antarctica. 100 km in 8 hours is not even close.
courtesy BBC - Blue Peter, SOURCE
Doug Stoup bicycled on Antarctica years ago.
2011-12 Antarctica ski routes.
courtesy ExplorersWeb.com
ExplorersWeb polar special: starting points, distances, records and Helen Skelton

Posted: Jan 05, 2012 07:41 pm EST
(AdventureStats) Although they all start from the coast, routes to the South Pole offer a wide range of distances and conditions. To compare difficulty and verify records - and partly because UK media (and some of their US cousins) are at it again - here go some fast facts from AdventureStats.

Distances
(Ed note: South Pole is at 90' S)

Novolazarevskaya (start 70' S) 2100 km

McMurdo (British race team/Scott) 1400 km
Bay of Whales (British race team/Amundsen) 1300 km

Hercules Inlet (start 80' S) 1100 km
Ronne (start 80' S a.k.a the "Messner point") 800 km

Ross/Axel Heiberg (start 85' S) 500 km.

Another starting point is Berkner Island on Ronne ice shelf, 1300 km to the pole, but no skiers went from there this year.

The distances are approximate and can vary tens of kilometers pending exact starting point. A rule of thumb is one degree equals 110 km.

There are three main factors that make skiers choose different starting points: wind, load, and transportation cost.

Sled weight

Because the skiers use up their supplies as they go the sled is heaviest in the start. As for the difference in sled weight, every 100 km require about 7,5 kg extra weight. If you decide to start from Ross you'll be pulling 45 kg less than someone going from Hercules. Sled average weight from HI is 120 kg so you'd cut half the distance and more then a third of the load in comparison.

If you wonder about the difference: collect rocks or use free weights at a gym and try to pull 80 kg vs. 120. That's what the guys have been up against.

Skiers gain altitude up to about 2800 meters (9186 ft) at the South Pole. Already Amundsen noted that coming back to the coast is easier because it's downhill.

The power of wind

In spite of its length, Novo is popular by kiters because they are more dependent on wind than load (that's why they often stay in the tent on calm days while unsupported skiers have almost no rest days).

The conditions at Novo offer long stretches of strong downwind that can afford a skier up to a half week's distance in one day compared to the skier without kites.

Spanish Ramon Larramendi and his three mates reached the pole on January 1st from Novo in a kite sled that reportedly covered 310 km in a 50 hour non-stop run. Compare that to the average distance of 25-30 km for an unassisted skier.

Larramendi's team reached the pole following 19 days of travel but the starting point is unclear so the team's record claim for the fastest non-motorized SP trip is yet unverified.

Fuel cost

Fuel must be flown in to the continent and the cost of plane transportation is accordingly expensive. The closer you are flown to the pole the more costly it becomes. Last degree expeditions and plane rides passing the pole are the most expensive.

Helen Skelton and her media entourage

Where skiers are traveling without any help over 2000 km (1400 miles) on the ice and kiting over 3000 km (up to 2000 miles) one stands out this year, at least when it comes to media coverage.

A Google news search today gave 202 news results, including BBC News, Telegraph, Daily Mirror, Business Week, Daily Star, etc., about a woman skier starting from close to 84 degrees, or around 700 km (450 miles) from the pole.

Helen Skelton (UK) is a Bear Grylls (UK) type daredevil TV anchor who plans to reach the pole with a Norwegian companion, on skis, with kites, and on a bike.

According to media, Helen is aiming to set a new world record for the longest bicycle journey on snow (for charity). Biking on ice has been done before (so has running, wheelchairing, skateboarding etc) so the "record" will be hard to verify. Other claims that this would be the first bike ride to the pole are invalid as Helen's starting point does not touch the edge of the continent.

Compare Helen's media coverage to that for Norwegian Aleksander Gamme, pulling his sled solo and without any assistance for 2200 km from Hercules Inlet to the pole and back. A news search today gave 1 result: at ExplorersWeb.

New media rules. Keep it real.

General facts and useful links

Gateway port Cape Town, South Africa:
To ALCI/TAC base camp Novolazarevskaya / Novo
(70o 46'37S", 011o 49'26"E)
Gateway port Punta Arenas, Chile, South America:
To ALE/ANI base camp, Union Glacier
(79o 45'S, 083o 14'W).
Gateway port Punta Christchurch, New Zealand:
To US base McMurdo
(77o 50'39"S, 166o 40'22"E)

1 nautical mile (nm) = 1.852 km
1 nm = 1.151 statute mile
1 knot = 1.852 km/h
1 degree of Latitude is 110 km

Polar rules of Adventure
What is solo?
Hercules Inlet start point

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