Posted by: ezraezra7 | December 29, 2013

Day twenty-seven

Day twenty-seven

Distance travelled: 15.2 miles

Current Position on Google Maps:

Hours on skis: 9 hrs
Cumulative distance travelled: 389 miles
Distance still to go: 312 miles

Of note:  Base camp report “Replacement ski is good.  Tucker (a snowcat) woke them at 05.00 clearing the Thiels skiway!”.

I suppose the noise of the snowcat woke them because all they have heard for 3 weeks is howling wind and one another’s snoring.  The other day I asked Lewis about the scenery and beauty of Antarctica but he said, for now at least, he didn’t really have much time or energy to notice. Ice to Lewis means cold, uncomfortable and something to haul his pulk over, but Antarctica is a remarkably beautiful place. There was a great BBC Radio 4 interview (on the forum programme) with iceberg ‘portrait’ artist Camille Seaman, and other ice experts, yesterday (December 28th), well worth a listen.  (Photo copyright Camille Seaman c/o BBC R4)

Posted by: ezraezra7 | December 28, 2013

Day twenty-six

theilsDistance travelled: 13.2 miles (Lewis on broken ski, arrived at Thiels to await replacement skis)

Hours on skis: 6.3

Cumulative distance travelled: 374 miles

Distance still to go: 327 miles

Temp: -25C

Wind: Gentle breeze

Of note: Fortunately the weather was just good enough, the plane landed and Lewis has got his new skis!   However the weather window was so minute that the plane landed, dumped the skis and took off again in minutes, so no chance for the boys to speak to any other humans. From today (Dec 28th) he will be on the new pair.  The next part of the expedition is crucial and perhaps the most difficult of the whole 700 mile journey, ANI manager Steve Jones “The next stage of the route is one of the more challenging sections. Soon after the Thiel Mountains they begin to gain height as they slowly ascend onto the higher polar plateau and in a little over one degree of latitude from around 87 South they will go through the area with the largest sastrugi and roughest snow surface on the route.”

Photo shows Thiels weather station

Posted by: ezraezra7 | December 27, 2013

Day twenty-five

Distance travelled: 18 miles (Lewis on broken ski)9_treaty_map_510

Hours on skis: 8.5
Cumulative distance travelled: 361 miles
Distance still to go: 341 miles

Altitude:  Approx 5,200ft


Wind: Fresh breeze

Of note: for the first time the boys have travelled further than they still have to go! On 27th December they will do the final miles to the landing site at Thiels and wait for new skis to be dropped off.   Of course the plane is not making a special journey for Lewis.  It would have to stop at Thiels anyway to pick up fuel on its journey between Union Glacier and the Amundsen-Scott base at the Pole. The Twin Otter is due to fly in on 27th but this looks unlikely due to poor weather. They will just have to wait it out for as long as it takes which will now be pretty frustrating.

Whilst they are pausing a little you may be interested to know who owns Antarctica, the only continent to have no indigenous human inhabitants. The continent is sliced up like a cake between 9 nations (see diagram), with others holding onto the right to make claims in the future. Only the UK section, where Carl and Lewis are right now, is disputed (between UK, Argentina and Chile). The Antarctic Treaty currently prevents any mining – which is fortunate since rocks almost certain to contain diamonds were discovered only a few weeks ago.

Posted by: ezraezra7 | December 25, 2013

Day twenty-three and twenty-four

Day twenty-three and twenty-four

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  Merry Christmas from Antarctica and a massive thank you to everyone sending messages and supporting the Prince’s Trust.  We passed all the messages on to Lewis today and some of them made him laugh or gave him a boost – thanks especially to Lewis’s geography teacher Steve Cook who reminded Lewis how cosy he was in front of his roaring fire in Scotland! and to school friend Tom Creed who donated £20 of money earnt on his paper round to the Prince’s Trust.

Photo shows Thiel mountains with Twin Otter (thanks to – Lewis and Carl have about 26 nautical miles to do over next 2 days to arrive at this landing site where they will, hopefully, pick up new skis on Dec 27th.

Distance travelled (24.12.13): 14 miles (Lewis on broken ski)

Distance travelled (25.12.13):  Day off, chocolate, books and sleep

Cumulative distance travelled: 342 miles

Distance still to go: 360 miles

Altitude: 1,560m (5,118ft)

Temp: -23C

Wind: Fresh breeze

Of note:  Lewis rang us this morning, in sight of Thiels, Christmas Day 2013.   He is approximately half way through his journey.  He sounded tired but in good spirits, stoical about the broken ski.  Although it is broken he has in fact still been able to continue ski-ing on it, and managed 14 miles yesterday.  This morning they are lying in the tent with the wind howling outside deciding whether to get some miles in or not depending on the weather.  Lewis might get in a bit of sleep or read his book on the Kennedy Assasination.  Carl and Lewis have been hauling non stop for 23 days, so the enforced break is not unwelcome.   They take the view that they only take breaks when the weather, or other issues, force them to rather than having scheduled days off as some expeditioners do.  New skis will be dropped on afternoon of 27th, all being well.   Lewis’s blisters have healed, his chaffing gone and his polar thigh continues to improve.   He has fashioned his Rab gilet into a miniskirt to try to keep the icey wind off his thighs.

