Monday, January 16, 2012

Photos from the Actual Solo Expedition

Pic 1:  How I looked 1st night in the tent. (I include pictures of myself along the way so you can see the moods and changes and what 35 days on my own on the ice do to one....!)

Pic 2: I remember this first day...! Looking back from my tent site and seeing from whence I had 'cometh'.....Hmmm, nothingness!  But, I wish I could have collected captured the other views in a 360 degree vista:  It would have looked just the same, minus my sled tracks! It was quite daunting at first....just thinking how I was going to deal with it? Luckily at this stage, the weather was great, but as you can see the ice was quite soft with my sled running in the ice, rather than on top of it.... 

Pic 3: Tent the first night.....I wasn't relaxed enough to really enjoy the solitude and huge space....But that soon came in the days after my extended capitulation point! You can see the solar panel on the tent roof.... This worked just perfect. In hindsight, with the huge amount of sunlight hours, I could have only used solar power.

Pic 4:  The end of nothingness!  The first nunatak I saw in the distance... Now I know it really was 'in the distance'...many, many kilometres off, but the big distance fau pax was still to come! In the foreground is a small sastruggi hump.

Pic 5:  A view of my kitchen, the little vestible at the entrance to my tent. Dinner on the go. Water boiling on the left, and rice and pemmican waiting for the hot water on the right. No plates, or washing up!  That's the outside ice surface you see under the wooden board under the pots etc.

Pic 6:   The lone crevasse, that I came across earlier on. It was beautiful, so wonderfully shaped, and untouched, it looked so fresh and almost virginal, waiting for it's first human being!

Pic 7, a series of 5 pics: Then there was the broken ski pole crisis!  First photo below is the day cut short, inside the tent, all 'the pieces' on my kitchen table, with second photo me sitting forlorn, facing the other way, looking for inspiration (with my tongue!) for repair solutions. The third and fourth pics below shows the tent pole solution being implemented. The fifth pic shows the finished product with the hose clamp holding it all together! 

                      BRAVO... and it lasted!                              

Pic 8: The REAL nunataks, Thiel mountain range just the peaks standing out through the ice cap. These are the mountain peaks I skied 7 hours to 'touch'!
Pic 9: More views of the Thiel nunataks
Pic 10: My favourite peak in the group.... Sadly I never got to touch 'her'! 'The Plan', was to camp right next to her for the night....Haha!

Pic 11:  The final straw:  This is the point where after two hours of skiing without my sled and backpack, I decided they were too far away, and my dream would end HERE! It helped make it a bit of a ceremony of it!  This photo begs the comment: "Geee, after 7 hours you were still THAT far away, and didn't realise that you were on mission impossible seven hours before???" Ok, it was  an embarrassing fau paux, but this photo is very deceiving, because I used a special lens to get the immediate foreground words in and then also the 'very near' background mountains as well!

Pic 12: The scholarly look, Blog writing time....! I need my glasses on to think how to write to you guys!  Amazingly it was only up to about the halfway mark that I needed these, reading only.glasses to type the blog postings on my small PDA. As the wonderful environment and healthy living connnected holistically into me, my eyesight inproved......  I used to love the post dinner blog writing time, thinking of all you wonderful people out there and our special remote communication bond....

Pic 13:  A very special sky one morning. This was actually how it looked, with this amazing almost turquoise blue sky layer just on the horizon, and then cloud above...

Pic 14:  Same sky above just a different perspective....

Pic 15: Antarctic Snow Dogs: A halo phenomena seen in very cold polar regions, the Arctic produced some amazing ones.  Essentially a full circle halo around the sun. Their scientific term is Parhelies, and the halos are an optical phenomenon due to the reflection or refraction of solar light on ice crystals suspended in the atmosphere. 

Pic 16:  A bit of cold damage on the nose from a few bad headwind days! Those eyes look a bit tired, and a bag under the eye! I used to have to take photos of my face to see whether I had cold damage, sun spots etc.... Nobody to help me, and my mirror broke early on!

Pic 17: I'll never forget the fantastic skies and cloud formations. The deep blue sky with the amazing cloud shapes and then the endless ice below....  It was REAL special some days!
Pic 18:  Another special sky contrasting with Nature's rough, almost harsh, 'plaster work' on the ice!
Pic 19:  A close up of a sastruggi, just before we came to head on blows! Seeing this photo takes me right back to those few very difficult sastruggi days! 

