Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The struggle to accept the wide open nothingness

82:35.258S 66:28.4W

I'll start by thanking you all for the amazing amount of well wishing emails. That's just great! Dominique, my back room blog manager has filled me in, but sorry I can't reply to them from my tent on the ice. I will do when I get normal again!!

Well I did 27km today, it probably doesn't sound like much, but believe me it was hard work, and took 8 skiing hours for a total day 'out there' including breaks of 9 hours.

Last posting I spoke of the amazing feeling of nothingness out here, well today I experienced 'chasing the flat horizon' of that nothingness.... It is very challenging on my one, nothing really changes, there are no landmarks, just 360 degrees of flat ice to the horizon. Thankfully it was a clear, blue sky day, with little wind until late afternoon when it picked as a westerly crosswind, that made tent building a very cold affair. Up till then it was pretty warm, averaging around -10 C, so in many ways I'm really lucky to have these mildish conditions st the start, so I can slowly adapt to the harshness of Antarctica.

I set out to do 10 hours skiing today, but my mind and body just couldn't rise to the last 2 hours, I must say the monotony is one huge challenge! I knew this would be one of this trips biggest challenges, but I didn't expect it to be hitting me this early. The Arctic / North Pole was so totally different, the scenery was dramatic, and always changing...

Anyway, I'd prepared for this and now it's about trying the different strategies. Being on my own, highlights how important self discipline and setting goals and sticking to them is so important. In the group situation I find there is a team goal, and all team members feel obliged to perform and be a good team member. The leader sets the day's plan, and a good leader will be disciplined in 'forcing' the plan. This sets a check and balance, where onee just 'does it'. On one's own, with no other people to consult, its all to easy to decide to adjust the plan based on ones feelings, and thiss is some6hing I'll have to watch from tomorrow! I accepted today was a step in getting to the full 10hr march days, and maybe my goal to go straight in to 10hr days was too aggressive, but hey I thought I was a highly disciplined, high personal integrity guy, but today I couldn't do it! This is the learning Antarctica will bring...Tough though for an 'old man' who doesn't HAVE TO learn nor prove himself anymore!

On a lighter not: There is lots of sastrugi around, running almost right angles to my ski direction. This sastrugi does vary a lot, and has amazing shapes, carved by the wind.. In different sun angles, and with my dark UV goggles on these sometimes take on real life shapes. Firstly a saw a whole lot together that looked like sizeable dead fish lying ready for sale, their silver scales glistening in the sun. Later I saw a lone, grey dove, one, that initially really caught me....yeah, this nothingness is effecting me!

I'm pretty sure I'm not imagining things, but at least 3 times today I heard this huge thunder liike rumble from the ice. The sled does make some strange noises, but neither me nor it is large enough to create the sounds I heard. Must be ice movement around the area!

In a few days, I guess quite a few days the scenery should change as I get into the Theil Mountain valley. Can't wait for that...

Lastly: Solo but not Alone! You have heard quite a bit about that, but really I'm not alone, as I have my sled! We had three arguments today, and eachh time it won, as I landed on my a.....e on the ice! Not sure what I did wrong but 'her' tugs at the time were quite violent! I can't wait for her to lose more weight too. I fantastic dieet losing 1.5 kg a day, by the Pole, 'she'll' be less than half her weight!

Bye for now



  1. Hey Howard, good to see you into day 2, and getting used to the rigors of the march. Tell me how do you test for subsnow cravasses and the like?All the best from us in Jhb. Martin

  2. Hi Howard,
    We are very excited to hear of your adventures on the ice and hope your arguments with your sled begin to end in your favor! To help with your issue of monotomy while walking, we have prepared questions and will share one or two each time we post. Feel free to answer them or not, but hopefully they will provide you with some "thinking" time. The first question is, Do you expect to see penguins while on your trek...of course near the beginning and/or end of your trip, while you are near the ocean? The second part of the question is, What can we do in Brooks, ALberta, to improve conditions for penguins in terms of their health and environment? Once again it is great to be along for your adventure.
    Take care,
    The BJHS ESL class

  3. H,Good luck to the team of one ! Listen to your own body rather than pushing too hard. Be careful having too many arguments with your sled, as 'she' will always win ! Cheers, Tank

  4. Hi Howard,
    On the day,8 skiing hours,including breaks of 9 hours.During the breaks I assume you pitch the tent?Do you sleep,eat or prepare mentally?Assume that you slept the other 7 hours?

  5. Niceto read your efforts to overcome the ice expanse have succeded mentally - well done Howard. Still watching and reading with avid intest - Martin