Press Release: 27 December 2011
Issued by: Urban Brew Studios
Update from Antarctica: 23 – 26 December 2011
Flight 82Y9173 transporting the South Pole athletes to Antarctica, became a reality when a Russian Ilyushin Il-76 freighter aircraft took off from Cape Town International Airport around midnight on 22 December 2011.
The athletes and film crew had been on standby for a frustrating three days while waiting for the weather to clear at the Novo Russian Antarctic Research Station. Here the advance team of Extreme World Races was waiting for them for the start of the South Pole race.
During the previous ten days Novo was punished with severe snow storms and winds of up to 140 kilometers per hour.
Fortunately for the contestants the weather changed to mild and sunny once they arrived with temperatures of only three to five degrees below zero.
The time in Antarctica is synchronized with Greenwich Mean Time, which is two hours behind South African time. This means the landing took place at 4h00 in the morning on the 23rd. After all the equipment and supplies were off loaded the athletes and crew were welcomed with hot tea and coffee and ordered to take a rest before the first Antarctic briefing at lunch time.
Due to the delay, the program is a few days behind schedule and all athletes and crew will leave camp on Christmas eve. This leg will take the contestants on a spectacular climb up the escarpment. The teams will utilize the opportunity to get acclimatized to the high altitude of 3000 meters above sea level. They will also do ski training and emergency drills.
When they arrived all the spirits were high and the teams could finally begin to focus on the challenge ahead. Team SA, Braam Malherbe and Peter van Kets used the opportunity to go through all their equipment and pack their food supplies, which will be flown forward to the start of the race once everyone has reached the top of the escarpment.
As scheduled the contestants left camp on Christmas day. Ski conditions were quite good, but soft sticky snow and uphill sections made the first day very difficult with some teams finding the conditions quite exhausting. Peter van Kets tweeted that Team SA found it particulary hard as they are not at all used to skiing and these extreme weather conditions. Most of the teams made it into the new base camp early evening, prior to the heavy winds that picked up later in the evening.
With all competitors safely in camp the EWR Support Crew delivered some Christmas Stockings with a small cake and small beverage to see off Christmas Day. Many loved ones and family members had kindly sent in Christmas messages that were delivered to the competitors. It raised spirits nicely and made for a perfect end to the day...
EWR CEO, Tony Martin wrote in his blog “With Christmas Day drawing to end the weather front came in hard and fast with temperature of -40˚C, winds approaching 80km and plenty of soft snow (spin drift) quickly engulfing the tents and vehicles. Goodbye to the lovely Christmas present from Mother Nature!”
Boxing Day morning came quickly with most competitors and support staff digging away snow from the tents, vehicles and equipment. The weather had continued to play havoc all night. With winds increasing the decision was made for everyone’s safety to remain in location and hopefully ride out the storm.
The teams used this opportunity to catch up on sleep and enjoy the rest period. The weather unfortunately showed no signs of getting better. After a lunchtime review by the senior instructor the decision was made to remain still until the following morning, when weather forecasts indicated a reduction in winds and more suitable conditions.
Notes to Editors:
Due to the delay of the flight to Antarctica the Race to the South Pole is now scheduled to start on 3 January 2012, however, it can be re-scheduled if weather conditions remain as bad as what they have been the last two days.
Braam Malherbe is a Woolworths MyPlanet Ambassador and with the next update (on 28/29 December, weather permitting) we will include a voice clip of Braam talking about environmental issues in Antarctica.
Ann Toerien with info received from Paul van Schalkwyk (Urban Brew Crew Member in Antarctica) and Toni Martin (CEO of Extreme World Races)