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Antarctic Teams Struggling to Reach South Pole

Roald Amundsen's feat of reaching the South Pole on skis 100 years ago is proving a tough act to follow for polar adventurers trying to get there in time to celebrate the centennial of the Norwegian pioneer's expedition.

Fierce, icy winds have delayed some of the teams skiing across Antarctica with the aim of reaching the geographic South Pole for the anniversary celebration on Wednesday. Some explorers gave up and were picked up by airplane so they could make it in time for the ceremony, according to their blogs and the Norwegian Polar Institute.

Others including Norwegian cross-country great Vegard Ulvang and adventurer Boerge Ousland were still hoping to make it.

Steffen Dahl, a Norwegian adventurer, who returned to Norway on Tuesday after a 700 mile (1,150-kilometer) solo trek to the South Pole, said he, too, had to travel the final stretch by plane. Dahl said he was exhausted and running behind schedule due to bad weather during part of the expedition, with storm winds and temperatures as low as minus 58 F (minus 50 C).

"I saw the sun twice in 14 days. It was like skiing inside a milk carton. You see nothing," he said.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Stoltenberg flew to Antarctica on Monday to attend the ceremony, calling Amundsen's accomplishment "a great and important achievement for Norway as a young nation." Norway became independent in 1905 after nearly 100 years in a union with Sweden.

On Dec. 14, 1911, Amundsen became the first person to reach the South Pole, beating Robert Falcon Scott, a Briton. Scott and four companions reached the pole the following month but died on the way out.

Norwegian Polar Institute director Jan-Gunnar Winther was among those who didn't make it all the way on skis to the South Pole and flew the last stretch to get there in time for the anniversary.

So did Norwegian adventurer Asle Johansen, who had hoped to complete the trek with the same early 20th-century equipment that Amundsen had.

The company Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions, which is providing support to many of the expeditions, has built a temporary field camp at the South Pole ahead of the celebration.

Seven of the expeditions supported by the company are expected to be at the pole in time for the celebration, out of 12 expeditions that had set the anniversary date as their goal, said Peter McDowell, a manager based in Salt Lake City, Utah.

"We're expecting 80 to 90 clients at the pole for the celebrations," McDowell said.

Felicity Aston of Britain, who is trying to become the first woman to cross Antarctica alone, will miss the centennial and now expects to arrive about a week later.

"It's a bit of a shame because originally I was hoping to arrive by the 14th ... and I hear there's going to be a bit of a party, but unfortunately I'll still be out here skiing, so I'm going to miss the party," Aston told The Associated Press in an interview by satellite phone last week.