Early on Tuesday morning, January 22nd 2013 NZDT, Expeditioner Aaron Linsdau successfully made it to the South Pole. Congratulations Aaron! Upon arrival, Aaron seemed to be in great spirits, and although a bit achy, had plenty of energy and good cheer after his long journey.
Wednesday morning, January 23rd 2013 NZDT while he was awaiting his flight back to Union Glacier, I had the opportunity to have a breakfast chat with Aaron about his expedition. We met up early in the morning outside the south pole station, and took a quick stroll around both the geographic and ceremonial poles.
As we began out walk and chat, the first thing Aaron remarked about was how good it felt to be walking. After months and months on skis, he seemed relieved to be waking around on hard packed snow (packed down around the pole by foot and machine traffic).
Speaking about the journey one of Aaron’s more harrowing tales was of 10 meter high ridges of Sastrugi – ridges of snow frozen solid by the unrelenting Antarctic wind. He recounted to me his days of traveling around and over the frozen walls of snow, noting specifically that the going was extremely slow and arduous at times, but he was able to power through it. According to Aaron, there were parts of the journey where the Sastrugi fields were so extreme, he was convinced that if he needed rescue, landing a plane there would be impossible.
Navigation at certain points in the trek was difficult too. Although his two GPS units apparently worked just fine, skiing in a straight line during whiteout storms was challenging. Aaron recounted skiing for about a minute, and then taking a pause to reference his GPS and Compass, making any necessary course correction, and then continuing on for another minute or two. Progress during storms was slow, but he managed to power through, and keep on course.
Throughout the trip, Aaron kept in touch both with his United States-based media support team, as well as with camp managers with ALE/ANI at Union Glacier, Antarctica. He carried two Iridium Extreme satellite phones, as well as an emergency locator beacon. Aaron reported that the Iridium Extreme phones worked very well, although there were intermittent periods of flakiness. When I met up with Aaron outside the station earlier this morning, he was on the phone reporting his position, status, and weather condition back to the support team at Union Glacier. Aaron kept his phones and other electronics charged using an array of solar panels, which are efficient enough to even work from inside his tent, on days with strong sunlight.
Although Aaron’s expedition was done solo, he did indeed have a little company out on the ice. He reports that at one point in the trek, while camped out for the evening, Icelandic skier Vilborg Arna Gissurardóttir caught up with him and stopped by his tent to say hi. Although the expanse of ice is vast, on good days visibility is almost to the horizon, and Vilborg was able to spot Aaron’s tent and ski over for a chat. Vilborg ended up arriving at the south pole just 2 days before Aaron, making her the first Icelandic woman to ski solo from the coast to the south pole.
Finally, Aaron seemed to be healthy and fit when he arrived. He mentioned that his rations had worked well, and that he had made it to pole with about 4 days of food remaining.
Wednesday afternoon, Aaron was successfully picked up from the South Pole by a DHC-Twin Otter operated by Kenn Borek Air, and he’s now en route back to Union Glacier.
Congratulations Aaron on your incredible journey!