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RACE INFO

ITINERARY - 2016

Airport
  • Ushuaia Airport (USH)
Headquarters Location
  • Ushuaia, Argentina
Event Hotel
  • Hotel accommodation in Ushuaia is not provided but recommendations will be given
Dates
  • 18 - 29 November 2016
    * NOTE: That this is one day longer in previous editions.
Day 1 (18 Nov): Depart from Ushuaia

A pre-race competitor briefing will take place on Day 1 in the town of Ushuaia. In the afternoon, participants will board the expedition ship, meet the expedition ship crew and go through a safety briefing. After settling into the ship’s cabins (twin sharing), we will sail through the famous Beagle Channel and scenic Mackinlay Pass.

Days 2 & 3 (19 & 20 Nov): At Sea

Named after the renowned explorer Sir Francis Drake, who sailed these waters in 1578, the Drake Passage also marks the Antarctic Convergence, a biological barrier where cold polar water sinks beneath the warmer northern waters. This creates a great upwelling of nutrients, which sustains the biodiversity of this region. As a result, the Drake Passage also marks the northern limit of many Antarctic seabirds. As we sail across the passage, expedition lecturers will be available to help in the identification of an amazing variety of seabirds, including Wandering Albatrosses, Grey Headed Albatrosses, Black-browed Albatrosses, Light- mantled Sooty Albatrosses, Cape Pigeons, Southern Fulmars, Wilson’s Storm Petrels, Blue Petrels and Antarctic Petrels which follow in our wake. A full program of lectures will be offered. In the past, we have been treated to many sightings of whales and other sealife. The first views of icebergs and snow-capped mountains will indicate that we have reached the South Shetland Islands, a group of twenty islands and islets first sighted in February 1819 by Captain William Smith of the Brig Williams.

Days 4 – 9 (21 - 26 Nov): Antarctica

We will land, weather permitting, on several locations in and around the Antarctic Peninsula and Mainland and embark on what will be the final journey of the 4 Deserts for many competitors.

The Antarctic Peninsula's remarkable history will provide a type of excitement often only associated with the early explorers. You will have time to explore the amazing scenery, a pristine wilderness of snow, ice, mountains and waterways, and an incredibly wide variety of wildlife. Apart from penguins and seabirds you are very likely to see Weddell, Crabeater and Leopard seals as well as Minke, Killer (Orca) and Humpback whales at close range.

Locations where we may land include:

The South Shetland Islands are a haven for wildlife. Vast penguin rookeries, beaches ruled by Antarctic fur seals and southern elephant seals make every day spent in this amazing island group unforgettable.

Jougla Point forms the west side of the entrance to Alice Creek in Port Lockroy. It lies on the west side of Wiencke Island, in the Palmer Archipelago.

Deception Island is reached by sailing through the narrow passage into the flooded caldera of the horseshoe-shaped island. Seeing the hot springs of Pendulum Cove is truly amazing.

Petermann Island (if ice conditions permit) for a visit to the southernmost colony of Gentoo Penguins and a stage of the race. Paradise Bay is perhaps the most aptly named place in the world. It is on the continent (or “Mainland”) and requires the ship to navigate the iceberg-strewn waters of the Antarctic Sound. Bustling Adélie Penguin (over 100,000 pairs breed here) and Blue-eyed Cormorant colonies on Paulet Island close-by. The Nordenskjöld expedition built a stone survival hut here in 1903. Today its ruins have been taken over by nesting penguins.

Other landing sites could include Melchior Island, Aitcho Island, Dorian Bay, Cuverville Island, Portal Point, Neko Harbour, Lamaire, Port Charcot, Booth, Pléneau Island, Hoovgard Island, Waddington Bay and others.

Depending on the ice conditions, we will also navigate some beautiful waterways like the Gerlache Strait, Neumayer Channel and Lemaire Channel. The latter channel involves narrow passages between towering rock faces and spectacular glaciers.

Days 10 – 11 (27 & 28 Nov): At Sea

We will leave Antarctica, having completed The Last Desert 2016, and head north across the Drake Passage. You may join lecturers and naturalists on deck as they search for seabirds and whales and enjoy some final lectures indoors. You can take the chance to relax and reflect on the truly remarkable 4 Deserts expedition of the past week and the past year(s) on the way back to Ushuaia.

During the return trip, we will hold the traditional Awards Banquet on the expedition trip. Amongst awards presented at the banquet include unique trophies for the male and female 4 Deserts Champions for 2016, pewter plates to The Last Desert Champions and medals to new inductees into the 4 Deserts Club and 4 Deserts Grand Slam Club.

Day 12 (29 Nov): Arrival in Ushuaia

We will arrive in Ushuaia in the early morning and disembark the ship after breakfast.

Please Note: The above itinerary is a guide only. Our exact route and program will vary to take best advantage of local weather and ice conditions. Changes will be made by the Captain and/or the 4 Deserts to facilitate the best results from the prevailing conditions. A daily race briefing will be given on board. Flexibility is the key to success.

