Polar explorers complete first unassisted traverse of Antarctica

Late last week, American Ryan Waters and Norwegian Cecilie Skog became the first team to make an unsupported/unassisted traverse of the Antarctic continent, covering more than 840 miles beginning at Berkner Island and ending at the Ross Ice Shelf, with a stop at the South Pole along the way.

The pair set off on their journey back on November 13 of last year and reached their final destination 70 days later on January 21. Over the course of those many days out on the ice, they frequently had to deal with high winds, whiteout conditions, and bitter cold, sometimes dropping as low as -40º F. As if dealing with the weather wasn’t challenging enough, they also had to endure the altitude (Antarctica is the highest continent on Earth) and massive sastrugi, hard waves of drifting snow that form on top of the ice.

Ryan and Cecilie made the journey on skies, while dragging all of their supplies and gear behind them in specially designed sleds. In order for this expedition to be classified as “unsupported” they had to make the journey without ever receiving a supply drop along the way, and to earn the distinction as “unassisted”, they had to finish the trip completely under their own power. Previous traverses of Antarctic were done through the use of dog sled teams or by using massive kites to pull the explorers across the snow.

The duo spent about a day and a half at their final destination along the Ross Ice Shelf before being picked up by a specially designed aircraft. They’ve now returned to Punta Arenas, Chile where they are enjoying fine food and warm beds for the first time in two months.%Gallery-79934%