American Explorer Todd Carmichael Reaches The South Pole

American Todd Carmichael reached the South Pole yesterday, becoming the first person from the U.S. to make that journey solo and unsupported.

Carmichael set out on November 12 from Patriot Hills, the traditional drop off point on Antarctica for explorers arriving from Punta Arenas, Chile, the southernmost city of it’s size in the world. His intention was to break the speed record to the South Pole, currently held by Hannah McKeand of the U.K., who made the same 690 mile journey back in 2006, in 39 days, 10 hours, and 33 minutes. At this time, there is no word if he succeeded in breaking the record, but Carmichael also arrived on his 39th day out.

Antarctica traditionally sees a lot of traffic in November of each year. While in the northern hemisphere, the temperatures are falling, and autumn begins to give way to winter, in the southern it’s spring time, and the best opportunity for explorers and adventure travelers to visit the region. Temperatures can still be quite cold however, and Carmichael endured blizzards, sub-zero wind chills, and whiteout conditions on his way to his destination.Making a solo and unsupported journey to the Pole is far from easy. The landscapes are quite desolate and mostly featureless, with dangerous crevasse fields, which has led previous explorers to remark on the lonliness they felt on a solo expedition. The unsupported tag means that the person making the trip will carry everything they need with them as they go, pulling it behind them on a heavy sled as they ski the 700 miles south. That sled weighs hundreds of pounds at the start, although it does lighten up as the supplies are consumed.

In Todd’s case, he faced all kinds of adversity along the trail. Besides the inclidment weather, he also broke the bindings on both of his skis within the first week. Unable to make repairs, he was forced to make the journey on foot, dragging his sled behind him, and yet he still managed to flirt with the new speed record, and may have achieved it. in the past few days he has also been out of communications thanks to the failure of both his primary and back-up satellite phones.

Traditionally, a plane would now be dispatched form Patriot Hills to pick Todd up and return him to Punta Arenas, but a storm has been raging in the area and he is not expected to be picked up for a couple of days. During that time, I’m sure he’ll get lots of sleep, and dream of tropical locals. Congrats Todd!