International Antarctica Team Reaches South Pole
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) _ A six-man international ski and sled dog team led by Minnesotan Will Steger reached the South Pole on Monday, marking a major milestone in their 4,000- mile transverse of Antarctica.
″Here we are. Horrah (sic),″ read a satellite message sent by the team to the expedition’s St. Paul headquarters, said Cathy de Moll, an expedition spokeswoman at the trek’s St. Paul headquarters.
The International Trans-Antarctica Expedition is believed to have reached the pole at about 2 p.m. EST, based on satellite tracking of the team,de Moll said.
Officials had said last weekend that they were having difficulty establishing radio contact with the expedition, which has traveled more than 1,900 miles since leaving the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula on July 27.
The group is the first to reach the bottom of the world by dogsled since Roald Amundsen was the first to do so on Dec. 14, 1911. But the team’s arrival marks only the halfway point for the expedition, which is the first unmechanized traverse of Antarctica ever attempted.
Despite the U.S. National Science Foundation’s official disparagement of tourism in Antarctica, American scientists at the Scott-Amundsen Scientific Research Base at the South Pole gave the adventurers a tour of the dome station, said de Moll.
The team plans to stay at the South Pole until Friday, but hasn’t specified why, she said.
″We are surmising that they want to dry out their clothes and make sure their dogs are in really top form before they cross the Area of Inaccessibility,″ she said.
The Area of Inaccessibility is an 850-mile void of ice where neither radio nor airplane contact is guaranteed.
Steger, 45, made history three years ago when he led a similar assault on the North Pole.
The expedition is making its $11 million, seven-month journey to bring world attention to Antarctica and to demonstrate the power of international cooperation.
The trek has been jeopardized somewhat by breakdowns in air support and other minor mishaps.
At one point early in the expedition, two of the team’s three sleds were damaged in a crashing descent on ice, and at another point, a French doctor had to descend into an ice crevasse to rescue a stranded sled dog.
Besides Steger, who is from Ely, Minn., the expedition’s other members are co-leader Jean-Louis Etienne of France, Victor Boyarsky from the Soviet Union, Geoff Somers from Great Britain, Keizo Funatsu from Japan and Qin Dahe from China.
The goal of the trek is to reach Mirnyy, a Soviet science station on the continent’s Indian Ocean shore, which is 1,600 miles and three months farther to the east, across the Area of Inaccessibility.
The dogs must continue to pull uphill, from 10,000 feet at the South Pole to 11,500 feet at Vostok, through ever-thinning air.