Day 65–South Pole

January 9, 2012 10:00pm

January 8, 2012


Elevation 9301 feet

First, they were the tracks. More of them. Beyond the rigid, five ski platform, the tracks of which we had crossed for the last forty eight hours, we then saw, faintly, mostly lost to the blowing snow, the remains of three skiers’ tracks. Then came vehicle tracks which left what amounts to a highway out here. If all roads lead to Rome, all tracks in Antarctica lead to the Pole; the inescapable iconic destination and sometimes pit stop of the white continent.
The conditions were gusty, and light when we decided to hit the trail, in spite of dying and very light wind predictions for the day. Still, we figured we’d chip away at it, as we had the previous two days. Eighty kilometers separated us from the Pole, thanks to the Clean Air Sector. Our approach angle, from the POI did not serve us well, tacking almost 150 additional kilometers onto our trip. Still, given the purity of the air in Antarctica, this large wedge, extending from the Pole, provides important research to scientists measuring ozone depletion, CO2 and methane content, as well as other greenhouse gases linked to the shift in global climate. In fact, the South Pole research station boasts the longest continuous record of gases in our atmosphere dating back to 1957.
Still, that wedge was a thorn for us, eating up precious time and what could be days in light winds. The tracks we found were somehow re-assuring: both a testament to our correct heading, as well as an indication of other human activity. After so many weeks of autonomy and isolation, it is easy to imagine roaming a post-apocalyptic planet, stripped of civilization, and shrouded in a thick cap of ice. Those tracks confirms that we are not living inside a Hollywood production!
The night had been cold again, due to cloud cover, and I slept cold; without a sleeping bag, I’ll admit that I may as well be out on the trail. The sun was in hiding all day, which made for chilled travel conditions. The gusts would propel us forward for a few minutes of fast travel, but the lulls counter punched with tediously slow speeds.
Nonetheless, we were making decent progress. Five hours into the day, clearing off the clouds in the horizon, appeared a faint gray shading. Something was breaking the singularity of the ice, and it had to be human made. We were thirty five kilometers from the Pole, so this could not possibly be the station quite yet. As we approached, we could now make up the tents that formed an encampment: fifteen or so tents, with a large center mess tent in the middle. We landed the kites, and poked around. The place was deserted, and no fresh tracks were to be found indicating any recent activity. It was eerie, like a ghost town. Inside the mess was a fully stocked kitchen, replete with gas stoves and food. It turned out to be the Russian outpost base for Novolazarevskaya, whose logistics team, TAC, has been monitoring our expedition since its start and providing search and rescue support; in that respect, we were home! I called them from there to report our position, and the two dessert packs that will be missing from their stock! We boiled water and heated the tent. I chose the cinnamon rice pudding; Eric the chocolate mousse (does this actually make us re-supplied…?). And soon, we were back out. A few miles later, the same type of encampment appeared in the distance. We repeated our visit, only to find the same deserted spaces. This time, it was the British Extreme Challenge camp, whose folks we had run into on the ice with their trucks six weeks back.
Not long after that, we were back out wrestling the very fluky winds. Now on an upwind tack, with eighty meters of line on the Yakuza’s, this was not fun. In the gusts, the pull on the lines forces serious strain on the legs; in the lulls, the bearing stalled the kite to a stand still.
But all of a sudden, clearing from the distance, looming on the horizon, was the outline of a much larger complex. I landed my kite to take in that first sighting. About ten kilometers in front of us stood the unmistakable outline of the Amundsen-Scott South Pole station, with its dome and futuristic looking research buildings, built on the very spot that has captured the imagination of all explorers and adventure seeker long before its discovery, one hundred years ago. I thought of Amundsen and Scott, and their successful reach, and with mixed emotion thought of all those who have, from one place or another, approached that point of the globe with the same knot in their stomach. And then I thought of us, here, today. And how, in the history of Antarctica exploration, the route we had covered from the POI to the South Pole was about to be open for the very first time. We were now staring at the success of that mission. A destination gives an expedition is sense of purpose; it is its DNA. And no destination holds more mystic than the Poles. For us, that purpose was about to be realized.
But the South Pole, on that day, would not give itself up that easily: the sharp upwind tack would see to that.
The South Pole Station is quite regulated; one thing that it regulates is where you can, and cannot go as you approach it. There are two flagged paths leading you in, and they are insistent that you follow them to avoid conflicting with their research fields, airports and other activities. Unfortunately for us, the path from our approach was a steep upwind tack that stole the glory out of our arrival. It forced us to pull tacks, and slowed our speed considerably. Besides, the fluky winds had me wonder if we would actually reach the station that evening, or be forced to walk to it, or worse, camp in plane sight of it!
But somehow, foot by foot, we gained ground. At 00:30 GST, after sixty five days of challenging travel across the heart of Antarctica, we set our kites down and unclipped our harnesses. The GPS read South 90°00.000: we had finally reached the iconic geographic South Pole!