We highly advise you to purchase a flexible plane ticket and to arrive well in advance in case of any problems with your flights. Although not likely, the itinerary is subject to change and the 4 Deserts will not be held responsible for any fees incurred due to airline ticket changes, re-bookings, etc.

*Note that all times are approximate and may change.

LOCATION, WEATHER & CULTURE

Antarctica is the largest desert in the world, and it is often referred to as the "White Desert." The Last Desert is the only multi-stage race on the Antarctic continent. The Last Desert is held around he Antarctic Peninsula, with a remarkable history of early polar exploration and whaling. The scenery of icebergs, mountains, research bases and incredble wildlife are unparalleled anywhere else on the Antarctic continent.

The Last Desert explores the pristine scenery of snow, ice, mountains and waterways and wide variety of wildlife inlcuding penguins, birds, whales and seals.

LOCATION

Antarctica is its own continent. It contains the geographic South Pole and is surrounded by the Southern Ocean.

The Last Desert starts from Ushuaia, at the very southern tip of Argentina. Competitors board an expedition ship that serves as both a home and base camp for the duration of the race.

After a two-day voyage across the notorious Drake Passage, the first sightings of icebergs and snow-capped mountains indicate that competitors have reached Antarctica.

Weather permitting, The Last Desert takes place in up to six locations in and around the Antarctic Peninsula and Mainland. It is the only race of its kind on the White Continent.

Locations where stages may take place include:

  • The South Shetland Islands – where they will see the only sign of other human life at the research stations located on King George Island
  • Deception Island - which is reached by entering the narrow passage into the flooded caldera of the horse-shoe shaped island
  • Paradise Bay on the Antarctic mainland - it could not have a more apt name
  • Melchoir Island, Aitcho Island, Dorian Bay, Cuverville Island, Neko Harbour, Danko Island and Wiencke Island
  • Other locations (we are constantly expoloring new locations)

We will also navigate some beautiful waterways such as the Gerlache Strait, Neumayer Channel and Lemaire Channel. The latter channel involves narrow passages between towering rock faces and spectacular glaciers.

WEATHER & GEOGRAPHY

Antarctica is the largest desert in the world. Despite holding 70% of the worlds fresh water (as ice) it has an annual precipitation of only 200 mm / 8 inches. About 98% of Antarctica is covered by ice which is an average of 2 kilometers / 1.3 miles thick. It is its own continent and is nearly twice the size of Australia.

Antarctica is considered is the coldest, driest, and windiest continent and has the highest average elevation of all the continents - temperatures have reached −89.2 °C / -128.6 °F.

The Last Desert takes place in November at the start of the Southern Hemisphere summer. This means that there is still significant snow and ice but the temperatures are manageable. You should expect temperatures down to -20C / -4F while running, but the temperatures can drop rapidy at this time of year. It can also be very windy. When the sun comes out it will be closer to 10C / 50F. The sun is very strong – you must be sure to take strong precautions against sunburn and snow blindness. There is also more than 20 hours of daylihgt in Antarctica at this time of year.

One of the main features of weather in Antarctica is that it changes VERY fast.Everything during a visit to Antarctica is weather dependent. The weather can affect the locations where we have a stage, the start time of a stage, the finish time of a stage, the number of stages and the type of terrain.

CULTURE/HISTORY

It is believed that no human had set eyes on Antarctic land until 1820. It was in 1901 when the National Arctic Expedition lead by Captain Scott reached Antarctica. This was shortly before Shackleton’s famous expedition to the South Pole. As of 2016, there are about 135 permanent residents with up to 5,000 people residing throughout the year at the research stations scattered across the continent.

Antarctica is a de facto condominium, governed by parties to the Antarctic Treaty System that have consulting status. Twelve countries signed the Antarctic Treaty in 1959, and thirty-eight have signed it since that thime. The treaty prohibits military activities and mineral mining, nuclear explosions and nuclear waste disposal. It supports scientific research, and protects the continent.

It is the history and wildlife that gives Antarctica its culture – and it has both of these in abundance!

Animal

The primary and most seen animals in Antarctica are: penguins, whales, colossal squid and seals. At The Last Desert you will definitely see various species of penguins and seals – both which choose to come and see the race course – sometimes requiring the course to be changed mid-stage to avoid them(!). On every edition of The Last Desert there have also been some impressive whale sightings.

There are seventeen species of pengiuns in existence – seven species of penguin are found in Antarctica: Adélies, Chinstraps, Emperors, Gentoos, Macaronis, and Rockhoppers. As well as penguins there are also more than forty-five other species of birds that are commonly seen in Antarctica – although many migrate elsewhere at different times of the year. The most common sightings (other than penguins) are Albatross, Petrels, Cormorants and Terns.

