Today was much the same as yesterday – absurdly warm for Antarctica, rubbish surface, rolling terrain – with the key difference that I couldn’t see a thing. It was yet another full-blown whiteout from the moment I opened the tent door at about 8am this morning to the moment I climbed back inside it at 7.15pm this evening. It’s also been snowing all day, the sort of fluffy snow that would be great on a different sort of skiing holiday, but that on this one just compounds my frustration.
The only redeeming factor of all this fresh snow is what I’ll refer to as ‘whumphing’. I’ve no idea if there’s an actual term for the phenomenon, but I had the best whumph of my life when I first stepped out of the tent today. I assume it’s something to do with the weight of the snow settling, but the sensation is of the area of snow you’re standing on suddenly dropping by an inch or two, accompanied by a sound like a muffled thunderclap. If you’re lucky – as I was this morning – this sets off a chain reaction whumph, with a shockwave rolling out towards the horizon in every direction. It’s petrifying the first time you experience a whumph (in Greenland for me) but once you realise they’re harmless, it’s extraordinarily satisfying, like being a snowfield chiropractor, clicking tons of snow back into the right place.
About three hours into the day, as I swung my arms and legs in the white nothingness, like a hyperactive character in a computer game where the backdrop and scenery hadn’t been programmed in yet, I noticed my left boot felt loose. This was a new phenomenon, and involved stopping and sheltering from the blowing snow behind my sledge to sort it out. As I unzipped my salopettes, I thought of the John Ridgway quotation my brother had sent me: ‘Don’t stare into the abyss of self-pity. Short hard tug on the shoelaces and get on with it…’
As soon as I pulled on the laces, they snapped in two, with half coming away in each hand. It felt like an appropriate metaphor for the kind of day I was having, starting with good intentions and ending up swearing and cursing at the wind and the cloud and the wall-to-wall white, battling to avoid letting my mood slip into despondency. I’m afraid I really wasn’t feeling much love for Antarctica today.
Last up, a huge thank you to everyone whose little notes have appeared in my daily ration bags (and of course to the ever-thoughtful Pip for taking the time and effort to print them all and sneak them in!) – fishing them out and reading them is one of the highlights of my routine, especially when I haven’t seen a thing all day. Steven, Jerry, mum, Soph and Will, Tiff and Chris, Honor, Bear, Tobias, Ed P, Ed J, Tony, Rob and Barney…