Patrick Woodhead, Paul Landry, Alastair Vere Nicoll and David de Rothschild
SKI TEAM ENTER RECORD BOOKS BY CONQUERING ANTARCTICA /
The INVESCO PERPETUAL Challenge
Wednesday 12th January 05
The INVESCO PERPETUAL Challenge team of polar adventures have successfully
completed a coast to coast traverse of the Antarctic continent via the treacherous
Axel Heiberg glacier and the South Pole.
The INVESCO PERPETUAL Challenge team, comprising of Patrick Woodhead, Alastair
Vere Nicoll, David de Rothschild and Paul Landry, hauled their 100kg pulks
(sleds) into Hercules Inlet on the Western fringes of Antarctica at 10pm GMT
Wednesday 12th January.
The crossing marks the end of a 58 day; 1,650km traverse of Antarctica and
seals the teams place in the record books as the first coast to coast manhauling
traverse from the Ross Ice shelf - via the Trans-Antarctic Mountains and the
South Pole - to the Ronnie ice shelf on Antarctica 's western perimeters.
Only 10 other people have traversed Antarctica on skis, all traversing from
the opposite direction and thus descending through the Trans-Antarctic Mountains
The INVESCO PERPETUAL Challenge fused together a new generation of explorers
and exploration techniques - where possible the team used the latest kites,
similar to those used by kite surfers to power them across the terrain, whilst
also mixing in historical ties to other expeditions particularly that
undertaken by Amundsen in1911.
The journeys final session, a kiting marathon in which the team covered 128
nautical miles (228KM ), brought not only the finishing post but
an emotional satellite phone link up for Alastair Vere Nicoll and his wife
in Cape Town , Annabel, who, whilst on the phone, underwent a caesarean section
and gave birth to their first child - a healthy 8lb girl.
"We all feel a great sense of achievement, pride and relief to have completed
this truly extraordinary journey," says Patrick Woodhead, team leader on
the INVESCO PERPETUAL Challenge. "It is even more rewarding to know we've
followed in the footsteps of some of greatest explorers ever to set foot on Antarctica"
"With 30 nautical miles to go we received news that Alistair's wife had
gone into labour, so of course, we upped the pace and kited though the night.
Within twenty minutes of finishing Alistair become a father. I cannot think of
a more emotional scenario - we all have two reasons now to feel extremely proud."
"I would like to thank all of the guys back home who I know have worked
effortlessly in looking after us whilst in the Antarctic. The team at INVESCO
PERPETUAL, our family, friends and all supporters."
"I'm very much looking forward to a hot bath and a cold beer and to catch
up on two months' news. I'm going to spend lots of time with my girlfriend, the
family and eating copious amounts of food. I predict about two weeks before I
get restless and then we can start planning the next expedition!"
In addition to making history, the Challenge team is also raising money for
the Alex Roberts-Miller Foundation ( www.alexrmfoundation.org.uk ),
a charity that provides sporting, educational and social opportunities for
disadvantaged young people
We only got news of the teams coordinates today. Suffice to say
the finish line is closing in. The guys managed a further 49
nautical miles so we are well within the 100 mile mark. Just
in case anyone didn't know it should be noted that all these
measurements have been in nautical miles which are slightly
longer than a standard metric mile. A nautical mile is 1852
metres. Very useful in the next pub quiz!
January 8th - 9th
The conditions over the weekend were mixed.
Saturday turned out to be too windy to make much progress at
all. The team managed just 6 miles. But Sunday came and the winds
were much better allowing them to cover nearly 72 miles!
We have updated the map so you can see just how close they are now
We talked to the guys about what life was like couped up in a tent
all day waiting for the conditions to change. Apart from alot of bad
jokes and the increasing nostalgia for decent food, private ablutions
and warm water, the interesting point made was that if the conditions
are sunny the tents can actually get pretty warm. After a few hours
of sunlight (which can occur at pretty much any time of the day or
night) the temperature inside the tent can reach 15 degrees. Unfortunately
no sun means no warmth so on a cloudy day or night the temperature
just stays the same as the outside temperature.
7th: mMore very good news.
Yesterday the team covered another 55 miles and continued this
morning with a further 20 miles until a blizzard kicked in and
since then they have sheltering in the tents. It may blow over
and allow them to continue on later. Time to sit in a confined
space and tell yet more bad jokes...
Another day passed and a further 40 miles covered. This time, though, they
took 14 hours to cover the distance and they are all pretty shattered.
The team reckon they are about 230 miles from the finish in Patriot Hills which
they could reach in the next 10 days. However, there are a few worries
They have rations for about another 12 days and Alastairs wife's baby is due
around the same time! The sat phones my come in very handy before the end.
Unfortunately we don't have any new pictures coming in but the guys assure
us they are taking some excellent shots. The new Nikons they have with them
have been amazing in the extreme cold. Where normally they would be spending
alot of effort keeping the batteries warm for the camera to function this has
simply not been the case.