There are six different species of seals in Antarctica: Ross, Weddell, crabeater, leopard, fur and elephant seals. Fur seals are the smallest, with adult females weighing only 150 kg, while male elephant seals can weigh 4000 kg! Antarctic fur seals were very heavily hunted in the 18th and 19th centuries. In some locations ysou can see the remainder of some old whaling stations – the one still most in tact is at Deception Island.

Some of the highlights of The Last Desert include vast penguin rookeries, beaches ruled by Antarctic fur seals, Paradise Bay - perhaps the most aptly named place in the world, navigating iceberg-strewn waters of the Antarctic Sound and the ruins of huts and whaling stations that have been taken over by nesting penguins.

History

Antartica has a fascinating history – with no native inhabitants it wasn’t until the 1800’s that anyone set eyes on Antarctic land.

As you sail across the Drake Passage from Ushuaia imagine doing the same trip more than 200 years ago in a small wooden ship.

Below is a timeline which is the best way to show the true diversity of Antarctica’s history.

1773

Captain James Cook became the first person to cross the Antarctic Circle.

1819

British mariner William Smith discovered the South Shetland Islands.

1819-1823

James Wendell captained two sealing expeditions where he discovered a new species of seal and reached a record latitude of 74° 15' S.

1820

The Antarctic continent was first seen by human eyes. Historians have disagreed on who those eyes belonged to; at least one possible claimant is believed to have seen land but mistaken it for ice at the time. Credit for being the first man to see the continent has been divided between three men who made separate voyages to Antarctica that year:

Fabian von Bellingshausen, a captain in the Russian Imperial Navy;

Edward Bransfield, a captain in the British navy;

Nathaniel Brown Palmer, an American sealer.

1840

Frenchman ules-Sébastien-César Dumont d'Urville became the first person to set foot on Antarctica. (Some historians believe that John Davis, an American sealer, may have set foot on the Antarctic Peninsula in 1821, but even he was unsure if he landed on the continent itself or a nearby island.)

1841

James Clark Ross discovered what is now known as Ross Island. He also sailed along a huge wall of ice that was later named the Ross Ice Shelf.

1897

A ship headed by Adrien Victor Joseph de Gerlache de Gomery was stuck in the Antarctic ice and was forced to stay the entire winter. De Gerlache also brought back the first photographs of the continent.

1898

A British-funded expedition headed by Carsten Egeberg Borchgrevink was the first to set up a base in Antarctica.

1901-1904

The Briton Capt. Robert Falcon Scott led the National Antarctic Expedition, often referred to as the "Discovery expedition." Many important geographical and scientific discoveries were made on this trip.

1907-1909

Ernest H. Shackleton led an expedition that set up camp on Cape Royds. Shackleton and members of his crew were the first to reach the south magnetic pole.

1911

Norwegian Roald Gravning Amundsen and his party reached the South Pole.

1912

Capt. Scott and members of his crew died on a trip to the South Pole.

1914

Shackleton attempted to cross the "South Polar continent from sea to sea." Although the attempt failed after his ship, the Endurance, was trapped and crushed in the Wendell Sea, no lives was lost.

1928

The first airplane flight was made by Sir George Hubert Wilkins.

1929

Richard E. Byrd made the first flights over the South Pole.

1945-1957

The U.S. Navy conducted Operation Highjump, the largest expedition ever sent to Antarctica

1956

The first winter was spent at McMurdo station.

1957-1958

The International Geophysical Year (IGY) brought together scientific activities of 67 countries.

1959

The Antarctic Treaty was signed on Dec. 1, establishing the legal framework for the management of Antarctica.

1963

The Antarctic Treaty was entered into force on June 23.

1991

Twenty-four countries signed an agreement that barred exploration of Antarctica for oil or mineral deposits for 50 years.

2006

Fifteen competitors in The Last Desert (Antarctica) 2006 completed the first ever 100 mile race on Esperenza, Antarctica. The competitors went on to complete 250 kilometers in three locations including Esperenza, Deception Island and King George Island.

Course

Competitors may visit these ten locations during The Last Desert (Antarctica). All locations are weather permitting and descriptions are provided below.

Aitcho Island

Position at 62°23'29'S / 59°46'10'W

The Aitcho Islands ('Aitcho' standing for 'H.O.' i.e., 'Hydrographic Office') are a group of minor islands in the north entrance to the English Strait separating Greenwich Island and Robert Island in the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica, and are situated between Dee Island to the south and Table Island to the north. The islands were mapped in 1935 during the oceanographic investigations carried out by the Discovery Committee and named after the Hydrographic Office of the UK Admiralty.

Competitors in The Last Desert 2007 completed their first stage on Aitcho Island.


Cuverville Island

Position at 64°41'S / 062°38'W

Cuverville Island (or Île de Cavelier de Cuverville) is a dark, rocky island lying in Errera Channel between Arctowski Peninsula and the northern part of Rongé Island, off the west coast of Graham Land. Cuverville Island was discovered by the Belgian Antarctic Expedition (1897-1899) under Adrien de Gerlache, who named it for J.M.A. Cavelier de Cuverville (1834-1912), a vice admiral of the French Navy. In the summer, Cuverville is often home to a well-sized rookery of Gentoo Penguins.

