5th November 2007 - From the end of October until the end of January, the Slovak Polar explorer Peter Valušiak intended to attempt a sole crossing of Antarctica via the South Pole, by foot as well as on skis, without help and taking a route that has not yet been undertaken by anyone in such a purist style. Peter did not like to make a compromise and has therefore had to cancel his planned expedition for now. What had actually happened? ..
ANTARCTICA POSTPONED FOR A YEAR
PETER VALUŠIAK did not like to make a compromise and therefore had to forget his planned expedition.
From the end of October until the end of January, the Slovak Polar explorer Peter Valušiak intended to attempt a sole crossing of Antarctica via the South Pole, by foot as well as on skis, without help and taking a route that has not yet been undertaken by anyone in such a purist style. However, he is already back at home, in Slovakia.... What actually happened?
„“My departure was planned for early evening on the 19th of October from Vienna, and a chain of unfortunate events began in the morning that day. First of all, my mobile operator had already disconnected my phone by mistake on the day of departure at the very time when I still had a lot to organize. Whoever replaced the battery in my watch forgot to set the correct time. Then, I locked myself in a block of flats. On the way to the airport, we ran out of petrol and, finally, there was a bomb alert at Schwechat. ... I was accompanied by my friend, who was in charge of my luggage and who was taking care that none of my equipment disappeared while I organized the necessary formalities. In that chaos, our luggage was put on board even with its excess weight, and then a clever steward used the fact that the airplane had waited only for the two of us and charged us 5,500 Euro for the excess weight - 70 Euro per kilogram.”
The first flight was direct to Santiago de Chile. Was everything all right there?
“Not at all, that trouble in Europe was just the beginning. Because of bad weather in Santiago, the connection to Punta Arenas was delayed. In the meantime, we learned from news reports that a ship was on fire in Antarctica. But we didn’t know that it was the one which apart from others delivers fuel supplies to the Argentinean base close to my starting point, Berkner Island on the coast of Antarctica. The base was left without any fuel supplies, so the airplane that was to take me to Antarctica could not refuel there as planned. The plane arrived in Punta Arenas on the 27th of October. The next day, it took the first group of scientists and supplies to the Russian Belinghausen base. The plan was that I would be set down at Berkner Island during its second flight. The problem was that from Belinghausen, the plane returned with a broken front window. It was unable to fly and had to wait for a new window, especially made for this type of plane, to be delivered from Canada. The second airplane supplying the Russians because of the fire on the ship had to carry its own fuel, so according to the regulations it couldn’t transport any passengers.”
When one is already so far away, he usually looks for various, apparently unreal solutions ...
“The alternative variant was to fly to the nearby English base. On the 29th of October, I was aboard an airplane flying there direct, with customs and all formalities settled. Upon his departure to the base, the pilot also reported having a commercial client - me - aboard. Because of that the base commander didn’t allow the pilot to refuel.
We were interested in what happened to his 150 kg of equipment that he was initially going to pull behind him on a sled ...
“At least that is all right. My staff flew from Punta Arenas to the Russian Novolazarevskaja base in Antarctica on 10th of November, along with all of my long-lasting food supplies. Those that would go bad, such as snacks or dried fruit, I gave to the natives.”
Logically that could mean that you plan another attempt to make the planned crossing? “Yes. In the Shackleton Range, the Russians are going to build some commercial base to support tours and expeditions to the continent, the same as the Americans have at Patriot Hills. It will be located on the coast of the Filchner Ice Shelf, geographically closer to the sea than the US base. We agreed that next year, the best time being in October, they will take me from Cape Town to the Filchner Ice Shelf and from there to the shore. I won’t make any compromises, next year I’m going to do the same as I planned this year.”
Primarily, a two-masted boat should have come to the coast of Antarctica by the end of January of the next year, apart from others aboard with the film-maker Pavol Barabáš and others of Peter’s friends. What is happening with this idea?
“First of all, we altogether wanted to try an ascent of the Arctic coastal Mount Erebus volcano, which is 3,795 m high and then to sail the polar waters towards New Zealand. However, this project has also been postponed this year.”
Due to unfavourable circumstances, Peter Valušiak will unfortunately have to wait one more year for this next Antarctic connection with home.
WHAT IS IT ABOUT?
“It’s about an intense, unrepeatable experience. I’m not an extrovert, so I have to thank those few people who supported me regardless. Now, before takeoff, I may look confident, but I feel respect and little bit of fear for any expedition, because anything could happen out there.” (Peter Valušiak)