We are thrilled to report that at approximately 9:30 UTC our team reached the South Pole. It was partly cloudy, and around -31 C with an 8 kt breeze out of the North (where else!). The day was a South Pole trifecta of sorts; a) they reached the South Pole, with Gwendal becoming the youngest person to reach the Pole - as far as we know, b) It was Aurelia's birthday, and c) it was the 105th anniversary of the discovery of the South Pole by Norwegian explorer Roald Amundesn - assuming you go by the official station time which is New Zealand time, and thus December 14th.
The day started with anticipation about whether or not the flight would happen. The last two days it was delayed due to weather. But with the all clear to depart the team flew 5.5 hours to a refueling station at 83 degrees South, and then an additional 2.5 hours to the South Pole. There they received a tour of the Amundsen Scott South Pole Station and celebrated with photos and toasts of Aurora Australis at the Ceremonial South Pole (which is about 10 meters from the Geographic South Pole at precisely 90 degrees South).
After approximately 2 hours the weather started to close in and the pilots, eager to beat the incoming system, called everyone back to the plane. They took off and made their way back to the refueling station where they are spending the night. When we heard from them it was just after 3 AM UTC - and they were ready to hit the sack after a long but very satisfying day.
Tomorrow they will have a late breakfast before making the flight back to the Oasis, their home away from home.
We expect to have some pictures to post tomorrow so check back again soon!
The team is still in a holding pattern to make the flight to the South Pole, but they are not idle. Today the group was given a tour of the Novolazarevskaya Station. Their tour guide was an Astrophysicist, and he took them to every corner of the base.
The "Novo" Antarctic Research station is located at Schirmacher Oasis, Queen Maud Land, 75 km from the Antarctic coast, from which it is separated by Lazarev Ice Shelf. It was opened on January 18, 1961 by the 6th Soviet Antarctic Expedition. The maximum summer population is 70.
The team will be going back to the station tonight to oserve the launching of a weather baloon.
The report from the ice today is that everyone was ready to fly to the South Pole. Bags were packed and they were just about to head to the runway when news came in that weather at the refueling station, located near 83 degrees South. was not suitable for landing. This was not entirely unexpected. They knew that the weather was somewhat fickle.
By all accounts it was a beautiful day to be in Antarctica, and the second half of our team (Alan, Yann, Sebastien and Dirk) successfully made the trip to the penguin colony at Atka Bay. The sky was clear and there was a light breeze. They flew along the edge of the ice shelf over the sea where they were treated to exceptional views.
Back at the Oasis Charles, Aurelia, Gwendal and Vlado went on an excursions to a beautiful glacial wall near Novolazarevskaya Station and basked in the warm Antarctic sun.
After dinner which celebrated the penguins everyone had a Banya (Russian sauna) to refresh and think about the anticipated trip to the South Pole tomorrow.
Check back soon for another update!
The team woke early for an excursion to the Emperor Penguin colony, but the flight ended up being delayed for several hours. Eventually, after the delay had been sorted out, half of the team made the flight to the penguin colony and had the chance to explore around for an hour and a half. At this time of year, the chicks are very large, but still easily recognizable by their thick grey downy feathers. The other half of the team went to explore the nearby ice caves. Warm temperatures have caused the commonly empty cave to have a river rushing through it, but they still had an amazing hike on the ice shelf.
Tomorrow, the other half of the group is scheduled for an early flight to the penguin colony, and the rest of the team will be preparing for the flight to the South Pole on Sunday!