Competitors in The Last Desert 2007 ran on the top of Cuverville Island, one of the most spectacular locations in all of Antarctica. Competitors in The Last Desert 2008 ran in the foothills of Cuverville Island during their first stage.


Deception Island

Position at 62°58'37'S / 60°39'00'W

Deception Island is a near circular shape with a diameter of about 12 kilometers / 7 miles. Its highest point, Mt. Pond, has an elevation of 542 meters / 1,778 feet, and over half of the island is covered by glaciers.

Long ago, volcanic pressure on Deception Island resulted in a tremendous eruption that caused the island’s peak to explode. The resulting caldera flooded with seawater, creating the unique landmass that competitors may visit today. Thousands of Chinstrap Penguins inhabit the volcanic slopes of the island, along with nesting Pintado Petrels and Antarctic Terns.

Nestled among the South Shetland Islands, Deception Island is easily recognized on a map by its horseshoe shape. Its collapsed volcanic caldera is breached at Neptune's Bellows and makes for one of the world's safest natural harbors, despite the volcano's periodic eruptions. Ships enter the relatively calm waters of Port Forster (12 kilometers / 7.5 miles wide) through the caldera's breach that is surrounded by snow-covered hills that reach 580 meters / 1,900 feet. The island has an interesting history - it was a base for several early exploratory missions - and is still a disputed territory between the Argentineans and the British.

The volcano is still very active and its eruptions have caused evacuations and considerable damage to the stations there (during the 1920-21 whaling season the harbor water boiled and stripped the paint off the ships' hulls). The most recent eruption was in 1991-92.

Part of what brings ships to the island is that the volcanic activity thermally heats the waters of Pendulum Cove (so-called because of the British pendulum and magnetism experiments held there last century) and competitors can take a dip. It's not deep enough for swimming. You do have to be careful, however, because if you move even a meter from the warm water you might find your skin blistering from a near-boiling patch or goose-bumping from an unheated patch. There are large colonies of Chinstrap Penguins on the exterior coast, but few marine animals enter the harbor because there are numerous volcanic vents that heat the water to several degrees above the sea surrounding the island.

Competitors in The Last Desert 2006 ran a marathon stage on this island and were treated to a wonderful thermal bath at the finish line. Competitors in The Last Desert 2007 and The Last Desert 2010 also ran on this unique horseshoe island.


Dorian Bay

Position at 64°48'S / 63°30'W

Dorian Bay is a cove on the northwest side of Wiencke Island, located 0.5 mile E-NE of Damoy Point, in the Palmer Archipelago. British and Argentine huts may be found on-site. Damoy Point is the north entrance point to Port Lockroy harbor and on the west side of Wiencke Island in the Palmer Archipelago. The point was discovered and named by Charcot’s French Antarctic expedition (1903-05).

From inner Dorian Bay, the land rises gently from a bare, rocky landing to two huts, one a well-maintained and stocked British refuge hut, the second a small Argentinean hut. The landing area below the huts is a minor sand beach, interspersed with many glaciated, polished rocks. Behind them the land rises gently on one side to a rounded, bare hilltop 30-40 meters above sea level. On the other side a steep snowy slope leads up onto the end of a glacier. The site’s outcrops are mainly low, smooth and polished. At an elevation of 6-7 meters above sea level, there are outcrops nearly covered with many small and well-rounded fragments of granitic, gneiss/schist, and other materials. British and Argentine huts are located on site.

The Last Desert Competitors in 2010 ran on this scenic bay.


Esperenza

Position at 63°24'S / 56°59'W

The Argentine Base Esperanza (Spanish "Hope Base") is located in Hope Bay, Trinity Peninsula, Antarctic Peninsula. Built in 1952, the base houses 55 inhabitants in winter, including 10 families and 2 school teachers.

There are remains of an expedition hut from a Swedish expedition that wintered there in 1903. The Argentine Esperanza Research Station, Adelie Penguins and Snowy Sheathbills are some of the highlights. Esperanza Base has some measure of fame because it is the birthplace of Emilio Marcos Palma, the first person to be born in Antarctica. The Base's motto is "Permanencia, un acto de sacrificio" ("Permanence, an act of sacrifice").

Competitors in The Last Desert 2006 completed the Antarctic continent’s first 100-mile stage on this location.


King George Island

Position at 62°02'S /58°21'W

King George Island is the largest of the South Shetland Islands. There are numerous international research stations on this island including the Polish Arctowski Station and the Brazilian Ferraz Station Admiralty Bay. On the western side there are Russian, Chilean, Chinese, Korean, and Uruguayan stations. Competitors may have an opportunity to visit one of these stations while completing a stage on this island.

King George Island also contains an airstrip on which competitors in The Last Desert 2006 flew into to begin The Last Desert in 2006. Competitors in The Last Desert 2006 ran their final stage on this island, while competitors in The Last Desert 2010 ran their first stage here.


