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Complete white-out!

Yesterday afternoon (Monday 15th) the team experienced a complete white-out in Antarctica, with cloud so thick they literally couldn’t see what was in front of them. To navigate, one member of the team moves ahead while the others wait behind, then they take a reading between them to find their bearings and decide their next direction. Of course this made progress quite slow and it was a huge challenge for them all, but conditions underfoot were fair and they still covered an amazing 26.5kms during the day.

Blisters are an ongoing issue for all. Luc scraped the skin from his heels in the first week, Daragh and Jeremy both have blistering on the balls of their feet, and Doug is having problems with his insteps (I think some type of strain, but sure he has blisters too). Large and painful blisters are an unavoidable aspect of the expedition, and all the guys can really do is attempt to control them using plenty of padding, and of course keep them clean. Daragh told me that since the third week his body has been held together by bits of tape and plaster. The good news is that all body parts are being held together successfully!

Another typical Polar challenge has been ‘sastrugi’: hard snow ridges formed by the wind that can be up to six to eight feet high and have caused grief to many Polar explorers. The navigational challenge is to hold your course to the Pole while meeting the channels and solid edges of the sastrugi at as favourable an angle as possible.

Reinhold Messner (after whom the Messner Start is named, the point the team set off from at the coast) wrote an account of his journey in which he describes the area around Thiels Corner when he traversed it:“From above, the landscape here would look like a freshly ploughed field”. “We did not pull the sledges, we tugged them across heavy snow and tore them free when they jammed between sastrugi”.

As sastrugi are wind-formed they are unpredictable and variable. The team met lots during the first few weeks, but I don’t believe they have been held back by them too much so far. I think the heavier toll on their feet was of more concern than the extra physical effort.

I’d just like to say thank you so much for all your messages here too. I do pass these on to Daragh and they get through at some point: an email from me had found its way with some fuel to Thiels Corner (see below), which I was really pleased to hear, so please do keep sending them when you can.

- AH