Norwegian yacht goes missing off Antarctica

A yachat carrying five passengers has gone missing off the coast of AntarcticaA Norwegian-flagged yacht known as the Berserk has gone missing off the coast of Antarctica after activating its emergency rescue beacon yesterday. The 14-meter, steel hulled ship was last known to be sailing rough seas in the Southern Ocean approximately 18 nautical miles north of the Scott Research Base and was believed to have been carrying as many as five passengers at the time.

Rescues ships have been dispatched out of New Zealand to look for the missing yacht, but all attempts to contact the crew have failed and the emergency beacon is no longer transmitting its location. Bad weather in the region is hampering rescue efforts as well, with 75 knot winds and 6 to 8 meter swells reported in the vicinity.

The ship is captained by Norwegian sailor Jarle Andhoey who is a seasoned skipper with years of experience under his belt. There were three other Norwegians and a British national on board the Berserk at one point, although two of the passengers may have been dropped off on the Antarctic continent to attempt a journey to the South Pole. Details as to who was exactly aboard the ship at the time of the distress call are still unknown.

Weather conditions are expected to improve later in the day and search planes and helicopters may be employed to help find the missing the vessel. Rescuers are still holding out hope for good news, but considering the poor weather conditions and the loss of the signal from the ship’s beacon, the outlook is a bit grim at this time.

[Photo credit: Berserk Expeditions]

Skier sets South Pole speed record

Norwegian Christian Eide sets new speed record to the South PoleNorwegian explorer Christian Eide has set a new speed record for traveling to the South Pole on skis, smashing the previous record by more than two weeks and setting a new standard for Antarctic expeditions to follow.

Eide set out from Hercules Inlet, located along the Antarctic coast, on December 20th of last year and proceeded due south towards the Pole, a journey of more than 700 miles. Averaging 29 miles per day over some of the harshest and most extreme terrain on the planet, the skier completed the trip in just 24 days, 1 hour, and 13 minutes, battling whiteout conditions and subzero temperatures along the way.

The previous speed record was held by American Todd Carmichael, who made the same journey back in 2008. Carmichael completed his expedition in 39 days, 7 hours, and 49 minutes, which at the time seemed like a very impressive accomplishment. Eide’s new speed mark raises the bar substantially, and is likely to be a record that will remain unbroken for years to come.

To further put Eide’s accomplishment into perspective, when explorer Roald Amundsen, who was also Norwegian, became the first person to reach the South Pole back in 1911 it took him 58 days to make the journey. He also had the benefit of doing so by dogsled. Now, a century later, we have modern day explorers covering the same distance in less than half the time and under their own power no less.

We’ve come a long way in a hundred years.

[Photo credit: Christian Eide]

South Pole scientists activate IceCube neutrino observatory

IceCube Neutrino ObservatoryThe South Pole may be as geographically far away from Santa’s home as is possible, but that didn’t prevent Christmas from coming early to the scientific base that is located there. Last week, researchers completed construction of the IceCube Project, which has been five years in the making and promises an unprecidented look into the very nature of the cosmos.

The IceCube Neutrino Observatory has been built under the Antarcitc ice –8000 feet under the ice to be precise, in hopes of detecting the elusive sub-atomic particles that seem to have some link to the violent cosmic events that may have created the Universe. So far, only about a dozen neutrinos have ever been detected, but researchers hope to change that with this $279 million project.

IceCube uses special sensors, called Digital Optical Monitors, to look for the neutrinos, which leave a distinct radiation signature behind when they collide with oxygen atoms in the ice. Those collusions result in a tell-tale trace of blue light that the obeservatory can track back to the origin of the particle which will help scientists to better understand how the neutrinos are generated in the first place.

Neutrinos are a bit of an anomoly in the Universe, as they are unique paritcles that carry a neutral charge and rarely interact with other particles. They seem to pass through the cosmos, and our planet, without regard to other forces, with their origins and purpose largely a mystery. The completion of the IceCube Project should give scientists the opportunity to observe the particles more closely and possibly take steps toward a better understanding of the Universe itself.

[Photo credit: National Science Foundation]

2012 Antarctic expedition to visit Scott’s final resting place

Expedition to Robert Falcon Scott's Final Resting PlaceBritish polar explorer Robert Falcon Scott is amongst the most tragic of all 20th century historical figures. In an era where exploration was a matter of national pride, he spent a significant portion of his life attempting to become the first person to reach the South Pole. And when he did finally make it to that place, he found that he had been beaten, by just a few weeks, by his Norwegian rival Roald Amundsen. With that bitter defeat in his mouth, he and his men turned for home, crossing the desolate and frigid antarctic expanse. Eventually, they all met their end on that long, cold, march, with Scott, along with his two remaining companions, freezing to death in a tent while a storm raged outside for ten days. They were just 11 miles from a life saving cache of supplies.

Despite his failure in Antarctica however, Scott remains a popular hero in the U.K. and next year, an expedition is being planned to memorialize his adventurous spirit. Dubbed the International Scott Centenary Expedition, the plan is for a team of adventurers to travel on skis to the final resting spot of the famous explorer and his crew, a place that hasn’t been visited in 100 years.

There will actually be two teams that will arrive at location of where Scott met his end. In addition to the team that will travel overland another group will be flown in to attend a memorial service in honor of the explorer and his comrades. Both groups will converge on the site where Scott’s tent was discovered on November 12, 2012, precisely 100 years to the day that his remains were found. The second team will be made up of descendants of Scott and the men who made the journey with him.

While the expedition is already well into the planning stages, with experienced explorers handling the logistics and preparation, there is actually room for one more person to join this adventure. With that in mind, the British newspaper the Telegraph is searching for a young man or woman with an adventurous spirit who would like to tag along on this 290 mile journey across the open expanse of Antarctica. The person selected must be a resident of the U.K. and be between the ages of 18-30. You can read all the details here, including other stipulations for selection and how to submit your application.

This is going to be a truly challenging adventure following in the footsteps of a legendary explorer. I would personally love to be selected to join this team, but since I don’t live in the U.K., not to mention being well above 30, I’m not eligible. Still, this is a great opportunity for someone to experience a true adventure of a lifetime.

British explorer to ski to South Pole and back again

British adventurer Chris Foot is currently in Punta Arenas, Chile, preparing to set out on a long and difficult journey that will see him traveling on skis to the South Pole. That, in and of itself, is an impressive feat, but one that has done plenty of times in the past. But upon arrival at the Pole Chris intends to separate himself from the explorers who have gone before him, by turning around and skiing back to where he started, something that has never been done before.

The entire journey will cover more than 1392 miles through one of the most desolate and remote regions on the planet. To add to the challenge, Foot intends to make the trip solo and unsupported, which means he will be completely alone and won’t receive any supply drops or outside assistance for the length of the expedition. Instead, he’ll pull a sled behind him that will carry all of his food, equipment, and other supplies for the length of the journey, which could last for upwards of three months.

The expedition will begin and end at the new Union Glacier Antarctic base that we told you about last week, and could get underway as soon as today. Weather has delayed the start of Chris’ journey, as high winds and heavy snow have prevented planes from landing at the new base, but according to the latest dispatches from the former British commando, his gear has all been packed and weighed, and he is awaiting a clear weather window to allow him to get start the long, slow march to 90ºS.

Chris will be one of the first adventurers to hit the ice this year, but his arrival will mark the beginning of the Antarctic expedition season that will see other expeditions heading to the South Pole as well. Additionally, mountaineers will challenge themselves on several cold and remote peaks in the region and adventure travelers will get the opportunity to visit a place that few ever experience.

[Photo credit: Chris Foot]