January 4th - 5th:
After a few brief messages we can report that the kites have been up and working
South 85 degrees 23 min /
West 84 degrees 1 min /
January 4th: 54 miles!
January 5th: 23 miles
It has to be the fastest they have travelled so far.
All the while this will mean that they are dropping in altitude and the temperature
will be rising, making life relatively easier! Although the terrain they have
been travelling through has been strewn with crevasses.
As a side note we should also report that so far the direct donations have
helped to raise nearly £4000 for the Alex
Roberts-Miller Foundation which is absolutely fantastic.
31st - January 3rd : We had a longer chat with the guys yesterday.
Current position is:
South 86 degrees 30 min /
West 85 degrees 10 min
December 30th: 10 miles /
New Years Eve: 38 miles /
New Years Day: 33 miles
Since New Years Day they have been stopped waiting for wind
which needs to be reasonably strong to pull each man and his
sled. Whilst they could walk it takes all day to travel
10 miles which could be done on the kites in an hour so better
to conserve energy.
All in all this does mean they have travelled about 200 miles from the
Pole with a further 400 to go. Assuming they can make about 30 miles
a day this would mean they could reach their destination in a further
two weeks which is just on schedule.
That said, if they get a good day they could easily do 60-100 miles in
one day so lets all pray for some nice steady wind.
They are currently at about 6,500 feet and will drop to 5,000 by the
86th degree so basically downhill and getting easier to breath and a
bit warmer all the time. As a result, everyone is beginning to get a
bit more energy and enthusiasm. Whilst we don't have any new pictures
to show, we will be adding some more details to this report over the
coming days so please stay tuned.
We had a very brief message from the team today to say that they
have had a day of rest yesterday due to bad weather. It was
very nice to get a break. Patrick also wanted to pass on his
thanks to the team at Mumm Champagne who managed to get some
'refreshment' to the team for their arrival at the South Pole.
December 29th : We had a call
from the team today.
They managed 28.6 miles yesterday using the kites to reach 87 degrees.
They have been switching between the different kites as the strength
of the wind varies. Whilst they have made good progress it has
been difficult because of the "Sastrugi".
What is Sastrugi? [ wind scours dry snow into hard, wavelike
patterns that can make skiing difficult ].
Over the next few days they are moving
off the pole plateau and should get all the benefits of a drop
in altitude, more energy and warmth (relatively speaking).
As long as the wind keeps up they will mantain a good schedule but they are
all pretty exhausted as a result of fairly regular wipeouts. In general they
are really enjoying the good progress of the kites. We also have a picture
of the condition of Alastair's toe which doesn't look too bad!
December 26th: Message from Patrick
After expecting a restful few days at the pole, we left
unsure what time zone we were on, which direction we were going
[everywhere is north!] and whether we could even physically move
our fully loaded sleds. Christ, they were heavy! 220 lbs! We tore
ourselves away from the hospitality of the Americans and tried
to gear ourselves back into expedition mode.
With too light winds,
we pulled our sleds 1.7 nautical miles, stretching our spines,
and got away from the South Pole science station. Thinking we were
going to have a nice, relaxing dinner, the winds picked up. We
set off, bouncing over rough terrain and trying to get the hang
of the enormously powerful Flexifoil kites. We used the 11.5metre
sabre - AKA the bucking bronco - and found it amazing.
We kited all the way through the
night, finally stopping at about 10am utterly exhausted. The Adrenalin
X body armour was very much appreciated as I got lifted 10ft in
the air and unceremoniously dumped. However, we made 37 nautical
miles - a distance that would normally take us 4 days and the wind
is still building.
we got 5hrs sleep, before a knocking on the tent. It was
Paul's family, who were on a different time zone to us and also
kiting back from the South Pole. Can you believe it? All this space
in Antarctica and the only two teams here are right next door to
each other! Can't waste all this wind, so bleary eyed we are setting
off again. So, a big thank you to Flexifoil for pulling our sleds
for us and a merry Christmas to everyone. Santa hasn't made it
this far south unfortunately. Then again, it is not likely he'd
want to go anywhere near the socks we left at the end of our sleeping
bags! Happy Christmas to you all and seriously enjoy the Christmas
turkey...ok, I'm starting to salivate…
Special Message - 'thanks
to Christian and Rebecca. It was a real pleasure to meet you.'
December 24th: Message from Patrick
At the moment, we have been resting up and fattening up for the
next leg of the journey. The winds have en about 7 to 8 knots and
may just about be powerful enough to pull us along. The problem
is our sled which, now re-supplied, weighs upwards of 220 lbs.
The last time we tried to kite, just coming out of the Axel Hieberg
glacier, one of the kites picked up Dave (100kg) me (80kg) and
the 80kg sled and threw us about 10m forward. They are powerful
things and sometimes holding on to them is like riding a rodeo
bull! Hopefully, the smaller Flexifoil kites will be milder.
