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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).
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.
It was a beautiful day today in Antarctica. Not a cloud in the sky and very comfortable temperatures. The group spent the afternoon exploring ice caves at the base of a mountain glacier. In the morning they flew kites. The plan for tomorrow is in flux pending a few logistical considerations. We will keep you posted.
The team is staying in an area known as the Schirmacher Oasis. This is a 25 m by 3 km ice free area (hence the name "Oasis") that has roughly 100 freshwater lakes. It is named after the German pilot who first spotted the oasis while surveying Antarctica by air. It it a desert and is remarkably scenic. We are hoping to post some larger pictures so check back soon!