…and lots more white-out

More white-out in Antarctica! In fact several days of it: the 15th, 17th and 18th. The team have been working on different navigational techniques – the current one involves much shouting to keep a reference point on each other! As well as taking turns in snow shovelling and collecting water for dinner (which is effectively snow shovelling under a different name!), they take turns in leading and navigating. This shared responsibility is working well and the team are coping brilliantly, with personal strengths coming to the fore.

I must mention Jeremy’s sewing skills here. The team spend much of their evenings mending equipment, and Doug describes Jeremy’s abilities in sewing as ‘worryingly impressive’. They also report that keeping their minds active in such a bare landscape is a great challenge.

During these white-outs, the team cannot see beyond the ends of their skis and there is certainly no horizon to look to. An explorer friend of Eric’s describes being in a white-out as ‘like being on the inside of a ping pong ball’ and many of them have suffered from some degree of ‘white-out sickness’ (basically motion sickness), as there is no reference point for their eyes. Closing your eyes is apparently ‘about the same, but less nauseating!’, and the sickness has been severe enough to bring those at the front of the team close to vomiting. I’m hoping that Daragh’s experiences sailing in a choppy English Channel are paying off in unexpected ways right now!

I don’t think Eric will mind if I quote him here. He has recorded a description of the team that I think sums up their current daily conditions and the value of their routine, which is identical – as far as possible – from day to day.

At any given moment, one of us is struggling in one capacity of another, mentally or physically. But it is within (our daily) structure that we are able to keep moving forward, cope with our fears and hardships, and simply just endure. This is our life and this is how we survive. To want something else other than what fits in our sleds or in the safe corners of our minds is of little utility here.”

On a lighter note, the same team are described by various people as ‘happy and healthy’, ‘haven’t had to use the group straight jacket so far, ‘revelling in small things’ and ‘having a good time’(?!!).

They are now just over half way through in terms of distance, with a straight line to the Pole – hopefully. However, the hardest part is still to come, with ongoing foot injuries and minor frost-bite to attend to, increased altitude, stickier snow and plenty more sastrugi. It’s getting pretty tough!

- AH