Friday, May 8, 2015

Friday Photo - Biking to the South Pole

Dan Burton road across Antarctica to the South Pole

In 2012, Helen Skelton of Great Britain reached the South Pole by a combination of cycling, skiing and kiting. This was the first time anyone used a bicycle to get to the South Pole.

Eric Larsen attempted to become the first person to reach the South Pole from the Antarctic coast solely by bicycle. Previously he had journeyed to the North Pole, South Pole and summit of Mt. Everest within a one-year time span. His plan was to arrive at the pole in January of 2013. He was able to cover 175 of the 750 miles from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole before he was forced to abandon the attempt. It had taken him ten days to cover the 175 miles, and at that pace his supplies were insufficient.

Dan Burton of Utah, a distant relative of the famous Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackelton, heard about Eric Larson's attempt. When Larsen was unsuccessful, Burton decided he would take a crack at it. Now Dan's background is a little different from the others. Ms. Skelton has kayaked the entire length of the Amazon River and finished the 78-mile Namibian Ultra-marathon. Mr. Larsen has been doing polar expeditions since 2006. Dan Burton wrote software for 23 years. He was also born a little earlier (1963) than Larsen (1971) or Skelton (1983). When Burton was laid off from his software job, he decided to open a bike shop. He also wanted to get healthier, since his blood pressure, cholesterol and weight were a bit high.

When customers at his bike shop started asking about fat tire bicycles, which he decided to purchase and rent out a couple. He rode one of them across Utah Lake on New Year's Day. After Larsen's abandonment, Dan started seriously planning his attempt. He studied what Larsen had done, asking "Why was he unsuccessful?" He decided to do a couple things differently. Rather than using panniers, he pulled a sled behind his bike. This would make the bike less likely to sink into the snow, and the sled would not catch the wind like panniers would. Burton also realized that Larsen made decent time, but he started too late in the season. Dan calculated that he needed at least 60 days for the attempt.

Burton started out for the pole in late 2013. Before he arrived at the pole, Maria Leijerstam from Great Britain beat him there, using a recumbent tricycle, motorized support, a shorter route and the McMurdo-South Pole Highway, a compacted snow road. Burton made it to the pole solo, over unaltered terrain, although he did have supplies cached along the route. Check out his blog for more information about the trip. It still remains for someone to cycle to the pole without re-supply.

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