Posted by: ezraezra7 | January 17, 2014

Day forty-six

as base

This data relates to state of play at end of Thursday January 16th.

Distance travelled: 16 miles

Hours on skis: 8.5hrs

Cumulative distance: 680 miles

Still to go: 25 miles

Of note:  It is as if Antarctica is amusing herself by having one last go at thwarting Lewis and Carl.  Forecast temperatures for tomorrow (Sat Jan 18th) are now -50C inc windchill.  Unbelievably cold – particularly as Lewis said in his phone call yesterday “my body is telling me stop”.

Lewis and Carl will now be longingly  scanning the horizon (if they can bear to look up that is, because the icey wind will be belting in their faces) for the first building they will have seen in nearly 7 weeks – the odd looking Amundsen Scott  Polar Research base which is located at the South Pole.  Normally on an expedition your goal is a remote mountain peak, but in Antarctic expeditions you trek from the remote coast and interior to what passes for civilisation – the bizarre vision of a research station  in the middle of nowhere, like a spaceship plonked on the moon.  Unlike Scott though fortunately they will not have to contemplate turning around and walking back to their ship at the coast, rather, in due course and weather permitting, a Russian cargo plane will fly them back to base camp on the coast 702 miles away.

But they’ve still got to get there first ….. next news is likely to be  either one of the two following scenarios 1] they have made it to the Pole or 2] they are imprisoned by cold and gale force winds in their tent perhaps 10-15 miles away from their goal.  We will know which tomorrow, perhaps lunchtime or afternoon (Sat January 18th).  As soon as we hear anything we’ll blog the news here.

Posted by: ezraezra7 | January 16, 2014

Day forty-five

weather pic

Distance travelled: 11 miles

Hours on skis: 6 hrs

Cumulative distance: 664 miles

Still to go: 37 miles

Temp: -25C (windchill -35C)

Of note:  Lewis rang into his school, QEH in Bristol, to talk to school friends and answer their questions today.  The whole thing was filmed by BBC Points West and the National News.  It was quite hard to hear Lewis on his crackly satellite phone but, as discussed in the previous blog, it is now truly mind over matter.  Lewis said “my body has had enough, I am forcing it to go on”.  Their report to basecamp reads simply “Lewis is tired. Very cold.”  Despite this he sounded cheery enough and loved talking to his mates from school. [because of the delay in getting base camp reports, the data above always relates to the previous day, so they did 11 miles yesterday.  We will know what they managed today tomorrow and so on].

Picture shows forecast for Saturday, the day they hope to arrive at the Pole.  You can see that not only does the temperature start to fall on Saturday but the wind also picks up to a strong breeze.  The result is that the southerly most point on earth will greet Lewis and Carl, after nearly seven weeks on the ice, with sunshine, but – it is also forecast to be -46C! at 18.00 on Saturday (that’s -30 plus windchill).  This is alarmingly cold even for Antarctica.  And remember it’s summer down there.  Whether it will delay their arrival will remain to be seen.  Carl will always put his and Lewis’s safety first and if they need to hole up in the tent to prevent frost bite then that is what they will have to do, however close the pole is.

All being well, predicted arrival date remains Saturday. Given this forecast the sooner they can get there the better.  Lewis is exhausted but somehow he needs to push on to avoid this dangerous weather.

Posted by: ezraezra7 | January 15, 2014

Day forty-four

jeansDistance travelled: 17 miles

Hours on skis: 9 hours

Cumulative distance: 654

Still to go: 48 miles

Temp: -31C (-41C with windchill)

Of note: report to basecamp “Whiteout. Coldest day yet.”

Antarctica does not give up it’s prizes easily and when Lewis’s teacher Mr Cook said the hardest was over I am not sure Lewis would agree.   Whilst there are no more sastrugi and no further climbing (they are now at approx. 9,800ft the height of the pole itself), there are the new challenges of almost total physical depletion, which all the expeditioners are suffering from at present.  They are running on mental toughness only right now.   Reading Jon’s excellent write up in previous blog, these final days, especially in whiteout and freezing temperatures, must be some of the most agonising.

Whilst of course we had lots of concerns about Lewis undertaking this enormous expedition, his mental strength was the one thing that reassured us because we had seen evidence of it in the past.  When Lewis trained for the Channel Swim relay (World Record Youngest Relay to swim across English Channel 2010), aged 12, he spent hours and hours training by swimming in very very cold water and sometimes very rough seas with currents you could hardly make headway against.  But never once in the months and months of training did he moan or ever get out of a session early.  He was not the fastest swimmer, as he is not the fastest cross country skier, but he possesses the only thing that all expeditioners really need – a mind that can overcome a body that is desperate to stop – and this is what we hope will keep him going in these final difficult days.

