The storms took an even graver toll on the dogs. Many of the dogs were suffering from exhaustion and had to be airlifted out for a temporary rest. "The dogs were losing enthusiasm and just giving up," said team member Geoff Somers on a tape given to reporters. On the night of Oct. 21, one of Steger's favorite dogs, Tim, died in an unexpected storm.
Next, a crisis arose. Because of weather and mechanical problems, the expedition's supply company was unable to fly in fuel and food needed for the second half of the trek. But with the expedition in jeopardy, the Soviet government came to the rescue last week, promising 12 tons of fuel from its own South Pole fuel cache. The expedition's supply company will now be able to lay out more food caches and, if an emergency arises, rescue the team members. The Steger team must complete its trek by early March, when the even more severe Antarctic winter sets in.
Steger's is the first dogsled expedition to reach the Pole since Roald Amundsen outraced Robert Scott in 1911. Because Steger purposely chose the longest possible traverse, he has already mushed more than 1,000 miles farther than Amundsen, who made a beeline to the Pole from the nearest inlet. "There [have been] some pretty black moments for me," said Steger. "I could see the desperation of other explorers—Scott, for instance, who with four other men perished on his way back [from the Pole]. The day he reached the Pole he wrote in his diary, 'Great God, what an awful place this is!' "