Neko Harbour

Position at 64°50'S / 062°33'W

Neko Harbour is a harbour in Antarctica on Andvord Bay, situated on the west coast of Graham Land. Neko Harbour was discovered by Belgian explorer Adrien de Gerlache in the early 20th century. It was named for a Norwegian whaling boat, the Neko, which operated in the area between 1911 and 1924.

Competitors ran in this location in The Last Desert in 2007, 2008 and 2012. Ice crashing into the sea, also known as “calving,” can be heard from this location. This location offers stunning views but also a large hill which competitors have to traverse.

Paradise Bay

Position at 64°54'S / 63°32'W

Paradise Bay is a harbor in West Antarctica. The Argentinean scientific base, Almirante Brown Antarctic Base, is located on the banks of Paradise Bay, as is the Chilean scientific base, González Videla Antarctic Base. Almirante Brown Antarctic Base is an Argentine base named after Admiral Guillermo Brown, the father of the Argentine Navy. The original station located in Paradise Bay was burned down in 1984. The base has been partially rebuilt, but is occupied only in the summer season.

Competitors in The Last Desert 2006 ran in this location. It offers spectacular views.


Petermann Island

Position at 65°10'S / 064°10'W

Petermann Island is a small island just off the west side of the Antarctic Peninsula of Antarctica, located at 65 deg 10 min S, 64 deg 10 min W, just a short distance south of Booth Island and the Lemaire Channel. Just 2 kilometers long, the low rounded island is home to the world's southernmost colony of Gentoo Penguins and also hosts a number of Adelie Penguins. The island was discovered by a German expedition of 1873-74, who named it after geographer August Petermann. The French Antarctic Expedition of 1908-10 wintered over aboard ship in a cove on the southeast side of the island, named Port Circumcision because it was spotted 1 January 1909, the traditional day for the Feast of the Circumcision. Huts built by the expedition are gone, although a cairn remains, along with a refuge hut built by Argentina in 1955, and a cross commemorating three members of the British Antarctic Survey who died in a 1982 attempt to cross the sea ice from Faraday station to Petermann.

Competitors in The Last Desert 2008 ran in this location. It is one of the most beautiful locations in Antarctica.


Port Lockroy

Position at 64°49’S/ 63°29’W

Port Lockroy is a natural harbour on the Antarctic Peninsula of the British Antarctic Territory. After its discovery in 1903 by the French Antarctic Expedition it was used for whaling and British military operations (Operation Tabarin) during World War II and then continued to operate as a British research station until 1962. In 1996 Port Lockroy was renovated and is now a museum and post office operated by the United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust. It is designated as Historic Site no. 61 under the Antarctic Treaty and one of the most popular tourist destinations in Antarctica. Lockroy was named after Edouard Lockroy, a French politician and Vice President of the Chamber of Deputies, who assisted Jean-Baptiste Charcot in obtaining government support for the French expedition.

Time permitting, we will visit this location to see the museum.

QUICK FACTS Show All   |   Hide All

The Last Desert remains the only multi-day stage race on the Antarctic continent.

All competitors for The Last Desert must qualify for the event by having successfully completed at least two of the other 4 Deserts - the Gobi March (China), the Atacama Crossing (Chile) and /or the Sahara Race (Namibia).

The starting point for The Last Desert (Antarctica) is Ushuaia, a town at the very southern tip of Argentina.

Competitors will board an expedition ship to sail across the Drake Passage – the expedition ship will be their base for the duration of the event.

Competitors may have the opportunity to bathe in thermal waters on Deception Island and camp on the shore of Antarctica.

South Shetland Islands, Wiencke Island, Port Lockroy, Petermann Island, Paradise Bay, Neko Harbour, Aitcho Island, Cuverville Island and Dorian Bay are just some of the locations where stages of The Last Desert could take place.

Up toThe terrain is largely snow that varies in depth from just a few centimeters to a meter deep.

Temperatures on the course could reach as low as -20°C / -4°F.

The Approximately eighty individuals are expected to compete in The Last Desert 2016 – view the competitor list for full details.

More than half of those competing in The Last Desert will join the 4 Deserts Club when they cross the final finish line.

Approximately 25% of the competitor field is female and 75% percent is male.

In 2014, nineteen competitors completed the 4 Deserts Grand Slam (a competition to complete all 4 Deserts in one calendar year), concluding at The Last Desert 2014. In total, only 48 individuals have achieved a 4 Deserts Grand Slam title.

In 2014, Paul Borlinha of Canada became the third person in history, after James Gaston of the United States and Stan Lee of Canada, to complete the Grand Slam Plus. This is doing all 4 Deserts races as well as the Roving Race in one calendar year.

NBC Sports produced a film of The Last Desert (Antarctica) 2007, MBC filmed The Last Desert (Antarctica) 2008 and TransWorld Sport filmed The Last Desert (Antarctica) 2010.