Pic 20: Freedom! All alone in the center if the ice wilderness! It could almost be seen as a sea with the sun reflecting off the light sastruggi. (I took this photo when I was skiing back from my nunatak excursion.)

Pic 21:  A sad moment, ater I left my flask on the ice! My last whisky coctail, and there I was really savouring it and yeah, I did have three that night...Hey. why waste, and I didn't have a hangover the next day! That's my little kitchen, vestible area in the background. Very cosy!
Pic 22: Another picture of the vastness, that Antarctica deep blue sky is very special: The views would have been the same for 360 degrees that day! I'm not sure these photos have any value to the viewer who hasn't experienced this vastness...? I warned that photos can't capture the vastness, but I hope there is a little appreciation of what I experience when I see these photos....

Pic 23:  Reflection time!  Those special days when I was forced to stay in my tent with whiteout or storm winds outside. They were very special times in their own way.... Sorry no pictures of the bad storm days, they would just be white and meaningless, so in many ways the pictures I present here, show only the 'good' weather days on my expedition, and in that sense don't show the whole 'picture'....

Pic 24:  This was the angle of the sun above the horizon all day and every day when it was visible! It just moves around world at this height once every 24 hours! (Well, it's actually us that moves, but we all know that!)
Pic 25:  A view from one of my 15 minute rests. Seated flatout on the ice, feet up and chasing down calories. This was a nice 'warm' day, but even in this weather at the end of the rest I'd be very cold, ready to start skiing so I could warm up again...  Cold, windy days were close to meeting the definition of 'Miserable'!

Pic 26:  The cold damage to my fingers from those "Miserable" times.... Carelessness, they will enjoy the return to a warmer environment!

Pic 27:  My sled tracks going back 'forever' towards almost a sunset or a fire on the horizon. It was great to see the pinkish clour, and virtual sunset / sunrise as a change ..
Pic 28:  Another view of the 'false sunset'.... Very special.

Pic 29: Christmas Day: On my own in the middle of Antarctica complete with my Father Christmas hat! Face damage on my chin from my face mask freezing onto my skin. 

Pic 30:  A change of Nature's plastering art!  Once up on the Polar Plateau, the surface changed, and patterns like this were common place, making it feel almost like I was ski-ing in an art workshop...

Pic 31: Thumbs up, The Pole tomorrow!

Pic 32: Not the prettiest sight, but the end goal is insight!  The Amundsen Scott, US Antarctic base, from far off. Gee, this was a very exciting, but confusing feeling: I was very close to my endpoint, but return to civilisation awaited!
Pic 33:  The 'tourist stuff': Me in tourist gear' at the symbolic South Pole marker, with Martin's (my good friend from Johannesburg)  banadana, South African flag, that also went to the North Pole with me, and the permanenet South African flag in the background. The 12 original treaty signatory flags circle the symbolic marker in a simple yet strong statement of the unique point on the globe. 
Pic 34:  Literally seconds after Ruth's arrival at the georgraphic South Pole:  She hadn't even taken off her face mask, and I hadn't had a proper kiss yet, but my joy is clear! We have now completed 'The Double'... Meeting at both North and South Poles...I am proud of what she achieved!
Pic 35 : Later that 'night':  All smiles, together again, squeezed in our sleeping bags, sharing my little tent at the South Pole!  Lots of sleep lay ahead....It's hard to describe the level of fatigue that just made me want to sleep and sleep!

Pic 36:  Inside the ALE tent at the South Pole. Richard (right), Ruth (left) and Michael (back to us) sitting around the table enjoying a self prepared meal. There was a good buzz here as expeditions arrived and stories were shared. I spent 4 days here waiting for the weather and the plane back to Union Glacier. We all slept in our own tents outside in the coldness of the South Pole. I met some great people and created many memories will stay with me forever.  
Pic 37:  The Basler (ex DC-3) aircraft parked at the South Pole, just outside the ALE tent, ready to load up and take us back to Union Glacier. A special day:  The Pole works on New Zealand time, so we had welcomed in the New Year a few hours before, and then 2 hours into the 4 hour  flight back to Union Glacier we celebrated it again with a round of complimentary Baileys liquors, as the clock chimed on midnight Punta Areneas time..... ! Maybe this next year will have something even more special after welcoming it in twice! (You can see that this aircraft has ski's for landing, and works both Arctic and Antarctic each year.) 