One of the other expeditioners out in Antarctica at the moment, a man attempting to be the first (solo) Finn to the Pole, is reporting he has a blackened frost bitten area on his face, we hope he is okay.  We are hoping Lewis and Carl are being very careful as the Antarctic wind will find it’s way to the tiniest area of uncovered skin.

It’s hard to photograph what cold feels like, but this photo of a pair of jeans so cold they are standing up on their own (by Ranulph Fiennes, see Freeze Frame website of polar images) does a good job I think.

All being well, 2-3 days to go.

Posted by: ezraezra7 | January 15, 2014

Guest Blog – Insight into how Lewis maybe feeling

I thought I would add another excerpt from my blog in 2008 when I was in similar position to Lewis and closing in on the Pole. Up until this point I had never really thought about the Pole or finishing the expedition, it was too far away and too hard to connect to, so I lived each day in the moment. As I hit the last degree or the last 60 miles, I allowed myself to believe I could do it and start to think about what the end would be like, the warm bed, new food, fresh clothes and new people to talk to. As soon as I did this my time warp changed and no longer did the hours zip by but moved to an agonisingly slow pace. One weeks worth of marching now felt like a month and I couldn’t wait for the trip to be over. I hope Lewis doesn’t wish the final days away and enjoys every last minute of what Antarctica has to offer.


Jon Bradshaw


Finally, the Polar Plateau – Day 52

We have reached the Polar Plateau, the landscape has changed, no more hills or rough sastrugi, no more frozen statues of dinosaurs to weave our way around – just flat snow, perfectly level and even for as far as the eye can see. I’m leading this leg, out in front of our 4 man wagon train. I can only see two things, the top half of my view is a perfectly blue sky without clouds and it suddenly changes half way down to a pure white sea of snow, no other colours or objects, as if an artist had only two colours on his palette and painted one half of the canvass horizontally blue and the other pure brilliant white….it is an incredible sight.

I stop a while to let the others catch up, there isn’t a breath of wind, and for a few moments there is the most incredible silence, as if I’m the only person on the planet, in fact it doesn’t feel like I’m on this earth at all, at this altitude with the air so thin, and the temperature at minus 25 degrees Celsius, I could be in outerspace, rather than this icy desert.

I look round to see the others and can’t believe what I’m looking at, 3 nomads, zombies or skeletons all shuffling towards me, heads bowed, lost in their thoughts, on autopilot, one foot sliding infront of the other, straining against the weight of their sledges as they sink into the soft snow.

We are moving so slowly, in order to make the pole by the 8th January, we have set a daily distance target of 23.4 km, we keep walking no matter how long it takes. This is different to what we’ve done the last 7 weeks, which is to stop and camp after 7 or 8 hours marching, currently it is taking us 9 hours to do the distance. If we don’t make the Pole on the 8th then we might miss the Russian cargo flight off the continent from where we started 1000km ago. We would then be stuck on the ice for at least another week, and we don’t have enough food for that, nor the stamina!

Looking at the strangers behind me, I know why we can’t do more than 23.4km per day. Pat, previously a robust gentleman looks like a malnourished teenager, Shaun a lanky beanpole with gaunt deep set eyes, he could easily play lead role in a horror movie. Clare, well I can only see her when she is facing me, if she turns to the side then she disappears. These comrades have not just lost fat, but muscle and we just don’t have the strength anymore, we have the energy, but our engine sizes have been reduced from 3.0 litres to 1.6 litres.

My 1.15 hours of penance is over and Clare takes over the lead and navigation responsibility. I slip to the back of the line and quickly slide into my trance like state, staring at the back of Pat’s sledge and the words ‘James Caird’ inscribed on the transom (the name of the Scottish businessman that donated so generously to Shackleton’s Endurance, and whom he named the famous lifeboat after, that saved their lives.)

I glance up at the 3 figures infront of me, I can’t believe they are the same people I started with 50 days ago. I am blown away by their strength and tireless resolve, each step for Shaun is torture, the sole of his left foot has come away from the ‘upper’ and now just sloughs freely, bunching up around his heel. Pat’s back is still in lots of pain, he stops every 10 steps or so to waggle his leg to relieve the pressure. Clare just looks exhausted, her sledge is twice the size of her and she has been hauling it it now for 7 weeks. I realise that physically there is not much left of us and so the last 6 days will be done on mental strength alone – these are the toughest people I have ever met and i’m proud to be here with them.