Many competitors are raising money for charities through The Last Desert (Antarctica).

Competitors are required to pass through up to 30 checkpoints throughout the seven-day event before crossing the finish line.

 

FAQ Show All   |   Hide All

1: What is The Last Desert?

The Last Desert is a multi-stage 250-kilometer footrace on the Antarctic Peninsula.

2: Is The Last Desert an ultramarathon, adventure race, expedition race or some kind of extreme race?

The Last Desert is part of the 4 Deserts Race Series, a unique worldwide endurance series. There is no other event series like it in the world.

3: Why was this location chosen for The Last Desert?

Deserts are separated into four categories: subtropical, cool coastal, cold winter and polar. The 4 Deserts is located in the largest desert of each category which also represents the driest, hottest, coldest and windiest places on Earth. The course has also been set up to pass through some of the most beautiful, pristine land on Earth.

4: Do I have to complete one or more of the 4 Deserts events first?

The Roving Race series is completely separate to the 4 Deserts, although it is organised by the same company and follows the same format. You do not need to complete a 4 Deserts event in order to take part in RacingThePlanet: Patagonia 2017 , anyone may apply for a place in a 4 Deserts or Roving Race event. However, Roving Races do not count towards qualification for The Last Desert (Antarctica)

5: What is the format of The Last Desert?

The Last Desert is a multi-stage, 250-kilometer footrace held in three to five locations on and around the Antarctic Peninsula. Each individual must carry a minimal amount of mandatory equipment. Assistance, including water (plenty), shelter and medical assistance, is provided throughout the race.

6: Where do competitors sleep each night?

The Last Desert (Antarctica) competitors sleep on the expedition ship

7: Who typically competes in The Last Desert?

The typical competitor is a working professional, a high achiever – someone who believes in maximizing every opportunity in life. Our competitors generally work full time, some have families, many do a lot of community service and all lead a healthy lifestyle. Our competitors consist of medical doctors, professors, investment bankers, small business owners, actor, actresses, entrepreneurs, journalists, top athletes and coaches, military professionals, managers and stay-at-home moms and dads. We have many father/son, father/daughter, mother/son and brother/sister competitors..

8: I don’t think I can run 250 kilometers, can I still make the cutoff times?

The event is set up to allow for generous cutoff times. The leaders run the whole course, and many walk the whole course.

9: How much training will be required?

Our competitors are busy professionals – we don’t expect them to train all the time. Many complete the event with minimal training, some want to win and thus train a lot. Each competitor has his or her own goal. We simply want everyone to finish.

10: Why do you limit the number of competitors in each event to a relatively small number?

The Last Desert is a unique, special experience. Deserts are stunningly beautiful because they are (1) remote and pristine and (2) sparsely populated. Solitude leads to a very spiritual experience.

11: What else is special about The Last Desert?

The Last Desert competitors must qualify for the race by successfully completing two of the other races in the 4 Deserts Race Series.

12: What is the best part of the event?

Many say it’s the competitors themselves – that they leave the event with a new set of friends from all over the world. Many call on these new friends in business later or just to have dinner when passing through someone’s hometown. Some have even met their future spouse!

13: Can I run for a charity?

Absolutely - we encourage it. Giving back is one of the primary themes of the 4 Deserts mission. Many of our competitors have raised significant amounts of money for charities all over the world.

15 : Any last words to describe the 4 Deserts?

Life enhancing for all, life changing for many.

EQUIPMENT

Competitors are required to carry mandatory equipment items during the week of the event. Mandatory equipment will be reviewed at Competitor Check-In at the host hotel and on the course during the week of the event. Failure to have an item will result in a penalty or not being able to start / continue the event.

Download the Equipment List to make sure that you know what is required for each mandatory equipment item. You can also review the photos and descriptions of each item below. All items are available at the RacingThePlanet Store.

Your backpack / rucksack should be capable of carrying all of your mandatory and optional equipment. A 25-30L backpack is optimal. When full, most competitor backpacks range in weight from 7-15kg / 15-33lbs while the average backpack weighs 9kg / 20lbs without water.

Note: There is no one backpack model that works for everyone.

The waterproof bag must be a minimum of 35 liters in size. There is a chance of rain, and it is vital that you keep the contents of your backpack (in particular, your sleeping bag and camp clothes) dry. Using a combination of smaller waterproof bags does not fulfill this requirement.

The minimum requirement combination of sleeping bag plus bag liner is 0°C / 32°F. If you are sensitive to cold temperatures you may want to look at combinations below this temperature.

Competitors are required to carry two light sources during the event one must be a headlamp or handheld torch. Both lights must be strong enough to use when on the course at night on uneven terrain.

The red flashing light is required in in addition to your headlamp and back-up light. This is to be attached to the rear of your backpack and switched on when you are on the course in the dark.

A small knife or multi-tool has multiple uses during the event.

A whistle can be used to attract attention in case of an emergency. Note that many backpacks include a whistle on the buckle - this is not sufficient. You must have an emergency whistle.

