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And they're off...

2011 South Pole expeditions are on their way, despite Antarctica's tricks – including snowstorms and winds that delayed our first Ilyushin flights. The 2011 teams are are in good company - Amundsen attempted to set off for the Pole on September 8, 1911 and was beaten back to Framheim by -58F (-50C) temperatures. He waited for 6 weeks before finally departing on October 19.

Delays are to be expected – as any Antarctic explorer will tell you. The key is to have good plans, good back-up plans, and be ready to respond when Antarctica says “Go!” We’ve now completed four Ilyushin flights in six days and have nine expedition teams in Antarctica.

Four expeditions have begun their South Pole treks from Hercules Inlet. Steffen Dahl and Alexander Gamme were dropped off at Hercules Inlet on October 29. Followed by Cas and Jonesy and the South Pole 1911-2011 team (Albert Bosch and Carles Gel) on October 30.

The teams report windy conditions, blowing snow and some crevassing as they pull uphill from the inlet onto the ice sheet. Temperatures are hovering around -10F (-23C) with 20-30 knot winds, creating a windchill of about -40F (-40C).

Sorpolen 2011 flew to their start point at the Bay of Whales and did a short first day on October 31, covering 12 miles (20km), crossing crevasses and experiencing the tricks that light can play in Antarctica.

South Pole – 100 Years After set off on November 1, covering 12 miles (20km) across the Ross Ice Shelf, with a fresh wind from the south and mild temperatures 3F (-16C).

The Scott-Amundsen Centenary Race is still at Union Glacier. Our meteorologist is keeping a close eye on the weather and we hope to fly the two teams to their Ross Ice Shelf expedition start points as soon as possible. November 1 was an emotional day  - for it was on this day 100 years ago that Scott's men embarked on their fateful journey to the South Pole. (Update. The two teams are currently flying to their expedition start points on the Ross Ice Shelf)

Twenty British Antarctic Survey (BAS) personnel are also enjoying Union Glacier hospitality while waiting for flying weather to Halley Research Station. Some of the group will spend the Antarctic summer finishing construction of Halley VI, while others will overwinter at the new facility. Halley has been occupied since 1956 – but like many Antarctic stations has been re-built several times due to snow accumulation.

More about Halley Research Station www.antarctica.ac.uk/living_and_working/research_stations/halley/index.php
More about Halley VI  www.antarctica.ac.uk/living_and_working/research_stations/halley/halleyvi/

The Sub-glacial Lake Ellsworth team has arrived at Union Glacier. They are busy organizing several loads of equipment and preparing for more to come on the next Ilyushin flight. More about Sub-glacial Lake Ellsworth Project http://www.ellsworth.org.uk/