The South Pole is one of those places that you think you will
only ever see once and so it is bizarre to be back here again.
We feel a bit like Atlas holding up the weight of the world as
we are camped 10m from the South Pole itself.
As the only direction on the planet
is now north (by being on the very bottom of the world, we've essentially
run out of south, west and east) - its going to be quite interesting
working out which way Hercules Inlet is as EVERYWHERE is north!
The doctor at the base looked at Al's frostbite and the infection
is not spreading into his foot which is great. The time resting
here is great and thoroughly needed. We hope to set out today at
some stage - pending on wind. Its Christmas Eve today and so tonight
we're going to put one of our socks at the bottom of our sleeping
bag to see if Santa can make the long trip down south, although
the chances of him wanting to go anywhere near one of our socks
is actually pretty remote. Thanks
to all the sponsors as this simply wouldn't have been possible
without you. Also, everyone in the UK we'll be dreaming about the
roast turkey and trimmings...
December 22nd: Great News!
We've just had word that the Ski team have arrived at the South Pole! After a very, very long day, the guys pulled in to the American Scott-Amundsen base at 1am local time ( midday UK time), completing the first and most dangerous leg of the INVESCO-PERPETUAL Trans-Antarctica Challenge.
The team won't be staying around for long - they plan to move on again within hours, having restocked and replaced any broken or missing kit. We haven't yet heard whether Robyn was able to make the rendezvous as planned - bad weather hit Patriot Hills when she was due to make the flight, but the last we heard was that the conditions were looking up, so hopefully the flight took off in time. We'll bring you more news as get it.
December 19th: position update
The ski team's latest co-ordinates:
S 89° 17.241'
W 172° 15.441'
December 17-19th: weekend update
This is the beginning of the week in which the Ski team should reach the South Pole! How can we be so certain? Because we've had an update from the guys, and they've made some great progress over the last three days. They've crashed through into the 89th and final degree, and are now on track to reach the Pole late in the day on 22nd December (in the morning, UK time).
The weather has finally been playing out favourably for the team, with the wind dropping to nil, and days of gorgeous sunshine. As of yesterday, it was still windless, but had clouded over. As anyone who's been skiing will know, the only downside here is that without any sun, there aren't any shadows, which can make it difficult to discern the lumps, bumps and hollows over which they're travelling.
Still, that's a small price to pay for some excellent conditions - on Saturday they managed 14.2 nautical miles. With the Pole almost within sight, you can imagine how their spirits are soaring! They're also tucking into extra chocolate rations, as the prospect of resupply beckons.
Meanwhile, it was Robyn's birthday over the weekend, and she celebrated in style - with a wash! She procured some shampoo from the Camp Doctor , and for the first time in around a month, she was able to get squeaky clean again. Just in time for a birthday dinner with the guys from ALE - really quite civilized.
Back after their 'mini-expedition', she says that she now knows what the Ski team are going through - their last 8 miles back to Patriot Hills was across a featureless, white and desolate landscape, with nothing to look at, and nothing to distract you from the physical effort of pulling the sledge.
PS A few more bits of Antarctic news which you may have missed. Firstly, 1,000 negatives taken by Herbert Ponting, a photographer who accompanied Scott's 1910-12 expedition, have been bought by Cambridge University 's Scott Institute. Secondly, last week saw another group of Brits reach the Pole. A group from West Notts College in Mansfield tackled the final degree (60 nautical miles). On reaching 90 degrees south, student Robert Dunn, 18, became the youngest person to walk the last degree.
Finally, we hope young Robert is enjoying his time as a record breaker, but it's likely to be a short-lived affair - Paul Landry's kids, Sarah (18) and Eric (20), are making great progress too as members of the Kites On Ice expedition being led by their mother and Paul's partner, Matty. They're currently around 80 miles from the Pole, nearing the half-way mark for a mammoth return trip from Hercules Inlet (not far from Patriot Hills).
December 16th: update from the team
Another 12.7 nautical miles covered, another day on the plateau... not a breath of wind, and beautiful weather. The only downside is that the snow appears to be getting softer, which makes the job of pulling the sledges harder. David's taking his mind off matters by investigating whether every snowflake really is different - it's early days, but initial findings are that they're starting to look very much alike...
The guys would like to say a big thank you to everyone at INVESCO PERPETUAL, without whom they wouldn't be on this adventure. They also bid you a very Happy Christmas!
December 15th: update from the teams
We've just had confirmation the Ski team spent last night at 88 degrees 23 minutes - the point at which Shackleton decided to turn back on the Nimrod expedition in 1908.
