Adventurer who grew up in Cedarburg plans a return to the South Pole, but this time on a bicycle to illustrate need for alternative transportation, perils of global warming
Polar adventurer Eric Larsen, who in 2010 completed his Save the Poles quest to reach the North Pole, South Pole and summit of Mount Everest in 365 days, will soon be off on another adventure to the South Pole — this time on a bicycle.
Larsen plans to bike 750 miles — from Hercules Inlet on the coast of Antarctica to the geographic South Pole — and back again, if conditions permit, on his Cycle South expedition.
He expects to start about Dec. 20, which is summer in the Antarctic but still gets barely above freezing along the coast and is usually way below freezing at the South Pole. On Dec. 25, 2011, the temperature reached an all-time recorded high of 9 degrees.
If Larsen succeeds, he will be the first person to reach the South Pole on a bike.
Larsen, who grew up in Cedarburg and now lives in Boulder, Colo., is the son of Judy and Andrew Larsen, director emeritus of Riveredge Nature Center in the Town of Saukville.
“It’s something he has been wanting to do since he came back from Antarctica, and he’s done some winter biking in Canada,” his mother said.
“He’s certainly taking all the precautions and safety measures he can. We’ll be following him on his website like everybody else.”
Larsen will pedal a Surly Moonlander bicycle with nearly five-inch-wide low-pressure tires to provide float and traction over snow and ice. He plans to cover 25 to 40 nautical miles a day and will get supplies three times on the solo journey.
His mission is to encourage people to ride bicycles more to protect the environment, bring attention to the effects of global warming in the Antarctic and raise money for several nonprofit organizations.
“There are more than a few reasons why no one has ever completed this challenge,” Larsen said. “However, I feel my experience and preparation will be critical factors in my success.
“Ultimately, the most important goal of this expedition is to raise donations for my nonprofit partners — the Davis Phinney Foundation, WorldBike and the Winter Wildlands Alliance.”
The Davis Phinney Foundation helps people with Parkinson’s disease, which affects his father. WorldBike provides bicycles and development opportunities to poor people worldwide and Winter Wildlands Alliance works to preserve wild areas and promote human-powered snow sports on public lands.
Larsen can’t seem to get enough of bitter cold temperatures and expeditions that test his endurance, both physically and psychologically.
In 2006, he and Lonnie Dupre completed the first summer expedition to the North Pole. The duo pulled and paddled canoes across 550 miles of shifting sea ice and open ocean. In 2008, Larsen led his first expedition to the South Pole, covering nearly 600 miles in 41 days.
“For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated by the variety of snow and ice that exists on our planet. To me the cold regions of the world represent one of the last frontiers of human exploration as well as some of largest remaining expanses of untouched wilderness,” he said in a interview for ExplorersWeb, in which he gave advice to others who may want to make similar trips.
Larsen plans to stay connected with followers through daily blogs on his website, tweets, podcasts and satellite phone. He will also send and receive texts via a satellite beacon.
Larsen worked with a variety of companies to develop clothing and equipment for the journey.
When he’s not on an adventure, Larsen is an expedition guide, dog musher and educator. He travels extensively giving motivational and educational lectures.
He is also working on the documentary “Colder” about his Save the Poles expedition.
Larsen and his partner Maria Hennessey have a 1-month-old son named Merritt.
More information on the expedition and ways to contribute can be found on Larsen’s website www.ericlarsenexplore.com.
Image Information: TRAINING in Canada, Eric Larsen tested his Surly Moonlander bicycle, which has nearly five-inch wide tires. Vast expanses of snow and ice are what he can expect in Antarctica. Photos courtesy of Eric Larsen