Vinson Massif, Antarctica

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Vinson Massif, Antarctica
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Vinson Massif (4 892 metres) is the highest mountain on Antarctica.
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Information about Vinson Massif

Vinson Massif is the highest mountain of Antarctica, located about 1,200 km (750 mi) from the South Pole. The mountain is about 21 km (13 mi) long and 13 km (8 mi) wide. The southern end of the massif is capped by Mount Craddock (4,650 m).

It is in the Sentinel Range of the Ellsworth Mountains, which stand above the Ronne Ice Shelf near the base of the Antarctic Peninsula.

The massif's existence was unsuspected until 1957, when it was spotted by US Navy aircraft. It was named after Carl Vinson (also the namesake of an aircraft carrier), a United States Georgia Congressman who was a key supporter of funding for Antarctic research.

In 1963, two groups within the American Alpine Club, one led by Charles Hollister and Samuel C. Silverstein, M.D., then in New York, and the other led by Peter Schoening of Seattle Washington, began lobbying the National Science Foundation to support an expedition to climb Vinson. The two groups merged in spring 1966 at the urging of the National Science Foundation and the American Alpine Club, and Nicholas Clinch (Pasadena, CA) was recruited by the American Alpine Club to lead the merged expeditions. Named officially the American Antarctic Mountaineering Expedition 1966/67, the expedition was sponsored by the American Alpine Club and the National Geographic Society, and supported in the field by the U.S. Navy and the National Science Foundation Office of Antarctic Programs. the event, 10 scientists and mountaineers participated in AAME 1966/67. In addition to Clinch they were Barry Corbet (Jackson Hole, WY), John Evans (University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN), Eiichi Fukushima (University of Washington, Seattle, WA), Charles Hollister, Ph.D. (Columbia University, New York, NY), William Long, Ph.D. (Alaska Methodist University, Anchorage, AK), Brian Marts (Seattle, WA), Peter Schoening (Seattle, WA), Samuel Silverstein, M.D. (Rockefeller University, New York, NY) and Richard Wahstrom (Seattle, WA).

In the months prior to its departure for Antarctica the expedition received considerable press attention, primarily because of the reports that Woodrow Wilson Sayre was planning to fly in a Piper Apache piloted by Max Conrad, the "flying Grandfather, with four companions into the Sentinel Range to climb the Vinson Massif. Sayre had a reputation for problematic trips as a result of his unauthorized, unsuccessful, and nearly fatal attempt to climb Mt. Everest from the North in 1962. His unauthorized incursion into Tibet led China to file an official protest with the U.S. State Department. In the event, the purported race did not materialize. Conrad had difficulties with his plane. According to press reports, he and Sayre were still in Buenos Aires on the day the first four members of AAME 1966/67 reached Vinson's summit.

In December of 1966 the Navy transported the expedition and its supplies from Christ Church, New Zealand to the U.S. base at McMurdo Sound, Antarctica, and from there in a ski-equipped C-130 Hercules to the sentinel range. All members of the expedition reached the summit of the Vinson Massif. The first group of four climbers summited on December 18, 1966, four more on December 19, and the last three on December 20. The climb of Vinson offers little technical difficulty beyond the usual hazards of travel in Antarctica, and as one of the Seven Summits, it has received much attention from well-heeled climbers in recent years; between 1985 and 2000, Adventure Network International (the only organization that runs private expeditions to Vinson) has guided over 450 climbers to the summit.

Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions (ALE) recently purchased Adventure Network International. ALE is now the only company offering flights to Vinson Massif. ALE, as well as several other companies, now guide clients up Vinson Massif.

The new height (4,892 m) of Vinson Massif resulted from a GPS survey by the 2004 Omega Foundation team comprising Damien Gildea of Australia (leader), and Rodrigo Fica and Camilo Rada of Chile; it is 5 m lower than the previous figure.

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