They reached it after 13.1 nautical miles, some soft snow and dropping temperatures - around minus 30, if their estimates are correct. They could have pressed on at that point, but several factors prompted them to stop. David's legs were feeling the pace, Alastair has resorted to a Hannibal Lecter outfit with every inch of his face covered to protect the frostnip (he can't even expose the skin at rest stops to eat snacks), but more importantly, the team all felt the pull of history - staying overnight at such a historic spot seemed an opportunity not to be missed.
Back in 1908, Shackelton's decision to turn back at this point ( pictured above) was incredibly difficult. He was suffering from the effects of altitude, much as our team is today - they are travelling on the world's highest plateau at 10,400 feet, but it feels more like the equivalent of 14,000 feet. But at this point the pole is only 97 nautical miles away, and Shackleton knew it was within reach. However, they had insufficient food for the return journey and so, reluctantly, they turned back. "Whatever regrets may be we have done our best," he wrote. Rather more tellingly, he commented to his wife, Emily,
"I thought, dear, that you would rather have a live ass than a dead lion."
For the INVESCO-PERPETUAL Trans-Antarctica Challenge team, it's been a thought-provoking 24 hours. The bleak, hostile, strangely beautiful surroundings are, in some ways, a blank canvas - without distractions, they invite reflection on the achievements of those who have travelled through this land before. The guys tell us that it has brought to mind another Shackleton recollection - this time writing about the epic final leg of the Endeavour trip over South Georgia , some years later:
"In memories, we were rich. We had pierced the veneer of outside things. We had suffered, starved and triumphed, groveled down yet grasped at glory, grown bigger in the bigness of the whole. We had seen god in all his splendors, heard the text that nature renders. We had reached the naked soul of man."
The thoughts of the team are turning to the onward trip from the Pole towards Hercules Inlet. Paul Landry's wife Matty, together with children Eric and Sarah, are also headed for the pole. They are taking the route that our team will be tracing in the opposite direction, and they report lots of sastrugi and some tough conditions ahead for the team. You can find out more about their expedition here .
Update from the Patriot Hills team
A quick update from Robyn on the other side of Antarctica . She reports that they're out on an expedition to the nearby Independence Range , currently clinging to the side of Mt Simmons, trying not to be blown off - the winds are tremendously strong. However, she says that in compensation, the views out across the Trans-Antarctic Mountains and back over Patriot Hills is absolutely breathtaking.
December 14th: update from the Ski team
We spoke to the team last night, and despite the slight hiatus in communications, everything is going very well. It appears they've been too busy making progress towards the pole - they're now well past the 88th degree, and after a day in which they covered 13.6 nautical miles, they're around 110m short of 90 degrees south.
Yesterday was a milestone in the journey, as it marked the day on which Amundsen, having started at the same point, reached the South Pole. (Remembering, of course, that Amundsen used dogs to pull their sleds, unlike our team for whom brute strength is the only driving force! Teams of dogs would now no longer be an option, as animals are prohibited in Antarctica .)
It's by no means easy going, however.
As you'll have heard on the voicemails, the guys are still very
high - over 10,000 feet, and 1,000 feet higher than the Pole itself.
This brings problems with altitude, and everyone is prone to coughing
fits when they stop to rest. There's no wind at the moment at all,
and while that's helpful in some respects, it's also allowed the
build-up of airborne moisture, resulting in plenty of hoar frost.
Patrick describes this as much like sand paper, and when protecting
your skin is paramount, this isn't helpful! It's also worth noting
that hoar frost only forms on objects that are themselves frozen
- so if hoar frost is gathering your on eyebrows and eyelashes...
well, it's cold. Quite how cold though, we'll have to estimate,
because the guys have lost their temperature gauge. Best guess
is somewhere between minus 22 and minus 28 degrees.
Alastair - he of the frostbitten toe - now has to endure the nickname 'Rudolph', on accout of the frostnip he's suffering on his nose and cheeks. One can't help wondering if it's more prominent on account of the complete lack of colour in their surroundings- the landscape is apparently a featureless sea of white, leading the team to speculate whether they might, in fact, be traversing the surface of the moon. Sounds daft, but in a continent of 24 hour daylight where the moon hasn't been seen for months, who's to say...
After we spoke to the guys yesterday
evening, they were setting out on the next day's travel, and hoping
to reach another significant point: 88 degrees 23 minutes. This
is the camp reached by Shackleton in 1908, the furthest point in
his effort to reach the geographic South Pole.
PS You'll have noticed some new pictures on the site of the Ski
team, taken by Martin when he was with them earlier in the trip.
We have several more great images to put up, so we'll rotate them
regularly over the coming days on the News and the Home page.
December 10th: update from the teams
Another day, and another big distance covered: 13.1 nautical miles. This took the Ski team into the 87th degree – only three more degrees to the Pole itself. After a wee dram to celebrate, they were off again, finally calling it a day some three nautical miles later. They're currently skiing for around seven and a half hours a day, and if they continue to make such good progress, they're on course to reach the Pole in around 11 days – just in time for Christmas.