I look back down at my ski tips and slip into my trance, dreaming of someplace nice and warm and in a few days this will all be over and we will have achieved our goal.

Posted by: ezraezra7 | January 14, 2014

Day forty-three

PTproudDistance travelled: 18 miles

Time on skis: 9 hrs

Cumulative distance: 636 miles

Still to go: 65 miles

Position on map: Click Here

Of note:  Another good day.  The boys are now into the last degree, the 89th, closing in on the Pole.  All being well, estimated arrival in 2-3 days.

Thank you to everyone who has already supported Lewis by donating to the Prince’s Trust, you have been fantastically generous.  What Lewis is doing is tough for sure but he is well aware that there are lots of young people who face much bigger challenges and who need a hand up to get a job or qualification so they can get on.  Lewis hopes to inspire young people through his adventure but he also wants to raise some hard cash.  Lewis’s fundraising target for the Trust is an ambitious £3,000.   You generous people have already donated more than £2,000!, but there is still a £900 hole – can you help?  Please go to Just Giving and type in ‘Lewis Clarke’ (look for the one with South Pole alongside) or ‘The Prince’s Trust’, it’s really easy to donate online.  Thank you so much. You can find out more about the brilliant work of the Prince’s Trust on the Why section of this website.

Posted by: ezraezra7 | January 13, 2014

Day forty-two

inhospbbcDistance travelled: 18 miles

Hours on skis: 9 hrs

Cumulative distance: 618 miles

Distance still to go: 83 miles

Temp:-28C (-40C with windchill)

Photo shows expeditioner on polar plateau (BBC)

Of note:  Carl and Lewis continue to make great progress.  All being well, they hope to arrive at the South Pole on Jan 16th or 17th after  nearly 7 weeks of constant hauling.

Today one of the Twin Otter aircraft flew over (enroute to South Pole) and did a couple of fly pasts, which the boys really enjoyed – they haven’t seen another human for over 6 weeks.

ALE Expedition Manager Steve Jones kindly passes on Carl and Lewis’s call into base camp to us each day and has shared this interesting insight into polar history:

“In c110 years of South Pole expeditions only two expeditions have failed so close to the Pole: Ernest Shackleton on the Nimrod expedition in 1907 who famously turned back 97 nautical miles from the Pole in order to survive the return journey, and an RAF team in 2006 who we picked up about 100 miles from the South Pole with two of the four man team suffering from frost-bite. (If the RAF team had had a Carl Alvey in it they would probably have made it injury-free). Shackleton’s expedition gave Captain Scott a blueprint for a successful expedition in 1911-12 and it is one of the interesting points of analysis into Scott’s fatal expedition as to why his logistics plan was not more robust given the lessons that were available from Shackleton’s near miss.

Back to the present and we have two young men showing how to do it and I’m thrilled at their progress and that Lewis is all set to achieve something remarkable.”

Posted by: ezraezra7 | January 12, 2014

Day forty-one

Distance travelled: 19 milesmain

Time on skis: 9 hrs

Cumulative distance: 600 miles

Distance still to go: 102 miles

Temp: -28C -(39C with windchill)

Wind: Gentle breeze

Of note:  report to base camp “Weather has improved. Happy with progress”.  Thank goodness, the boys are out of their tent and off again, even though it is still -39C with windchill.   All being well today they will have dipped under 100 miles to go …… stay tuned.  Well done you guys are amazing!

A mention here for Lewis’s (and his younger brother Solomon’s)  schools, QEH juniors and QEH seniors, in Bristol.  Headmaster Stephen Holliday and the school as a whole have been extraordinarily supportive of Lewis and his strange icey passions!  There are so many talented boys at the school though and all are encouraged by QEH to pursue and excel at the things they find interesting, every boy they say is good at something and whatever it is they will find it.  It’s a great school and both boys enjoy being a part of it.

The school motto is “Whilst we have time, let us do good” and the  boys have lived up to their motto. Between them, the 2 schools have raised nearly £800 for Lewis.  Juniors raised money for Prince’s Trust at their Christmas concert in December, whilst the seniors dressed as penguins and sold lots of cakes in November.  Headmaster of the Junior School Martin Morris said “It’s amazing how well he is getting on, and the boys are entranced by it all, feeling very proud that he is a fellow pupil at the school! Please pass on the best wishes from all the boys and staff to Lewis when you next make contact. We really are thinking of and praying for him, and following his adventure avidly.”