50 Responses to “Day 65–South Pole”

  1. Stephane Planchon says:

    U guys are great !
    We are so proud of you…
    Cheers from Paris


  2. Mehdi says:

    Congratulations .!!!!

  3. Simone Hohnhorst says:

    CONGRATULATIONS!!! Amazing work, Sebastian and Eric! I’ve been waiting for these news for the past days, and I am both thrilled and relieved to hear that you made it there safely! Hope, you’ll be able to get hold of a replacement for that lost sleeping bag, though! Sounds a bit too chilly to travel on without.
    Fingers crossed for a safe rest of the journey!

  4. Fredi says:

    So proud of you! Yet again you set an example for the rest of us. The dedication is awe inspiring.

  5. Gord Lang says:

    Outstanding! Enjoy the triumph and the fact that you are in the history books gentlemen



  6. Nick Copeland says:

    Sebastian and Eric, I salute you. Fantastic feat! Nick

  7. Annie says:

    Amazing! Congratulations!!

  8. Peter Alan Roberts says:

    Absolutely wonderful… I’m filled with wonder! And relief! Hope you have a warm sleep

  9. Katrin says:

    OMG this is sooooo exciting!!! Congratulations to you both. Sending you heaps of love and warmth. Cheers!!!

  10. Lou Anne says:

    Oh how exciting!!!!!!! I was just thinking while I was eating my hot oatmeal this morning, how I wished I was able to share a bowl with you both and hear some stories. Keep doing what you do, and sharing with us. Stay warm!! Lou Anne

  11. Adrian Fiebig says:

    Congratulations guys !! It’s been great following your journey. Cheers from Toronto . Adrian

  12. Liliana says:

    Felicitaciones Sebastian y Eric! Un saludo desde Argentina. Recordamos tu viaje por Antártida, y el excelente trabajo que hiciste con ello.


  13. Sharon says:

    CONGRATULATIONS and what an amazing way to end and start a new year!!! Wishing you the very best and more adventures to come!

  14. Sammy cuz says:

    AMAZING BAST!!!! Going to Paris in two days we will be celebrating you…cant wait to celebrate WITH u xxxxx

  15. Sammy cuz says:

    Amazing Bast, so proud of you…going to Paris in 2 days we will be celebrating you, cant wait to celebrate WITH you! xxx

  16. Martha McMurray says:

    Congratulations Sebastion and Eric! There really are true Adventurers in our midst. Stay Safe.

  17. Katie West says:

    What wonderful news for you both! I can only imagine the sense of accomplishment you must feel at arriving at the iconic South Pole. Well done and well deserved for your inspiration and perseverence. Congratulations from Canada!

  18. Leila and Mathew says:


  19. Ginger says:

    YEAH!!!! You did it!!! Great picture by the way!!!!!

  20. Penelope Casadesus says:

    Great news and fantastic to get your phone call. So exciting! I cannot imagine what a relief it must have been for you both. The best news is that you now have a sleeping bag again and the medications for your toes! But the whole family is so proud of you! I’ve phoned them all!
    Can’t wait for you to write a book about THIS expedition – with your photos, I’m sure it will be a best seller!
    All our love – your mother xxxx

  21. steven abrams says:

    congrats – way to go !

  22. Adam & Stacie says:


    ~ Adam & Stacie

  23. Tmac says:

    amazing accomplishment both you and eric, I will take my hat off to that, you know that don’t happen often…..much love and support to the two extremely dedicated snow hoppers……T

  24. Congratulations sebastian. You made it! get warm…. Lots of love, Jeremy

  25. Joe Robinson says:

    Incredible Man; just amazing
    What an eerie site to come upon an outpost in the middle of no where.
    I am curious as to how you were received?
    Champagne and a sleeping bag!
    Well done!!

  26. Stephan says:

    You said you would do this and you did it. Beautiful Sebastian.High adventure !!
    Hope you are filled with warmth and peace tonight.

  27. Harald Golbach says:

    Wow, fantastic, congratulation!
    I’m happy to hear that,After your Last Message which was dated Jan. 7 th (today is already jan 11 th in germany)
    I Feel it is very significant and aupicious that you reached The Pole, While we Received very rare and Secret DZOGCHEN Teachings from sogyal Rinpoche , (which he Received From nyoshul khen Rinpoche) live from Australia!
    Om ah hung benza Guru pema siddhi hung.
    Tashi delek
    And all my Love and prayers

  28. Lauren says:

    Congrats to you both. Been waiting for news with baited breath! Recoup strength for next leg easily, please

  29. Nicholas says:

    Congratulations to you both on your brave achievement!
    This is not to undermine what you have achieved, but I just wanted to flag up a couple of errors in your reports:
    In 2006, the Team2i expedition was the first to traverse from Novo to the Pole of Inaccessibility using just kites and skis (or non-mechanical means). They had just one resupply early on in the expedition as they climbed up onto the edge of the ice sheet:
    In 2007, during the International Polar Year, the Norwegian-US Traverse of East Antarctica was the first expedition to traverse from the Pole of Inaccessibility to the South Geographic Pole (as you have just done). This was not a sporting expedition, but a mechanised scientific expedition to explore and study the physical nature of the Antarctic ice sheet. Hence the need for snow vehicles to carry the scientific equipment:
    The Antarctic ice sheet has been explored by scientific expeditions since the International Geophysical Year of 1957-1958:
    One last interesting links:
    Good luck with the remainder of your journey. May the winds be with you!