To keep them going, the guys are relying on the usual Antarctic fare for explorers: nuts, cheese, and salami. This rather unhealthy sounding mix is a tried-and-trusted winner because it provides lots of energy in a compact form, it won't go off (it's considerably colder than the inside of your fridge, remember) and it's easy to eat on the go. The alternatives are not so attractive, as this anecdote from another Polar explorer, Paul Ward, explains on his website, Cool Antarctica :
“When I first arrived in Antarctica , I was surprised that whenever any one went out for a trip - a few hours or all day - they only ever took chocolate bars to eat. I was most unimpressed with how unhealthy this was, so when I went on my first trip I made some wholesome and nutritious sandwiches (tuna and mayonnaise).
Come lunch time, my companion got out his chocolate bar and proceeded to eat it, I got out my sandwiches and after 5 minutes of sucking a frozen corner gave up and resorted to chocolate. Thankfully my companion didn't roll on the floor laughing, but I didn't bother with my healthy option again!”
Just a quick update on the Land Rover team: they've been in touch to say they're well and enjoying their time at Patriot Hills, getting to know the locals!
Finally, the guys would like to say a big thank you to everyone who's contributed so far towards the Alex Roberts-Miller Foundation. To date, they've raised £1400. As a reminder, the Foundation provides sporting, educational and social opportunities for disadvantaged young people.
Ski team location
South 86degrees 50.1524min /
West 171degrees 42.648min
December 9th: update from the teams
The ski team is marching on, setting a new daily record of 12.9 nautical miles yesterday, and taking them well on the way towards the 87th parallel (and their next celebratory swig of whisky!). They're skiing under bright blue skies, the wind has abated, too, and it's a balmy minus 25 degrees.
It's not all peaches and cream, however – the team reports that there are sastrugi everywhere (ridges or furrows of snow running parallel to the direction of the wind, which is only OK if that's the direction you're heading), and countless small cracks or crevasses. This was brought home to David when he stopped and stepped out of his ski bindings, only to put his foot straight through into thin air. Needless to say, no-one else is keen to make the same mistake!
In a new and hopefully very uneventful feature, we're also proud to announce Toe-Watch : an occasional update on the life and times of Alastair's frostbitten toe. Thankfully, the news is good – it's not infected (which would potentially be a big problem) and appears to be making a recovery. We'll keep you posted…
So what with all this skiing, the guys' minds have evidently started to wander a little. Today, as they move steadily south, they've been pondering the question: “Are we on top of the world, or the bottom? Who says so? And does it really matter?” Normally, we'd suggest answers on a postcard, but it's probably best on this occasion that we leave them guessing, as it appears to be keeping them sane (just).
Finally, a rather disturbing note to end on. Supplies of everything are holding up well, except… loo paper. This commodity has taken on a trading value, with cards played every night to decide who doesn't need to worry in the morning…
Postscript: the team would like to pass on a message via the website: Mark Lloyd, thanks for all the help!
December 7th: update from the teams
Another good day for the ski team, beating their own record with a distance of 12 nautical miles. This takes them to the following co-ordinates: South: 86 degrees 23.6694 minutes / West: 171 degrees 11.063 minutes
For those of you who aren't polar explorers, here's some perspective on what this means... now that the team has passed through the ice field - where their route was dictated by the conditions and the easiest and safest way to proceed - the guys can now head directly for the pole. It's likely that they'll remain at roughly the same degree of longitude (171 degrees W), while making progress through the remaining degrees of latitude, towards 90 degrees South - the Pole itself. One degree of latitude is just over 69 miles; one minute is a sixtieth of that. So by our calculations, they have a shade over 250 (land) miles to go - plus bit more for diversions around obstacles and so forth.
Meanwhile, the 4x4 team are back at base after an overnight camp near a place called Fordell at the weekend - a trip that also saw one of the 4x4s buried up to its axels. Every time this happens, the entire team has to pitch in to dig it out again - an exhausting task in these conditions!
December 4-6th: update from the Ski team
What did you do over the weekend? We'd guess you didn't do as well as the hardy Ski team, which has covered around 34 nautical miles over the last three days. (Compare that with the daily average of 4nm as they ascended the glacier!). This is despite a wind that refuses to die down, and is still blowing at around 25 knots. Unfortunately for the guys, it's not blowing in the right direction to make use of the kites, so they remain stowed on the pulks for another day. However, that didn't stop them completing their first degree of latitude since starting out, and they celebrated the achievement with a nip of whisky!
Meanwhile, the spindrift is proving the biggest obstacle – snow is whipped up from the surface causing whiteout conditions, making navigation a matter of blind trust in their instruments. As the days progress, the team is withstanding the conditions remarkably well – it's been over three weeks now since they set out, and there have been no significant injuries or losses.