A mirror can be used to attract attention in case of an emergency.

The survival bivvy / bag must be a closed bivvy bag (not a blanket) made of reflective material. We recommend a thick bag that you can repack easily as you may want to use it over your sleeping bag in cold or wet weather conditions.

Any model of compass is adequate however, a compass as a part of a watch is not sufficient.

Note: There is no navigation in the event.

Ideally bring more than one eating utensil (e.g. fork or spoon) in case you lose one.

You must have minimum of 60 ml / 2 fl oz of sunscreen. Choose a brand with high SPF that is waterproof, sweat-proof and non-greasy.

Lip sunscreen is necessary to protect lips from the sun.

Bring an adequate 7-day supply (at least 12 mild pain relief pills) so that you are not dependent on medication from the event medical team.

Important Note: You should seek advice from your doctor about any medication that you plan to take during the race, including any form of painkillers. If you take painkillers, Tylenol / Paracetamol / Acetaminophen are preferred over anti-inflammatory medications such as Ibuprofen / Neurofen / Advil / Motrin / Naprosyn and others. It is NOT advised to take anti-inflammatory medication on the course. Please read the expert article called Painkillers Used during Ultramarathons for more details.

The following list is a minimum requirement for the blister kit. You may need more supplies based on your experience and prior history of foot blisters:

  • 10 x alcohol wipes
  • 2 x hypodermic needles or safety pins
  • 1 x roll of paper tape (i.e. Micropore)
  • 1 x roll of elastic tape (i.e. Elastikon)
  • 5 x Spenco 2nd Skin or Compeed pads

Note 1: Lubricant such as Bodyglide or Loob is also highly recommended. Foot powder is recommended for feet that sweat a lot.

Note 2: You should try to anticipate the amount of supplies you will need for 7 days. If you do not bring enough supplies, you could be at risk of developing more severe blisters that could jeopardize your ability to finish the race.recommended. Foot powder is recommended for feet that sweat a lot.

The compression bandage must be a minimum size of 7.5 cm/3 in wide x 4.5 m/14 ft long (6 cm/2.4 inches in diameter).

A minimum of 10 safety pins are required for attaching your bib number and event patch and for multiple uses during the event. Heavy duty, large pins work best.

A minimum of 60 ml / 2 fl oz of alcohol gel is required. Alcohol wipes cannot replace alcohol gel, but you may choose to carry both.

A 7-day supply of toilet tissue is mandatory as no tissues / paper will be provided for toilet use. It is recommended to also bring wet wipes.

Competitors should wear trail or running shoes. Consider buying your shoes 1 to 2 sizes larger than you would normally wear to account for swelling and tape for blisters.

Two pairs of socks are required, but 6-7 pairs are recommended to allow for a fresh pair for each day on the course. Many competitors wear two layers of socks at one time.

Two pairs of shorts / tights / pants are required. One pair must cover your full leg.

One shirt is required, but we recommend two shirts, including one that is long-sleeved for sun protection and / or warmth in cold temperatures. Quick dry materials in light colors are recommended.

Temperatures in the desert can get very cold. This must be a warm top (preferably fleece or down jacket). An alternative is a thick, long-sleeve capilene top.

The jacket must be fully waterproof (preferably also windproof) to keep you dry and warm.

A rain poncho is required for additional warmth and wet protection. It is lightweight and easy to put on / take off when the weather changes.

It is required that you wear a cap with a neck cover (such as legionnaire design) or have a cap with a Buff to cover both your head and neck.

A warm hat is required for cold temperatures. A Buff does not fulfill this requirement.

Full finger gloves are required for warmth in the cold.

Any pair of UV protection sunglasses fulfills this requirement. Only 1 pair is mandatory but it is recommended to take 2 pairs as sunglasses are often lost or broken.

You must provide your own nationality patches to wear on both sleeves of all tops (including jackets) throughout the event. These are in addition to the 4 Deserts patches which are provided by the 4 Deserts.

We will send you a set of eight 4 Deserts patches approximately 6 weeks before the event. You do not need to purchase these patches.

You must be able to carry containers that can hold 2.5 liters of water at all times. We advise having capacity for 1.5 liters in bottles or a bladder that are easy to access and fill up. In addition to this, you must have a separate Platypus SoftBottle for 1.0 liter (or 2 soft bottles for 0.5L), which folds up inside your backpack, when not being used.

You must have a hydration system that is able to hold 2.5 liters of water at all times. The most common choices are:

Bottles: These allow for more flexibility they can be attached to the shoulder straps of your backpack, put in a front pack, kept in the backpack with a Platypus Drink Tube or carried by hand.

Hydration bladders: A popular choice, but sometimes difficult to know how much fluid you have drunk; can also be difficult to fill quickly.