And finally....:

Strange type of Polar Bear at the South Pole!    I took this off a notice displayed on a notice board inside the Scott Amundsen USA South Pole Base. It was advertising Yoga classes....Pretty cool!  Sorry, the closest I could get to real animal life at the Pole!

Dreams of escape to 'South Pacific Isles':  Another one from the Scott Amundsen, US Base... This time from the library..:  I found it very amusing that this South Pacific travel book, seemed like it was one of the most used books on the shelf! The base seems like a glamorous, dream working place, but on delving further I sense it's a place that can become a real prison, fuelling dreams of escape to 'South Pacific Isles'!  OR maybe the book connected to my unfinished sailing 'escape' dreams....! Hmmm....! And with that, and 2012 on it's way....

....Remember:  "Dreams can be for real,.... WE make them happen!"

                                    That's it!

Hope you enjoyed it all as much as I did having you along... Thanks again, and see you NEXT TIME...! 

PS:     Have you looked at the photos leading up to the satrt of the expedition?  There are in the post earlier to ths one...Check them out, if you haven't already!  (Go back to the Blog and look at 'Earlier Post'. )

Photos from Before and up to the the Start of my Solo Expedition.


Pic 1:   Flying from Punta Arenas to Antarctica:  The first views of the Sea ice of the Antarctic Peninsular, from the porthole of the Ilyushin. I can remember the excitement I felt as I looked down at the continent I was going to spend the next 6 weeks and more, most of it on my OWN! Most people slept on the flight, but I moved excitedly between the left and right portholes filming what I found truly awe inspiring scenery.

Pic 2: Ruth walking off the blue ice runway at Union Glacier, soon  after our arrival in Antarctic with the Ilyushin Il-76 we flew in on in the background. Unlike the plane I flew back from the Pole on, which has ski's, the Ilyusion lands with wheels on the ice, like a normal aircraft on a asphalt runway. You can see the blue ice of the runway where the plan is parked.

Pic 3:  The surrounding nuataks at Union Glacier, and an example of the great cloud formations around the mountains, most days. The weather there was just fantastic, sometimes felt like one needed a beach umbrella!
Pic 4: Almost the last, and critical job before heading off from Union Glacier:  Filling my two stove fuel bottles with fuel. You can see the two red cans carry my other fuel stocks. All in all I took 10 liters, which proved to be too much. Better safe than sorry though!
Pic 5: Sled fully packed and ready to go! 88 kg of sled! Most of the sled bag was food, so by the time I reached the pole the bag was almost empty, and the sled weighed a lot less! That's my full wind suit gear, the same that I used fro the North Pole, and it worked well, but the pants definitely had their last expedition! The blue tent in the background is the main tent we we ate everyday....nice and warm, and sociable.
Pic 6:  Final checks and training ski-ing with the fully loaded sled and backpack at Union Glacier. It's a beautiful place! A funny feeling within at this point: Huge excitement, but also huge apprehension! I can feel it in me now as I type this!

Pic 7: Another shot of me doing final ski / sled / backpack checks at Union Glacier I had a larger backpack than most others would have used on their expeditions. Relying on fish scales for traction (rather than skins), I was was trying to have a lighter sled, and heavier me for a good traction to pull formula.... It worked well until I had to walk those few days around 86 degrees South.
Pic 8: 21 November 2011: Minutes before take off to the Messner start. That's the tail of the Twin Otter that took me too the start.

Pic 9: What an amazing flight from Union Glacier to Messner Start: We flew over this mountain range, and the true beauty of Antarctica was immediately apparent. Untouched and timeless beauty. These are wonderful examples of hug nunataks. The base of these mountains lies way, covered by the larges ice cap in the world. This is just what one needs to fuel the adrenalin for what lay ahead....!

Pic 10:  I'm surprised how relaxed I look!!  This is Ruth and I in the cramped cabin of the Twin Otter, minutes before me landed at the start in the middle of 'nowhere', but supposedly at the very edge of the Antarctic continent, 88 degrees 20' South! Within 30 minutes of this photo, we had said our goodbyes and I was ski-ing off alone into the nothingness, only to see her again some 38 days later...I did have a quick thought flash through me: "Will I ever see her again?"  Hmmm, emotional stuff! 

Check out the Photos Actually from The Expedition in the Earlier Post...!