Bare-cheeked Face

Day 7: S81° 41' 57", W051° 39' 11" Daily distance: 11.3MI Distance to go: 961MI

Another day, another whiteout. The wind died out completely at some point in the night and it was cloudy, snowing gently and completely still when I set off this morning, and unusually warm for Antarctica; feeling more like I was crossing a wintery field in Berkshire than one of the most southerly ice shelves on earth. For the first time on this trip I could ski with my face uncovered.

Half an hour in and I was overheating. One of the most frustrating facts of life in Antarctica is the inevitable faff with clothing and gear: each time I stop to eat and drink I have to take off my sunglasses (or goggles) and stow them somewhere, take off my face mask and stow that somewhere, take off my compass harness if there’s no visibility, take off my rucksack, take off my mittens and stow them while I have a pee (I wedge them under my left arm), before I sit down on my sledge then reverse back on both skis, picking up the trace (the rope that connects me to my sledge) to avoid running it over. Then comes eating, drinking and reversing the whole procedure to get going again. The faff factor rises when it’s warm, as you can end up with clothing zips and vents open, all of which need closing when you stop. I had eleven zips open this morning, so each break seemed to take an eternity.

It got chilly again by midmorning, and the surface has been frustratingly poor all day today, with fresh snow piled everywhere, which feels like dragging my sledge through wet sand (effectively with a pillowcase over my head as I’ve mostly been able to see nothing at all). My compass kept telling me I was veering slightly left, so it felt like I was constantly turning right all day, and part of me was convinced I was making a giant clockwise circle in the snow. Interestingly I found it made almost no difference to my progress whether I skied with my eyes open or closed. White nothingness or black nothingness. It wasn’t a great deal of fun.

In an attempt to boost morale this evening, I had two Potage chocolate brownies, something my future self will curse me for when he has a brownie-less day later in the expedition. I quoted Winnie the Pooh – as I made a v-sign to my future self and ransacked the sledge for this precious treat – who I’m sure said something like “If we eat all our supplies now, we won’t have so much to carry”…

Apparently I’ve had a question about the rest of the food I’m eating on this expedition. Here are a few details:

– 6,200 calories per day in 1.3kg dry weight of food
– breakfast is a 500ml shake (custom-made, including powdered egg yolk!), granola from Primroses Kitchen made with powdered coconut cream and a 500ml energy drink
– during the day I have two litres of hot carbohydrate/electrolyte drink and six breaks, with snacks including raw bars from The Primal Pantry and Battle Oats protein flapjacks (made with butter and coconut oil). Oh, and Marmite cashew nuts. I take on at least 300 calories per hour when I’m moving.
– as soon as I stop and start melting snow in the tent, I have another 500ml protein/carb recovery shake, another Battle Oats bar, some dark chocolate and a chocolate brownie (I call this little pre-dinner snack attack the Happy Hour) and then my main Firepot meal from Outdoor Foods, which have been superb, usually washed down with some more water.

Despite all this grub, I still expect to lose around 15kg (33lbs) in two months due to the metabolic demands of this sort of travel in this sort of environment. I was wondering as I typed
if anyone on the planet burned more calories than I did today, and if so, how…

Ben Saunders (@polarben)
14/11/17
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Comments

Sharyle Doherty

15/11/2017

Thanks for the info about your daily nutrition. Really fascinating.

Please tell us more about your sledge. What is it made of? How much does it weigh?

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Mr Blake

15/11/2017

Hi Ben.

My Class loved the ‘shout out’ you gave them!

Living in Malaysia is radically different to being somewhere cold and icy. It’s humid and over 30 degrees celsius every day here. Most of us can’t really comprehend the environment you are experiencing…

Like the Tiger Class, we also wanted to know if you have seen any forms of life so far?

Keep strong!

Cheers
Mr Blake and 8C Class

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Kevin Wright

15/11/2017

Hi Ben, sorry to hear about these tuff conditions. Let’s hope for some improvement tomorrow. My daughter will be talking about Antarctica tomorrow at my grandchildren’s school. Freshford primary, Somerset. Shes taken some of the gear I used while down there and my help for heroes teddy called Socks named after Shackletons pony which I believe still holds the record for the furthest South! Socks travelled from home and back about 19,000 miles and money was raised for H4H guessing how far he would travel. I think the kids tomorrow will want to know if you have a teddy or another good luck character with you? Take care Kev

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Whistle Norvell

14/11/2017

Hope you have a great day tomorrow!

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Sheila England

14/11/2017

I hope the weather clears up soon.. That must be a bit maddening . Do you listen to podcasts as well as music, or is music best when you moving?
Sleep well.

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Simon

14/11/2017

Great insight into your daily nutrition, very interesting. Keep up the good work!

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Orpaz ohayon

14/11/2017

Hi Ben
I wish I was with you there, big respect ✊ for you, from Israel 🇮🇱

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Miss Wood & Tigers Class

14/11/2017

Hi Ben,

Thank you so much for our ‘Shout out’. We are following your progress each day, the children are eager to hear how well you are doing.

Tiger Class want to know: Have you seen any other forms of life so far? How do you get to sleep at night?

We can’t wait to hear of your progress again tomorrow!

Keep trying your best and don’t give up. We believe in you! YOU CAN DO IT!!!

Miss Wood & Tigers Class
Epsom Primary and Nursery School
Surrey

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Colin B

14/11/2017

Hi Ben. Have to agree with the previous poster that your diary is making entertaining reading sat here in my office, mostly bored and looking for non work things to do! Shame you cannot update Strava though, it would make an interesting post-event-activity-map, birthday-present thing. Clearly eating all this food is out of the ordinary (for you at least) but essential – is it a struggle to keep eating or are you mostly hungry and thinking of the next snack? Especially considering the utter faff it sounds.
How is the new Bremont holding out?!
BTW my regards to Beer primary school – well worth a trip there once you are back in the UK, a beach cafe and several pubs!!
Talking of Pooh and food I found this: “It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like “What about lunch?””
Best regards

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Steve Bagshaw

14/11/2017

Really enjoying the updates Ben. I literally LOL with the image of you blind-man’s-buff style nudging across the ice shelf with the “pillowcase” over your head. And that after having endured a good zip-based faff. You seem to keep your spirits surprisingly high despite the, well despite everything. I hope the fact that your diary entries are so well received back here in the northern hemisphere will help maintain your morale when the whiteouts, cold and wind bite hard. Cheers Steve

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Debs

14/11/2017

Please keep the fascinating updates coming Ben and may your progress speed forward. Would love to know more about how you cope with the mental challenges of time alone down there, if there are particular things you do to help you stay positive?

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Richard Pierce

14/11/2017

I did a 3-mile Nordic walk in a howling gale yesterday and that was bad enough. I think I definitely ate more calories than I burned! Keep going. I hope these whiteout conditions stop soon. R

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