Lewis will be opening 3 tiny presents (they had to be tiny to keep down the weight) – some chocolate which doubles as a mini game, some of his favourite ‘dolphin’ shaped sweets from Scumptiously Delicious Sweet shop on the Gloucester Road in Bristol and hot chocolate flavoured lip salve.

Posted by: ezraezra7 | December 24, 2013

Day twenty-two

Distance travelled:  17.4 milesskis

Hours on ice: 8.5 hrs

Cumulative distance travelled:  328.7 miles

Distance still to go: 374.2 miles

Temp: -26C

Wind: Moderate breeze (fresh breeze forecast for tomorrow)

Of note: Lewis has snapped one of his skis! (sorry to the Bristol Children’s Orthopaedic group who have kindly sponsored the very specialist skis (Asnes Skiutstyr Amundsen expedition), at least it is not a leg he has broken though!).   This is most likely to have happened when he was bridging across the rock like sastrugi.  If you are going to break a ski he is fortunately in the one place where ANI can get a new pair to him …. but it is still now a 25 + mile walk, and a wait till Dec 27th at the earliest, till they can get him a new pair by dropping them at the Thiels airstrip.  Let’s hope the weather is conducive to flying or he could be waiting a very long time!  Carl famously assured us that these skis were “unbreakable” so they didn’t take spares, but then he hadn’t reckoned on Lewis!  This is what expedition manager Steve Jones says on the subject “Lewis has joined a very select group of polar expeditioners who have broken skis. In fact I can’t think of another person who has broken a ski in Antarctica, the only ski breakages that I can remember have been on the Arctic Ocean on North Pole expeditions where the stresses on skis are much greater.  In 2002 we had a non-skiing participant who walked 70% of the way to the South Pole in his boots, which shows how hard much of the snow surface can be and going back to Captain Scott’s expedition Birdie Bowers had already cached his skis when he was reassigned to the final polar party and had to walk more than 150 miles to the Pole and 150 miles back to his skis – so breaking a ski is not a total disaster.”

The ski breakage will delay the expedition however, first by Lewis having to walk for the next two days and secondly by having to wait for a flight to drop replacement skis.   He will now spend his Christmas Day walking to Thiels in a fresh breeze and -25C.  On the plus side once they get there on Boxing Day they will get their first day off in 25 days.

Picture shows Asnes Amundsen expedition skis (from the great Toft Terreng shop near Oslo)  – if you look closely you will see an picture of Amundsen is printed on the skis.

Posted by: ezraezra7 | December 23, 2013

Day twenty-one

FAQ_Lat_longDistance travelled: 18.9 miles (furthest in one day so far)

Time on skis: 9 hrs

Cumulative distance travelled: 311 miles

Distance still to go: 391 miles

Temp: -25 C (at Thiels)

Wind: Gentle breeze

Of note:  Carl and Lewis have now broken the 300 mile mark.  It is good to see distance travelled and distance still to go are both in the 300s.  ANI expedition and logisitics manager Steve Jones says ” They continue to do exceptionally well and have done 105 nautical miles (121 miles)  in the last week.”

I don’t think anyone expected Carl and Lewis to be going so fast, after all their aim is just to complete the journey, there is no speed element to their expedition.  Although Lewis trained in Norway and Greenland, he still very much the novice, but  he and Carl seem to be exceeding expectations – and for that credit must go to both of them.   The key now is for them to keep focussed.  After Thiels, which they should reach on Christmas Day all being well, they have a steep climb, it will get colder and windier as they head up to over 9,000ft.   Just as the going gets even tougher, their bodies will begin to get deeply tired and mistakes can creep in.  There is still a very long way to go and Antarctica is full of surprises.

All of their distances are measured in nautical miles and I convert them to ‘normal’ miles in the daily tally above.  Measuring their distance travelled in nautical miles does make sense though as there are 60 nautical miles in each degree of latitude.  They started out in latitude 79 and are now in latitude 85.   The South Pole is at Latitude 90.0000 degs South, Longitude zero.  The South Pole (and the North Pole for that matter) are on the same longitude as Greenwich (a borough in London, England).

Posted by: ezraezra7 | December 22, 2013

Day twenty

Day twenty

Distance travelled: 17.5 miles

Hours on skis: 9 hrs

Cumulative distanced travelled: 292 miles

Distance still to go: 410 miles

Temp: -28C (at Thiels)

Wind: Light breeze (at Thiels)

Of note: report to base camp – “Weather was nice, but sastrugi very bumpy. Passed info regarding ibuprofen on next resupply, and there may be people at Thiels when he gets there. Was in good spirits”.

Thiels is the mountain range that marks the half way point on Lewis and Carl’s journey -it is also halfway point for any twin otter flights going from Union Glacier to the Amundsen Scott base at the South Pole, so it is also a temporary aviation fuel depot (photo shows Twin Otter stopping for fuel with Thiel mts in background, thanks to ).  Lewis and Carl will be hoping to spot the green barrels by Boxing Day.  If there are also people from ANI at Thiels that may be strange for Lewis and Carl who have lived in their own little bubble for over 3 weeks. Although it may unsettle them a little to see other humans, on the whole they are likely to benefit from seeing some familiar faces and finding out what is going on elsewhere in Antarctica with the other expeditions.