It's not been entirely without incident, however – ski poles and other smaller pieces of kit have disappeared into the whiteness. Alastair is also suffering some from frostbite to one of his toes, as well as frostnip (the first signs of frostbite) to one ear and his nose.
We don't know exactly how severe Alastair's frostbite is, but he's in good spirits and happy to continue, so it's likely to have affected just the end of one of his toes. Find out more about frostbite here .
While the Ski team pushes onwards, the Land Rover team is back at Patriot Hills, preparing the supplies which will be flown in to the Ski team at the South Pole.
One other footnote: you may remember mention of the Ice Maidens - a team of Australian mothers who were caught up in the delay in Chile , waiting for a flight. They flew to Patriot Hills with the Challenge team, and started out on their expedition, but last week brought the news that they have pulled out. You can find out more here .
December 2-3rd: update from the teams
The inclement weather reported earlier in the week still hasn't improved much. Yesterday the Ski team was pinned down in their position high on the plateau above the ice fall, unable to move as winds of 30 knots + swirled around their tents.
Today, it's eased off slightly - Paul reckons it's around 14 knots, gusting to 20 knots - so they're hopeful that later today they can pack up and push onwards. Meanwhile the Land Rover team is determined to make the most of this opportunity of a lifetime, and venture out on mini-expeditions to the surrounding areas. They have to organise these trips around the scheduled update calls from the Ski team back to the Patriot Hills base, but they're currently in the nearby Minaret area, which they describe as a 'lovely spot'. They will return back to Patriot Hills later today.
December 1st: update from the Ski team
Patrick has called the Land Rover team back at Patriot Hills to report that the weather still isn't giving them any breaks. They managed half a day of travel before retreating to the tents, where the wind howled around them at 45 knots and the temperature stubbornly refused to rise above minus 20 degrees.
There's very little the guys can do in these circumstances apart from try to stay warm, wait for better weather, and keep each other's spirits up.
November 30th: update from the Land Rover Team, Patriot Hills
BREAKING NEWS: The Land Rover team has been forced to cancel its attempt to drive to the South Pole. Atrocious weather conditions have left behind very soft, very deep snow, which has proved more than a match for the vehicles and their trailers.
The team has spent the last few weeks at the Patriot Hills camp, trying to find a way around the problem, but has reluctantly concluded that to attempt the journey would be inviting disaster. Not only would an aborted attempt on the Pole jeopardise the planned support for the Ski team, but the vehicles could become too bogged down to rescue, resulting in an unacceptable environmental hazard.
As a result, the Land Rover team has decided to remain at the Patriot Hills base while the Ski team continues its epic journey Pole-wards. The four-man Ski team will be resupplied by air when they reach the Pole, expected to be on or around Christmas Day, in preparation for the second half of the adventure.
November 30th: update from the Ski team, the Plateau
The team was dealt a double blow today, as the exhaustion from the previous day combined with atrocious weather and the newly gained altitude to make for a truly gruelling experience. The guys still managed 5 nautical miles, but it took its toll. The weather has closed in completely, with the temperature around minus 20 dgrees, and they have wisely decided that a half-day in the tent is now in order, to rest and regain some strength.
One highlight we almost overlooked from the weekend was the team's discovery of Amundsen's Butcher Camp. This is the site where Amundsen killed several of his dogs for food. Unlike Scott, this was always part of Amundsen's plan, and while no-one relished the task (or the meat), it's considered to be one of the reasons why Amundsen succeeded where Scott failed.
November 29th: update from Ski team, Axel Heiberg glacier (from Robyn)
The ski team reports good progress over the weekend. On Saturday, they travelled 4 nautical miles and gained 600 feet as they neared the top of the ice fall. The temperature was around -24 degrees.
Sunday saw a huge effort to gain 1400 feet of altitude - to the top of ice fall! This took them to an altitude of 9,400 feet, around the same height as the South Pole, before descending slightly to 9,000 feet. This achievement is significant for two reasons. Firstly, the flatter ground means that it should be easier progress from here onwards, and less exhausting, too (no more relaying sleds one-by-one). Secondly, the most dangerous part of the expedition should now be over, as they leave the crevasses and deep fissures of the glacier behind.
With the time difference between here and the South Pole, the team has just finished a day in which they travelled 11 nautical miles (more than double their previous distance), using skis and kites. They're exhausted, and need a lie-in! This means that they're running slightly later than scheduled, but the prospects look good for rapid progress south from here. Not surprisingly, Robyn reports that everyone is in very good spirits and happy with their progress to date.
Team co-ordinates: South 85° 36 minutes 26 seconds / West 169° 41 minutes 05 seconds.
