88-and-a-Half

Day 45: S88° 30' 32", W051° 55' 59" Altitude: 2641m Daily distance: 15.6MI Distance to go: 485MI

This morning I loved Antarctica, this afternoon I hated it with a passion, and now, lying here in my sleeping bag with a belly full of chilli con carne, I’m not entirely sure what to think.

As it’s the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere, I’m guessing that makes it midsummer’s day here, which might explain waking up to blazing sunlight on my tent and a completely still morning. It was so warm that I’d overheated in the night (it’s 24-hour daylight here so – assuming it’s shining – the sun warms my dark green tent while I’m asleep) and woke up half-in and half-out of my sleeping bag. For the day’s first hour-and-twenty-minute session I ended up skiing in just a light fleece, and clocked up 4.25km in perfect conditions. ‘I’m on for a 30-kilometre day’, I thought to myself, ‘finally!’

It turns out that Antarctica doesn’t like thoughts like that, and it quickly went about showing me who’s boss. By midday the fog and cloud had descended, the contrast was fast disappearing, and it had started to snow quite heavily. By 2pm I was stumbling and thrashing and cursing through the sort of sastrugi field that I thought I’d left behind by now, covered in fresh snow that meant I had less traction when I tried to scramble over ridges, and that meant that when I thought I was planting a ski on solid snow, it often disappeared several inches into soft powder that had collected in a ditch.

The cunning little double ridge that I’ve photographed – while modest in size, was perfectly spaced to stop my sledge in its tracks. I heaved it over the first ridge, then gathered momentum myself just as the sledge hit the second ridge, bringing us both to an abrupt standstill. The sledge harness sits on my hip bones and my shoulders, so the effect was like being rugby tackled, and it took me a few seconds bent over my ski poles to regain my breath and my composure (not before I’d yelled a few colourful words at the horizon).

I didn’t get close to 30km in the end, but I trundled on into the evening until I’d clocked up 25 (and was well over the 88° 30 mark). Less than a degree and a half to the Pole!

Thanks to Jack for the note that popped up in today’s food bag. I hope life in Bath has been treating you well, and I’m sad I can’t help you with the mince pies in the next few days…

Ben Saunders (@polarben)
22/12/17
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Comments

Kevin Wright

23/12/2017

Hi Ben, love it or hate it Antarctica will always be your boss but with your experience and passion you will be it’s conquering hero! You may feel alone out there but folk all over the world are talking about Ben Saunder and this amazing challenge. Looking at recent bloggs it’s obvious that some of us are concerned and trying to calculate your food supplies against time, weather and sastrugi! This is because we care and so much want you to achieve your goal. Tonight I had a family Christmas meal in Bath. My 3 Grandsons were asking about you and how things were going. I told them about the weather and sastrugi and a few more interesting points. Ned the youngest has a message for you. Tell Ben to keep going and never give up. Robert Swan wrote this on a signed photograph for him and his mother often tells him to remembered what Robert said! Godspeed Ben, Kev, Wilf, Frank and Ned.

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Lynn Campbell

23/12/2017

Great message Kevin😊

Intrepid

23/12/2017

The other day I bellowed out to the sea – “Order in! One alphabet cone (seashell) please!” Two days later, very near the same spot…. I found an alphabet cone!

Here is my wish for tomorrow — Order in! No more sastrugi for Ben please!

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Matt Person

22/12/2017

Ben, I have followed you through my friends Ant and Linda…and I have listened to your blog and photos…today for some reason…the great emotional wonder and sheer challenge of your voyage presented itself through you post, I look forward to your diminishing remaining mileage counter in the coming weeks and I wish you the wonder of the earth unique to your time and place in these passing challenging days.

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South Dakota fan

22/12/2017

Thank you for yet Another excellent post! Unencumbered by anything
I encountered a small mid thigh tall sasturgi field on Cameron Pass in the Rockies, can’t imagine pulling a heavy sledge. You care to comment on difficulty? 5x harder than flat surface?
On distance to South Pole: ~104 miles (167km) per https://stevemorse.org/nearest/distance.php
Hoping for clear skies, smooth snow and a tailwind.

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Mark

22/12/2017

When NASA sends robots and satellites to space they often use years old, but proven, parts instead of cutting edge tech since once it leaves there is no chance of repair. While I know you do carry some spare equipment and you have previous experience with much of your kit, how do you choose to take along new items, (i.e. your custom stove, new skis, food, etc.)? Being a winter camper I have had experience with gear that works wonderfully in short tests but proves nearly useless during actual use.
Keep up the great work! You have been a wonderful influence on how I prepare physically, mentally and planning wise for my own, albeit extremely small in comparison, winter trips. Good luck out there!!

Mark
Michigan

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Mike Hammond

22/12/2017

I watched a program on quest last night entitled The Worlds Toughest Drive, three guys trying to be the fastest to drive to the pole in a highly modified Hilux. 1st episode showed how tough Antarctica can be, breaking their vehicle while out doing fuel drops and then the 1st day they started hitting a whiteout and snapped suspension when turning back. Compared to what you’re doing these guys have it easy but they’re still struggling with all their gear! Interesting they also have issues with Sastrugi, didnt realise how frozen solid it was. The program finished with them falling out over the delay meaning they’ll be down there for Xmas, all I could think about was how you’re down there on your own and how much of a sacrifice you have to make to succeed.

As always, good luck and fingers crossed for fair weather.

Mike

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Laurence B Jacobs

22/12/2017

Hi Ben

I recall from your Scott Expedition that your speed and distance back from the pole was pretty amazing, often around 26 miles a day. Are you hoping for similar distances once you reach the pole this trip?

I find your blog is almost the 1st thing I check every morning, its becoming addictive. I guess I’ll need to go cold turkey when you get back!

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Anonymous

22/12/2017

‘The task at hand was to now secure the safety of the party, and to that end I must bend my energies and mental power and apply every bit of knowledge that my experience of the Antartic has given me.

The task is likely to be long and strenuous if we arw to come through it. A man must shape himself to a new mark directly the old one goea to ground’

(Shackleton).

God speed Ben

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Michael Klein

22/12/2017

Hi Ben, I’m very much enjoying your expedition, however I was looking at the maths and wondering if you have enough food to get to the end point? I think might need to do 39km per day to get there in 20 days, is that correct? Have you considered getting a food drop at the south pole like last time? If so, what foods would you select this time? Or is there a shop or restaurant you could buy some food from at the south pole? Best wishes

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