New Route via Reedy Glacier to South Pole

Dec 31

#33:
The irony of extremes

Published at 22:51
Dispatch created from email
I type this on my iPhone with numb fingertips. Every 10th inhalation is a deep catch up breath. Stinging chilblains cover my fingers and my right eyelid is swollen from a relentless southeasterly wind that has one mission only - to penetrate. Today we rest as yesterday was too much for my otherwise robust lungs, the early signs of altitude sickness which afflicted me dangerously in 2013 on the other side of the Antarctic plateau. That time we had a doctor on standby who could treat me with oxygen and drugs to drain my perilously full lungs. After a call with the doc at Union Glacier this morning our decision to rest was sealed. This will also help Keith who has some snowblindness in his right eye, the result of dispensing with iced-up goggles. It will help us all.

Yesterday, as I heaved a sucking breath and the last joule of energy drained from my body, with still another 90 minutes to go before calling it quits for the day, another 22km behind us, I hated Antarctica. My sled felt like a cargo ship, my fingers screamed for blood, the dead flat surface felt like an alp, my head throbbed with a persistent ache, my back creaked in protest and all I could do to take the next step was think of my family. I wanted out of this forsaken place and pondered the thoughts of Henry Worsley who last year deteriorated in health, ultimately fatally, not far from here in his attempt to cross Antarctica solo. He too would have thought of little else but family. The Antarctic plateau cares not for your experience, it exists only to be what it is, an environmental extremophile. You choose to fit in and flourish or you fight and flounder.

Yet during a brief foray outside to collect food from my sled I saw starkly the irony of extremes and felt as though I'd been harsh to my dear old friend Antarctica. Despite 25 years of polar exploration I've been humbled once again by this magnificent place. Looking around I see nothing but snow plains and blue sky. But here, at just under 3000m elevation, it's snow and blue like no other. The sky is abuzz with sparkles of microscopic ice fragments, the air is brittle like space itself, the sun wheels equidistant above the horizon, the cold smacks at every gap in my armour and aside from my friends protected comfortably by two layers of tent fabric, not a spec of humanity exists. I can't hate this place. I just need to fit in again.

Happy Birthday Susy and Happy New Year to the world out there.

Eric

Pic of Frankie, my repaired sled and Keith's newly designed mask.

Comments


  • Report as abuse...
    2017-01-03 10:16:22 Jose Naranjo says: Keep strong Eric! You have all you need to overcome any problem Antarctica send you. And I am sure you will get the South Pole. Happy New Year!!
  • Report as abuse...
    2017-01-02 09:48:41 Dags says: That is a great description Eric. Good luck mate, hope you recover for the next day. I am sure you will nail it as you always do !!
  • Report as abuse...
    2017-01-01 14:34:05 Lyndy and Heinz says: Happy New Year Eric and partners. Stay strong, stay well, stay safe. We pray for you every day, you will make it. Love.
  • Report as abuse...
    2017-01-01 08:32:24 Julie Brown says: Brilliant piece of writing straight from the gut, Eric. Happy Birthday to Sweet Susy! Happy New Year to you! Take care.
  • Report as abuse...
    2017-01-01 08:12:39 Carl and Nicola Mason says: Hi Eric Great writing!! You know how to have fun! Happy New Year.
  • Report as abuse...
    2017-01-01 04:37:19 Lynne & Paul says: Thinking of you, take care, best wishes L & P
  • Report as abuse...
    2017-01-01 02:49:49 Jack & Ken says: Mate, reading your last dispatch with Jack, thinking of you guys and wishing you all well. Hoping that the new year brings good health and some lucky breaks your way.
  • Report as abuse...
    2017-01-01 02:16:09 Karen says: With you in spirit to lend you strength. In the surrender to what is, more strength comes. I hear you.
  • Report as abuse...
    2017-01-01 02:05:11 Joan says: Love your writing and descriptions Eric and knowing all is well for you.
  • Report as abuse...
    2017-01-01 00:50:35 Mike Ihlein says: Keith et al, have been watching your progress and wish Eric a quick recovery after some rest. Was great to meet you all at UG. Stay safe and good luck with the rest of the expedition. Regards. Mike
  • Report as abuse...
    2016-12-31 23:56:36 Greg Quail says: Stay strong Eric! You will pull it off yet again.
  • More...



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