Posted by: ezraezra7 | December 21, 2013

Day nineteen

Antarctica_Without_Ice_SheetDistance travelled today: 18.5 miles (equal best yet)

Hours on skis: 9 hrs

Cumulative distance travelled: 274 miles

Distance still to go: 428 miles

(nb I have adjusted total distance from 730 miles to 702 miles as 702 miles is what is recognised by ANI and ‘Adventure stats’ as the straightline distance, obviously the actual distance may be more as they divert for crevasses etc)

Temperature: -28 C (at Thiels)

Wind: Gentle breeze (at Thiels)

Of note: Lewis rang us on Thursday night (Dec 19th).  He was very chatty.  Lewis and Carl are pleased with their mileages to date.  Lewis’s ‘polar thigh’ continues to need nightly attention but is improving slowly.  He is now wearing 3 layers of ‘trousers’ which whilst preventing his polar thigh getting worse is leading to him sweating a lot, a problem in itself.  I am hoping he will cut up his expensive Rab gilet and fashion himself a miniskirt – wish I was there because boys are not great at sewing!

I never thought I would hear these words but Lewis said he is finding it hard to eat as much as he needs.  He is meant to take in 5-6,000 calories each day, which I understand is about as much as the body can take.  He is expending 2-3,000 calories more than this each day.  Glad he put on 3 stone before he left.

Having picked up their cache their pulks are now heavy again, and this has come as a bit of a shock to their systems.

Lewis talked a lot about being in rhythm, he said they were being systematic about everything.

If they keep going at this rate they might even get to the fantastic half way point on Christmas day!  What a treat that would be.

See where they are map below (with thanks to Jon Bradshaw, First Irish team to South Pole):

Posted by: ezraezra7 | December 20, 2013

Day eighteen

Day eighteen

Lewis’s dad Steven also went above and beyond today at the ICON Christmas party – dressing up as a tudor lady – all in support of the Prince’s Trust! Thank you to everyone at ICON (fantastic Bristol independent TV production company where Lewis’s dad works).  The ICON staff were incredibly generous raising £169.30 for the Prince’s Trust.

Back in Antarctica …

Distance travelled: 17.4 miles
Hours in ice: 9 hrs
Cumulative distance travelled: 265 miles
Distance still to go: 466 miles

Lewis and Carl have also enjoyed their first fresh food for 18 days.  ANI kindly put a chicken and beef curry and white chocolate brownies in their cache.  We spoke to Lewis last night, his real meal seemed to have given him a real boost.  More of his news in tomorrow’s blog.

Posted by: ezraezra7 | December 19, 2013

Day seventeen

Distance travelled: 17.5 milesshack hut

Cumulative distance travelled: 239 miles

Distance still to go: 483 miles

Hours on skis: 8 hrs

Temperature at Thiels: -29C

Wind at Thiels: Gentle breeze

Of note:  Picture shows Shackleton’s Hut (with thanks to Google), how Carl and Lewis must be dreaming of a shelter like this, with 4 solid walls, a stove, somewhere to sit down.  Lewis had considered taking a chair but decided it was too heavy, not being able to ‘sit’ is a real problem on an expedition.  Sitting in the tent the only place to be in on the roll mat and sleeping bag, anywhere else and your bottom will freeze.  A chair is something he said he would really miss.

Also a bit about the practicalities of their days  2-3 hours need to be spent each day melting ice for water, this is usually done in the evening and the bottles kept in the sleeping bags, otherwise they will be frozen by morning!  Getting the tent up and down takes about 30 mins and is a dangerous time for frostbite as the sweat that has built up during the hard ski-ing begins to freeze.  Also delicate jobs cannot be done with 4 layers of gloves, so they come off, maybe down to one or two and as a Ranulph Fiennes found to his cost when he took all of his off for a few seconds to deal with a boot – can lead to frostbite in no time.

When they are ski-ing, or ski walking up the steep sections or sastrugi, they take it in turns to lead for an hour each.  At the end of each hour they stop, briefly so as not to get cold, to have a drink and snack.  Lewis chooses to pull his pulk with a rucksack so that his water and snacks are easily accessible.

As the miles clock up for Carl and Lewis one can begin to think that maybe this Antarctic lark is quite pleasant, but I think that is only occasionally true, on the odd calm day with with nice view.  The majority of time it is a slog, an effort to get up, muscles burning. lungs bursting, cough hacking.

One of the other expeditioners on the same route as Lewis and Carl (an American trying to use a fat wheeled bike to get to the pole), said this about Dec 17th “Today was everything I had told people that it would be. Cold, uphill, 20-30mph headwind in the snow” and for the past 3-4 days he has signed off like this …

“Once again it’s been the hardest day of my life”.  I can’t help thinking Lewis must be thinking exactly the same thing.

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