    • db110099_wpress says:

      Thank you for those notes Nicholas, and for the kind word. To clarify, N2i deserve credit for a great expedition to the POI in 2006. We are very familiar with it since Paul Landry, Eric’s father, guided the group. Theirs, however, was a very different trip. The re-supply you are referring to saved them from hauling 400 pounds of cargo up the glacier from Novo to the plateau 9500 above, as Eric and I both did. This twenty day section, per the blog’s description, was without a doubt to toughest part of the expedition, and it is what qualifies the trip as un-assisted (with no re-supply). You will notice that this is what defines our achievement: the fist un-assisted reach of the POI. Additionally, N2i’s was a one way trip: they were picked up by plane from the POI for a ride home. This should not undermine the scope of their achievement, but our trip continued onto the South Pole and then north to the western coast, covering approximately 4100 kilometers.
      The Norwegian-America Traverse was indeed the first and only expedition to ever bridge the gap between the POI and the SP. That mission was completed over two seasons, using motorized tractors. And marks the first crossing of that route. Ours was the first non-motorized. The expeditions of 1957 and 1958, as well as the US expedition of 1965 did not cross over to the SP
      I hope this helps clarify what, in my statement, may have been misleading. Thank you for the interest.

  30. Sylke says:

    Congratulation to both of you!You are heros. Wishing you good winds to reach your last goal.

  31. Eva says:

    Congratulations from the Czech Republic! You are the greatest heroes!

  32. dan morell says:

    fantastic news !!! well done Dan xx

  33. dan morell says:

    fantastic news !!! well done Dan xx

  34. Congratulations from Munich – Bavaria – Germany! Amazing and Incredible!
    65 days – You are the best! Enjoy!!!

  35. Isaiah says:

    One km at a time to a destination to truly be proud of. Safest of travels for the remainder of your epic adventure. Mad respect.

  36. Kuria says:

    Simply Remarkable. Keep Safe on the journey!
    God Bless.

  37. Fred says:

    Super on so many levels. Much praise and health.

  38. Thomas Enhco says:

    Bravo Bast !!! On pense fort à toi ici. Thom

  39. Karin says:

    I am happy to back to my laptop today to share that outstanding success with you. Congratulation ist a weak word for what you are achieving but I have no better! So CONGRATS to you both!

  40. Adam Rogers says:

    So proud of you guys, and incredibly jealous. So what’s next?

  41. Chris Copeland says:

    Sebastian, What a fantastic achievement, we are all hugely proud of you, for your resilience, bravery and determination. The magnitude of what you have achieved will take some time to sink in, but in the meantime, congratulations and safe journey back to home and a warm bed! Have also sent you an e-mail which you will pick up idc.

  42. Kiri von Klier says:

    We´re very proud of you, BIG CONGRATULATIONS!!!Hope to see you home soon in one piece!love Kiri,Florian and Keanu

  43. ceila wise says:

    Yaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyy !!!!!! Tremendous news ! Ever so ever so happy for you!
    Yet another epic feat ….. CONGRATULATIONS !!!!!!
    Now come back !
    Safe and happy travels boys …..see you soon xo

  44. BASILE says:

    WOOOOW Finally!!!! CONGRATULATIONS again and again, that is,,, FÉLICITATIONS from France
    You are the best, Sebastian and Eric
    Now be careful and take care for the rest of your journey
    I am proud of you

  45. Richard Wegman says:

    Congratualations!!! You guys are most awesome!!!!

  46. Congratulations! Keep going to reach your maxium goal! Good winds and best luck!

  47. Toutes mes félicitations pour cet extraordinaire tour de force! Hats off depuis Los Angeles! J’espère que vous ferez un compte-rendu public (audio-visuel) à Los Angeles. On aimerait beaucoup entendre votre récit de vive-voix! Cheers!

  48. Found this link via George Waud on Facebook, and am adding my congratulations for your great achievement. Oddly, BBC radio is currently running a series about the men of the Scott expedition, and literally five minutes ago I was listening to the final entries in Scott’s diary, and his epitaph for Titus Oates: ‘Hereabouts died a very gallant gentleman’. Still haunting, a hundred years on.

  49. las artes says:

    We were first approached by a customer who wanted to use a MODULUS in Antarctica in the summer of 1994. He was going to be based at B.A.S research station Halley 5, where he was keen to have a source of traction haulage other than skidoos – which during the “winter” months are laid up due to the extreme cold. He also wanted to use it for recreational skiing and planned short 2-3 day trips as well. Based on his advice the standard “38” MODULUS was adapted so that it could be used with gloves in the cold. We also developed a harness to tow sledges whilst paraskiing.

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