November 26th: update from Ski team, Axel Heiberg glacier (from Robyn)
The last few days have seen the ski team inching their way up the ice field that forms the Axel Heiberg glacier, shuttling their sleds one by one up this very tricky terrain. On Tuesday, progress was halted as the weather closed in and the snow came down – visibility was reduced to 10 feet, and around 8 inches of the white stuff fell over the course of the day (See weather note 1 below). Needless to say, travel in these conditions in such a crevasse-riddled area would be lethal, so the guys spent the day holed up in their tents.
Wednesday 24th saw better weather, and the team walked for 9 hours, covering 3 nautical miles and making 1500 feet in elevation. There was further progress yesterday, as they manoeuvred through some stunning scenery, roped together at all times for safety. David reports,
“The ice field where we are now is mind-blowing – an incredible labyrinth of crevasses, towering around us and disappearing out of sight on either side. The scale and the grandeur just take your breath away.” We'd also hazard a guess that pulling the equivalent of a full-grown man behind you on a sled might be something to do with that! The end of the day saw the team camping within sight of the top of the ice wall, and hopefully the prospect of flatter terrain. This has lifted their spirits greatly, and despite the hard work of the last week and some aching muscles, all of the guys are feeling optimistic and positive. With that in mind, they've recalculated their expected arrival date at the South Pole, and the latest projection suggests that will be… 25th December. No doubt a Christmas none of them will ever forget! Last given co-ordinates (24th Nov): South 85° 27 minutes 47 seconds / West 166° 17 minutes 41 seconds
November 26th: Update from the Land Rover team, Patriot Hills (from Robyn)
The 4x4 team is staying in and around Patriot Hills for the meantime, testing and retesting their equipment to work out the best possible set-up for the vehicles. The trailers they were proposing to use aren't proving as practical as the team hoped; they're getting bogged down too often, and require lots of time and energy to keep on the surface. As an alternative, the team is testing out different sleds to be towed behind the Land Rovers. The weather is proving very helpful though during this phase, with bright sunshine and relatively mild conditions – around minus 14 degrees. Like the Ski team, they're equally taken with their surroundings; Robyn reports that they've seen an amazing display of a parhelic circle and halos around the sun (See weather note 2 below).
When not distracted by natural phenomena, the team is taking the Land Rovers out for test runs, and the last report was from one of the staff at Patriot Hills, spotting them as they disappeared over the Eastern horizon…
Weather note 1: you might think heavy snowfalls would be a common occurrence in Antarctica …but you'd be wrong. The continent is in fact classified as a desert, receiving less than the equivalent of 1m of rain each year. Furthermore, it's very hard to estimate exactly how much snow falls at any one time, because the strong winds mean that the snow falls into conventional measuring instruments – and blows straight back out again. Conversely, relatively light snowfalls can appear much heavier, as snow is whipped up across flatter surfaces and dumped in huge volumes in other areas. Nevertheless, the majority of the snow falls on or near the coasts, which is where the Ski team is now located.
Weather note 2: parhelic circles, 22° halos, sun dogs –all these meteorological phenomena occur more frequently in Antarctica than anywhere else. The parhelic circle that Robyn and the team saw is a white band at the same altitude as the sun, and is formed by millions of ice crystals with vertical faces mirroring the sun. When complete it rings the sky, running ‘through' the sun and far out to the horizon. Robyn reported seeing an additional halo surrounding the sun, too – it's likely this was the 22° halo. Where it intersects with a parhelic circle, you get a rainbow-like burst of light, called a sun dog.
November 23rd: Update from the Land Rover team, Patriot Hills
A crucial discovery for the Land Rover team: when fully laden, the vehicles are proving liable to sinking into the softer snow (each one is carrying a full tonne of equipment). As a result, the guys have decided to adopt a relay technique currently being used by the Ski team over tougher ground, shuttling their equipment in legs of 100km. They've also taken the call to travel at ‘night' – although it's light 24 hours a day, it somehow appears to be cooler, the ground harder and therefore slightly easier going. The weather and scenery are apparently breathtaking – we hope to have photos shortly! (Martin Hartley, the expedition photographer who was previously with the Ski team, has now joined up with the Land Rover team.) It's also been a time for celebration, with Patrick's birthday on Sunday, and Steve Cotton's on Monday. We hope to post a more detailed update on the latest news from the Ski Team soon - they're currently hauling their pulks up the Axel Heiberg glacier.
November 22nd: Update from the Land Rover team, Patriot Hills
To the relief of everyone involved, the Land Rover team has finally arrived in Antarctica ! The winds dropped on Friday, allowing the huge Russian jet to make the trip to Patriot Hills, and since then the guys have sprung into action, practising tyre changes, crevasse rescue and all the other drills required. They're hoping to set off on their leg of the adventure very soon.
November 22nd: Update from theSki team, Axel Heiberg
The latest news we have for the Ski team is from Friday, when they travelled 4.3 nautical miles in 8 hours, climbing 500 feet. It's very hard going, and all the sleds have to be relayed up the glacier one by one. However, the temperature has risen somewhat, to between -6 to -12 degrees.
