Icetrek North Pole Ski 2017

Apr 09

#7:
the sun

Published at 19:42
Dispatch created from email
The sun sits pretty in the sky. It's the hottest thing I know. In mid-summer you can fry an egg on the bonnet of your car in parts of Australia. And at the South Pole in January I lay in a tent unable to sleep from the heat.
?Up here 23km from the North Pole we enjoy 24-hour daylight and if we're lucky, like we have been, 24-hour sunlight. The sun rolls from east to west equidistant above the horizon sending our long shadows on a slow motion dance around our skis.

But up here in early April it's a sun without life. It gives no heat to our needy bodies. It must climb a little higher above the horizon before it can lay claim to being a heat source.

?At 5pm? we ski directly into the sun. It smarts my eyes and when I shut them I see the light brightly through eyelids. My brain immediately thinks beach, board shorts and bikinis but my body feels nothing, absolutely nothing. The sun sits pretty in the sky, that's all.

Eric



Although we had a record day today in terms of kilometres covered, this was the toughest day yet by for me. Physically I found it really draining and was completely exhausted by the time we stopped skiing at 5.15pm. Thanks to Davina's fantastic training at the gym my legs are actually holding up OK. What I am finding really tough though is the strain on neck, shoulders and back from the continual drag of the sledge and manhandling it over endless obstacles. I am so desperately keen not to fail, but have to admit that it is getting very hard.

The cold was intense again - the forecast was -34C but whatever the temperature was it was really tough. It is amazing how cold of that level affects not just your physical abilities but also your mental abilities. As just one little example, on the last leg before stopping I dropped a ski pole. I found myself staring at the pole for what seemed like ages working out whether I had the energy to bend down and pick it up. Then when I did I had to use both hands as with three layers of mittens it's very hard and I had four or five attempts before I succeeded. I was completely exhausted from the effort. One tiny thing that would take 5 seconds on a ski holiday without one even thinking about it, here took maybe a minute and a half and a huge amount of effort.

We crossed an active fault line in the ice this morning which was fascinating. The pack ice here is about 2 metres thick and it is continually creaking and groaning under the pressure of millions of tons of ice drifting in one direction or the other. This results in massive pressure ridges being created where the ice is forced upwards into the air and also open leads where the ice separates completely. On the fault line we crossed you could see the two sides of the ice along the crack working against each other like they were alive. One has to keep one ear open at night just in case the ice cracks under the tent! Eric says that it has come close for him a couple of times and once he had to wake everyone up and emergency move the tent in the middle of the night as the ice all around started to break up. So far so good though for us - we've only seen it when moving not when camping...

Eric just called in our position to base camp and they told us that yet another expedition member from one of the other teams was airlifted out by the Russian medical helicopter today with frostbite. Eric is worried that there have been so many emergency evacuations this year that it is going to make getting the compulsory medical evacuation insurance we all had to sign up for much more difficult next season. I can see how incredibly easy it would be to succumb to frostbite though. Today I took one outside mitten off just leaving the inner woollen mitten to do a couple of things and within literally a minute or two I lost the use of my right hand which froze solid. With Eric's help I got the circulation going again but Eric said that another minute and I could have been in serious trouble. Very scary...

Thanks to the long run today we only have 23km to go to the Pole- only two days if we can keep this pace up and the weather holds. I just hope that I can find the energy - hopefully the lure of the end being in sight will offset weary limbs and body. It is going to be even more important to make sure no slight oversight or moment's inattention derail us now when we are so close!
  • Name: Camp 5
  • Elevation: 1 m
  • Latitude: 89° 4741North
  • Longitude: 126° 855East

Comments


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    2017-04-10 23:23:00 darleen says: We are all breathing evenly again now -- to know you have crossed the finishing line able to count all your digits is a relief and a wonder. Will raise many glasses in your honour when we can stare into those defrosted eyes of yours. And a salute to your guide Eric for bringing you back safely.
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    2017-04-10 18:40:33 Jen says: Wow, so exciting that you're nearly there!! So close now! As Geoff said, to even start and to get to here is the success so stay strong and focussed but listen to your bodies. You're champions already! Be very careful with the frostbite and keeping on top of things now that you're tired. Pop that core on and keep hold of those ski poles :) Come home soon - mum has started putting your shorts and Tshirts in the freezer now also! Counting down to have you back to celebrate together. So proud of you. Thinking of you and sending strength and warmth for every last step. Also wishing for good weather for you. Love you lots and lots Dad and thank you again Eric for looking after him for us! Xoxoxo
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    2017-04-10 11:22:49 Warren and Trish says: What a Champion! What an amazing journey! John. We are sending you encouragement as we travel much easier terrain across the USA. Sitting in a traffic jam in the Lincoln Tunnel seems so trivial in comparison. You are almost there - mind over matter. Regardless, you are a hero to us!
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    2017-04-10 10:33:08 Saul says: Wow John...I just today received your blog link from Nami and have read everything and checked out all the amazing photos...am in awe!! What an unbelievable experience and you are doing so incredibly well. Am very relieved too to hear you're safe and well and the finish line is nearing. Good luck for the coming days, will eagerly await the next update...
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    2017-04-10 10:13:37 Davina says: I know you have the energy John! Keep those feet moving forward, you are so close. The body will keep going if your mind tells it to. Keep your mind focused & at attention. Like we discussed, it's all in the mind & yours is STRONG!
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    2017-04-10 09:13:37 stu grieve says: Fantastic achievement already youre a winner john I really do admire your guts and determination your blog is fantastic will have some nice penfolds port waiting on your return to warm the cockles of your heart
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    2017-04-10 08:13:23 Emmy says: Am LOVING the updates, so well written to allow us a glimpse of what you are both experiencing. The first thing I do on waking is log in for a further update. Neighbours has nothing on this!! I am SO proud of you John, you are incredible whatever the outcome, and so grateful to you Eric for keeping him safe so far. Please continue to do so! Am keeping everything crossed that the weather and your strength holds out - the finishing line is in sight but don't be too proud and completely trash yourself. It has been an amazing adventure whatever the outcome. Love you lots JP xx
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    2017-04-10 08:13:13 Keith Tuffley says: Brutal! Keep it up guys. I can't wait to see the photos of the two of you locating the Pole and chasing it as it floats away. Stay focused, sleep well, and enjoy and rejoice these final two days. A magnificent achievement.
  • Report as abuse...
    2017-04-10 01:03:00 Jane Hutchinson says: John. Amazing progress. I imagine your mind must now be starting to drift towards what you are looking forward to the most - either a hot Radox bath, a comfortable warm bed, a rib eye steak with the works or a glass of red...at room temperature. Stay warm!
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    2017-04-10 00:33:28 Mt Creek Hobart says: God that looks cold!!!
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    2017-04-10 00:03:06 geoff@geoff-cousins.com says: The great bear is a conqueror whatever happens. To start was the extraordinary act of commitment. To get this far for an old, unfit bloke like you is remarkable. The finish line is wherever you finish. We're all in awe in any event. Geoff.
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