Half way home by Nathan Hambrook-Skinner
With the skiers passing a major milestone the mood in the Willis Resilience Expedition camp shifts as thoughts turn to our loved ones back home and the prospect of returning to them shortly after Christmas.
“We could reach the pole on the 24th,” exclaims Eyjo, our highly experienced Antarctic guide, driver and general caretaker. That’s if everything goes to plan and – as we’ve learnt over the course of this expedition – Antarctica has a way of laying waste to the best laid plans.
But there’s still a job to do. Even though the skiing pair, Parker and Doug, have crossed the moral boosting half way point they still have a good 250 kilometres of unforgiving Antarctic plateau to cover before we can begin to relax.
The temperature has also dropped an extra couple of degrees with windchill dragging it down to a blisteringly cold -50 degrees Celsius. I can feel it in my already chilled bones.
In these temperatures standing still outside for any length of time without the right protective clothing can be perilous. Any bits of exposed skin are at risk of frostbite.
Parker has already conducted a couple of live on-camera media interviews wearing his full ski mask because he doesn’t want to risk taking it off even for a few seconds.
For the truck crew the risks are mitigated substantially because we have the option of retreating into the sanctuary of Ice Broker – but we still need to be on our guard.
No such option exists for the skiers who must stubbornly grin and bear the worst of what Antarctica has to offer – and we’ve had a taste of it!
Nevertheless, the atmosphere in Ice Broker‘s cramped cabin is lighter than it was last week.
With the end-zone in sight (at least metaphorically speaking) we allow ourselves to start thinking about home comforts – like what our first meal will be when we set foot on home soil. Pizza is a firm favourite. Roast dinner for me – cooked by my wife Verity.
As you might expect the taste of freeze dried meals is beginning to grate. So it’s with immense excitement that we rendezvous with another Arctic Trucks team, fresh from supporting the Walking With The Wounded expedition, who furnish us with a slab of bacon and a frying pan.
The hog meat arrives just in time as our stockpile of cheese has reached a dangerously low level.
We normally have several live broadcasts plus interviews with Parker and plenty of filming to occupy us – but there’s still a fair bit of downtime over the course of a 12 hour day in the saddle.
Finding things to occupy ourselves gets particularly difficult during a white out – as we’ve experienced over the past two days. It also seriously restricts the options in our daily game of “I spy ”.
When the ethereal mist descends it also gets a bit trippy. Watching the skiers disappear into the milky distance is mildly mind boggling.
Without any definition or contrast to help me distinguish between the earth and the sky it looks as if Parker and Doug are slowly floating away into an infinite white abyss. Or maybe it’s just me. I have spent a lot of time in this truck after all.