Maintaining your body's electrolyte balance is critical for a safe race. It is strongly recommended to bring a mixture of electrolyte tablets and electrolyte drink powders. You must bring a minimum of:

  • Enough powder to make a minimum of 30 liters of drink OR
  • Enough salt tablets / Endurolytes for 30 hours on the course (usually minimum is 1.5 tablets per hour=45 tablets) OR
  • A combination of both, e.g. powder for 15 liters of water and tablets for 15 hours on the course.
  • If you expect to spend more than 30 hours on the course then you should increase this accordingly. It is vital that you test your electrolyte plan during your training and follow the amounts recommended on the packets.

You are responsible for your own food for the duration of the event. You need a meal for the night before the race as well as a minimum of 2,000 calories / day during the race (7 days) for a minimum of 14,000 calories in total.

We recommend using freeze dried meals as your main food source. Hot water will be available at all campsites.

We also recommend considering energy bars/ gels, nutrition supplements, drink mixes and on-the-go snacks to supplement your regular meals.

Behind The Scenes Show All   |   Hide All

Flags and Banners

Custom made flags and banners are used in all 4 Deserts events, including The Last Desert. Sometimes the katabatic winds are so strong that the flag poles can't be used and alternative methods have to be found. In one case, chunks of ice washed up on the shore enabling the staff to display all the flags on ice at the finish line.

Bibs

Special bibs are made for competitors in The Last Desert. The bibs take into account the katabatic winds in the Antarctic. Regular bibs cannot withstand these winds.

The Last Desert logo

The Last Desert logo was created by an artist based in Hong Kong. The logo was designed to create a feeling of the last great unexplored and desolate place on the planet with individuals or teams reaching out to conquer this final challenge venturing into the unknown.

Satellites at the bottom of the world

Five satellites will be used in Antarctica, four of which are called BGANs. BGANS provide broadband internet access virtually anywhere in the world. Breaking news, photographs, features, results, daily stage updates and videos will be uploaded through BGAN terminals. BGAN terminals are not 100% reliable, and thus information delays are highly probable.

Transport is by zodiac or by foot

Competitors are delivered to each stage by special boats called zodiacs. Zodiacs were first created by the French and can only be used with moderate winds. If the winds become too severe, competitors will have to wait on shore until the winds calm before returning to the ship. All equipment must be transported in waterproof bags as ice cold water sometimes splashes into the zodiac.

Spectators are not human

The only spectators in Antarctica will be the ever-friendly penguins. Competitors will see thousands of penguins and other forms of wildlife as they conquer The Last Desert. Penguins reside in the exterior of Antarctica and not the interior, such as at the South Pole.

Course markers

Special biodegradable bags are used to mark the course for The Last Desert event. These bags are filled with snow and designed so that no wind can blow them away, and are removed at the end of each stage. The bags are bright pink in keeping with the pink course flags used in all other RacingThePlanet / 4 Deserts events.

Ship

M/V Plancius Expedition Ship

Competitors will be housed on M/V Plancius for the duration of The Last Desert. M/V Plancius was originally built in 1976 as an oceanographic research vessel for the Royal Dutch Navy, a duty which it carried out for 28 years until 2004. It was then refurbished into a 114-passenger expedition ship. The 89 meter / 293 foot ship was built for ice conditions to be able to easily manage the harsh conditions the Antarctic offers - to reach these ice conditions she has a strengthened bow and stern. The hull is thicker and the whole construction on the waterline of the vessel is reinforced by using extra frames.

The Expedition Crew

A team of 4 Deserts Race Series staff will be managing the event. The team includes Founder Mary Gadams, who will be visiting Antarctica for her sixth time, event management team members, course director, medical team, and event photographer.

In addition to the 4 Deserts Race Series management team there is also team of Antarctica experts led by Expedition Leader Kelvin Murray. Other experts include guides that lead excursions for mountaineering, camping, kayaking and snowshoeing. The experts on board will be able to lecture on different aspects of Antarctic history, flora and fauna, and climate, amongst other topics.

Biographies

Expedition Leader: Kelvin Murray

An accomplished professional diver with over twenty-five instructor ratings plus commercial and technical diving qualifications, Kelvin recently over-wintered in Antarctica as Field Diving Officer for the British Antarctic Survey. Managing the only scientific diving program that consistently dives throughout the Antarctic winter allowed Kelvin to participate in several hundred dives in this challenging environment.

Expedition diving has allowed Kelvin to dive all over the world, on every continent and in every ocean. He has explored polar seas to tropical reefs with high definition cameras and ROV technology. Working in collaboration with Dr. Sylvia Earle's Mission Blue Foundation, Kelvin provides video footage and stills images to the Ocean layer of Google Earth.

Previously, Kelvin was Education Officer for the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society. In addition he is an ardent advocate for sharks and has dived with several species of these much-misunderstood animals. Kelvin also worked as a marine survival instructor for an internationally renowned training facility, and has extensive first aid, medic and hyperbaric chamber qualifications at responder and instructor level. Kelvin was the Expedition Leader for The Last Desert 2012 and returns to the race for his second time in 2014.

 

 

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