Posted by: ezraezra7 | January 12, 2014

Day forty

ATS_logo_MAINDistance travelled: 8 miles

Hours on skis: 4.5 hrs

Cumulative distance: 582 miles

Still to go: 120 miles

Temp: -41.3C (with windchill)

Of note: Report to base camp “Lewis is quite tired today. It’s very very cold and very very windy. -41.3C with windchill”.  It looks as if Carl and Lewis have sensibly taken to their tent to avoid cold injury and give Lewis a brief breather before the final push.  If the weather continues as it is they may well take longer to reach the pole than they had hoped for, but safety is the priority.  They may even need to bunker down in the tent for days because whilst the temperature will not improve much, in time the wind will hopefully drop.  Lewis will be really needing to dig deep right now as the exertions of the previous forty days take their toll, he has only had one day off (Christmas Day) in the past forty.  Somehow he needs to gather himself once again to face the harshest weather yet. There are no easy days in Antarctica, however near you are to your goal.

Whilst Lewis digs deep in Antarctica, back home his achievement is already being recognised – he has already skied five times further on the Antarctic continent than anyone so young has ever managed. If Lewis and Carl do manage to pick up speed, a few days after Lewis gets back to the UK he has been invited to give the opening talk at the Adventure Travel Show at Olympia in London.  All being well, he will be speaking at 10.15-11.00 on Saturday January 25th.   Straight after Lewis, in Theatre 1, Sir Ranulph Fiennes will give the show’s keynote talk.  You could say Lewis is Sir Ranulph’s warm up man!  Other speakers include Benedict Allen and Sam Branson .  The show covers expeditions, gap years, family holidays, travel writing and photography.   You can book on line and if you quote ‘LEWIS’ you’ll receive discounted tickets – but given the current situation in Antarctica I would advise you to watch this blog to see if he is going to make it home in time.

Posted by: ezraezra7 | January 11, 2014

Day thirty-nine

Distance travelled: 14 milesbrynje pants

Hours on skis: 8 hrs

Cumulative distance: 573 miles

Still to go: 129 miles

Weather: 30mph strong breeze with blowing snow.  Extremely cold (-28C, feels like -41C)

Of note: report to base camp was just a single word – “COLD!” .  Lewis and Carl are now into latitude 88, beyond the worst sastrugi field and on to the Antarctic plateau.  The next week will be the coldest part of their journey and every time they leave their tents frostbite is a threat, especially with the current strong breeze.

Antarctic clothing is specially designed and not much use elsewhere because there is no need for it to be waterproof, the two key features are for it to be windproof and light and then layered for warmth.  Lewis will be wearing one or two thermal underlayers from the Norwegian manufacturer Brynje, the first layer will be the famous Brynje mesh which is apparently very warm although how a shirt with big holes in keeps you warm is deeply counterintuitive.  Then they’ll be a midlayer windproof fleece from Rab and if needed a Rab down gilet.  On top of all that an outer windproof coat from Norweigan specialist Norrona with detachable wolverine hat trim, and a down jacket from Norrona which he will put on over the top of everything whenever he stops hauling as this is when he will feel coldest – so 6 layers if needed.    Lewis’s mesh Brynje pants are even wind proofed – see picture, sorry Lewis! but if you will go to the South Pole and leave your parents in charge of the blog what do you expect 🙂

Posted by: ezraezra7 | January 9, 2014

Day thirty-eight

Day thirty-eight

Distance travelled: 17 miles
Hours on skis: 9 hrs
Cumulative distance: 559 miles
Still to go: 142 miles
Temp: -28C (feels like -39C)
Wind: Gentle breeze

Of note: report from Lewis and Carl to basecamp “Still uphill and bumpy!”

Photo shows advert placed by Shackleton for men for one of his polar expeditions. On this very day, the 9th of January 1909, Shackleton (Nimrod expedition) reached the furthest point South he would ever get and the furthest South any human had ever been, an agonising 97nm (nautical miles) from the Pole. Lewis and Carl are in a similar position, 128nm away from the Pole. Shackleton was forced to turn back due to the realisation that his team may not survive if he continued, unlike Carl and Lewis he knew he had to walk all the way back to the coast. “We have shot our bolt”, wrote Shackleton, “and the tale is 88° 23′ S”.

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