Better! (And then not…)

Day 47: S88° 56' 39", W051° 57' 59" Altitude: 2659m Daily distance: 16.2MI Distance to go: 455MI

Today started well. I took the tent down with a beaming parhelion in the sky behind me. Also known as sun dogs, these are caused by ice particles in the atmosphere refracting the sun’s rays, and occur at high latitudes. They usually look like a ring around the sun, or sometimes a smaller spot of light either side of the sun, and occasionally – like mine – with a mini-sun at ground level on the horizon. There was still a lot of cloud around as I set off, but I had good visibility, and shouted ‘Better!’ at the sky after a few strides. Training for this expedition over the summer and autumn, my coach Jonno would occasionally say the same thing to me if I got a particular movement right – a hang clean or a front squat or a kettlebell swing – and the word ‘better’ was always high praise from him.

Up until 2pm, things were great, and then the fog curtains descended on all sides, with the sun turning into a faint cream-coloured disc behind the cloud before vanishing completely, along with any shadow or contrast at ground level. It wasn’t a full-blown whiteout like yesterday’s, as the horizon was still visible as a slightly darker grey line, but I was unable to make out any of the surface features and again had to resort to steering vaguely on a compass bearing (harder than it sounds, as the needle of the compass can swing 40 degrees either way when you’re moving, especially over an uneven surface).

It was colder today as well, with a bit of wind – and wind-chill – from the south east, so I was back in astronaut mode with every bit of my skin covered up, and I’ve attached a photo to show how my face is protected. As well as the hood of my Canada Goose jacket I have a ‘gorilla’ balaclava, with a fleece earwarmer/head band under that, and my goggles have a section of windproof fleece sewn into the lower half of their foam padding, which accumulates a good icicle collection on a day like today. The blue cord around my neck is part of the harness that holds the compass (a Suunto M-3 Global) and the front of my jacket is partially unzipped to vent heat as I ski – it’s far better to be comfortably cool rather than to start sweating and then lose heat quickly at rest stops.

The one consolation in this afternoon’s gloomy weather was that I found a couple of podcasts (from Hospital Records) that I hadn’t heard yet, and that one of my four little MP3 players had been hiding from me until now, so at least I had some new music to listen to as I skied through the mist.

Lastly, thank you and hello (and Merry Christmas!) to Jake, Saskia, Ottalie and Poppy, whose note I discovered in today’s food bag, and an extra-special hello to my niece and nephew Lottie and Harry, and a huge HAPPY BIRTHDAY from Antarctica to Harry. I’ll see you in the New Year!

Ben Saunders (@polarben)
24/12/17
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Comments

Sally Elizabeth

25/12/2017

Blessings to you Ben on this Christmas morning,
By sharing your experiences and thoughts with us we all have a privileged insight into a world that most of us will experience only through your eyes, you truly are such an inspiration Ben, thank you!!
God bless you,
Sally

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Kevin Wright

25/12/2017

Hi Ben, It’s 00:24 so I’m wishing you, your family and all you’re supporters A VER HAPPY CHRISTMAS 🎄 If I could send you a present 🎁 it would be a lot of that BETER you shouted for! I hope this special day brings you all that you need to finish your journey and all that awaits on your return home 🏡 Take care and God bless Kev and Judy x

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ELISABETH CONSTANTINE

24/12/2017

Merry Christmas from Austria !
You truly are an inspiration in the perseverance 😀💪🏻Stakes!
Many blessings for a safe onward journey
Elisabeth

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Intrepid

24/12/2017

MERRY CHRISTMAS BEN!!!

May Antarctica send you good cheer, by way of a day to say Ahhhhhhh…… Blue skies! A horizon you can easily see! And a sastrugi-less day!

MERRY CHRISTMAS BEN!!!

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Duncan Hossack

24/12/2017

Hi Ben,
I work with Round Square and had the pleasure of hearing you speak at Louisenlund last year.
Thank you for taking on these extremely difficult challenges and helping us to learn about ourselves as you share what you are learning about yourself!
Merry Christmas,
Duncan

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ML

24/12/2017

Merry Christmas from the hills of West Virginia USA! We will drink a toast to you tonight!

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Stephen Downes

24/12/2017

Love the astronaut look.

I’ve always wondered why polar explorers don’t just use full space suits. Full temperature control, heads-up navigation display…

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Whistle Norvell

24/12/2017

Ben, our hearts are with you! Hope you thoroughly enjoy your special treats.

Another question: are you still using the VonZipper Fishbowl goggles, or did you take something different this time for your 180 degree “big goggles” ?

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Nathan de Vries

24/12/2017

Hi Ben,

Really enjoying the day-to-day insight into a trip like this. Thanks for sharing!

I was wondering whether you bring anything into your sleeping bag to try and dry it, and how effective it is. You mentioned that your face mask ices up with breath, so I’d imagine that would be pretty wet by the end of the day and pretty unpleasant the next morning.

I would also love to know how you prevent flare-ups of your stove when priming it? I have a similar white gas setup and I’m not game enough to light it in my tent!

Thanks again and safe travels,

Nathan

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Ale

24/12/2017

Merry Christmas from Italy. Keep going! You’re fantastic!
One little question: does snow melts under your mattress/sleeping bag after you slept all “night”? Do you have any problem in camping over snow/ice?
Thanks, Ale

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Nils-Are Johnsplass

24/12/2017

Merry Christmas.
Walk on…

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Enrico Wiesner

24/12/2017

Merry Christmas Ben from distant Germany.
Respect and admiration for your way through the Antarctic.
I hope they stay in good health, to achieve their goals.
I follow their way every day and I think I’m not the only one.
Ben stay strong – And at the end of your long Way you will have achieved something unique.
You are a source of inspiration and perseverance.
Again Merry Christmas and all the best for the achievement of your project.
Enrico

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Pauline Young

24/12/2017

Hi Ben, can’t believe what your attempting. Your courage is inspirational. I read about the expedition in the Sunday Telegraph this morning and then found your blog. I’m only an armchair adventurer but you can be sure that I will be following your progress and keeping everything crossed that things go well for you.
Let luck and good weather be with you!
Pauline

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Rhys

24/12/2017

Still doing it, this is the big one!! You popped up on my news feed this morning. Good luck x

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Perran

24/12/2017

Hi Ben, Given all the advantages that modern materials give you in surviving and marching in your environment, can you summarise how you feel about the early pioneers and their achievements ?

Perran

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Lynn Campbell

24/12/2017

Happy Christmas Brn from Northern Ireland which is experiencing a grey out. I expect your Christmas dinner will be better than Shackleton’s feast which was anchovies in oil, baked beans and juggled hare (barf!!)

Your friend Henry wrote when seeing a perfect parhelion ‘why had it appeared on the last day of our journey with such intensity? my guard was down again and I was done in physically and my emotions had been unlocked. I needed an explanation, and physics was not the answer I was looking for. surely this was a sign from Antarctica that it was finally releasing its grip? Or was it Shackleton, Wild and Marshall letting me know that all along they had walked beside us’.

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