Check back here soon for more news from the weekend!
November 17th: Update from the Land Rover team, Punta Arenas
Unlike other days, we were kept on a short leash, without being able to go too far from our hostel, just in case the wind dropped and we were able to fly South. As a result we had to amuse ourselves in the back garden of Hostel Fitzroy . I decided to offer myself as a human sacrifice and Conor butchered my hair for about three hours to pass the time, the result is Abba-esque! In the mean time, Steve Cotton suntanned his bald patch to the sound of Bruch´s first violin concerto. Things got very exciting from about 4pm onwards as the winds dropped to 20 knots and we were held on hourly updates until 7pm . No luck, no fly!
Our first call is at 5am tomorrow morning. Hopefully we will be on a plane!
November 17th: Update from Ski team
(written by Robyn)
South 85 degrees 22.534 minutes /
West 163 degrees 07.560 minutes /
Distance travelled: 6.1 nautical miles.
Patrick informed me the weather is clear and beautiful, but the going is still relatively hard as the snow is deep. They had to relay their sleds in the conditions (this means leaving one or more sleds behind, while handling the remaining sleds up difficult terrain). They camped in the most idyllic setting with a perfect view of their destination, which they start climbing tomorrow: the Axel Heiberg .
November 16th: Update from the Land Rover team, Punta Arenas
We are still in Punta Arenas . The anticipation is getting really out of control now and we are all starting to share skills and expertise, which will hopefully make our journey south easier - once we get going. Steve Cotton and I had an amazing day yesterday sampling the Chilean wildlife: king penguins, rare Chilean dolpins, South American ostrich-like birds called rheas (not our kind), skunks and over twenty different bird sightings. Conor spent some valuable time helping the Australian Ice Maiden Team to download some new music for their iPod collection. Steve Jones, in true guide style, has been making important adjustments to our timetable as a result of the week´s delay in Punta Arenas . Today, we have been waiting by the phone for the weather at Patriot Hills to improve, but the wind is still too strong to land safely on the blue ice runway, so we are on stand by.
We received a satellite call from Martin Hartley, our expedition photographer, who has returned safely to Patriot Hills after an adventure to the Ross Ice Shelf with the ski team. He has got some great images of the start of the Ski team´s adventure which we will sending out as soon as possible.
November 16th: Update from the Ski Team, Axel Heiberg glacier (Written by Robyn)
S 85 degrees 16.58 minutes /
W 162 degrees 52.0 minutes /
Distance travelled: 4.9 nautical miles*.
Patrick informs me, “The sleds are very heavy, the snow is thick and it is tough going.” He goes onto explain, “It is proving interesting finding the entrance to the Axel Heiberg glacier. We are also all finding it really difficult to adjust to the new time zone, which is roughly New Zealand time, but will be subject to changes as we move closer to the Pole.”
As a girlfriend, I detect an undercurrent of tired enthusiasm in his voice...they have a long way to go and it is going to be tough! I hope I am mistaken about the tired part...
* A nautical mile is one sixtieth of a degree (known as one minute) of latitude, and is slightly longer than a statute mile travelled on land. As a rough guide, 1 nautical mile is around 1.15 miles; 7 nautical miles equates to 8 statute miles.
November 15th: Update from the Ski team, Axel Heiberg glacier Written by Robyn, Punta Arenas
The regular update call from Patrick last night was the most exciting one since our arrival - they were loading up the Twin Otter with fuel and kit. They had been given the go ahead to fly to the Axel Heiberg . In order to avoid any potential bad weather, they had to change their refuelling stop to Thiels Mountains .
At 9:30am Punta Arenas time [12.30pm London time], I had an ecstatic call from Patrick informing me that they arrived safely at 4am this morning at the base of the Axel Heiberg, the object of their dreams for many months now stretching before them. Patrick said, “It is beyond my wildest dreams to be standing now at the base of the glacier with all our journey before us.” As a result of the excitement, they decided to go for a ski as soon as they arrived and try to climb a nearby mountain. The mountain of choice was Mount Betty , last summited by Roald Amundsen himself. When they reached the peak, they found a small cairn ( it is a pile of rocks left by climbers on peaks to mark reaching the top) and added a few rocks to it.
The Ski team is now taking two to three hours sleep before commencing the first ten mile leg of their epic journey.
November 15th: Update from the Land Rover team, Punta Arenas
Still sitting it out in Punta Arenas . Waiting for the weather to turn, we are on stand by for the 12 o´clock call [3pm London time]. If we get that, we would need to leave within half an hour. Steve Cotton and I have decided to risk it and go for a drive to visit the nearby penguin sanctuary - if we get the call, we will race back to base. We had a ´braai´ [barbeque] last night with all the others staying in the hostel – it was really nice to have a communal meal.