By the Seaside

Day 3: S81° 01' 36", W052° 06' 24" Daily distance: 11MI Distance to go: 1008MI

At some point this morning I stepped from land on to the ocean (well, a colossal ice shelf, at least). I was mildly apprehensive about crossing the transition between Berkner Island and the Ronne Ice Shelf, despite anecdotal evidence from the handful of people that have passed this way that it is a safe route, and my concern wasn’t eased by the whiteout conditions this morning.

I cheered up for the first twenty minutes or so as I was definitely skiing downhill, which made hauling 130kg a little more agreeable. Then things flattened out, and I spotted a hole, glowing an ominous blue, a few feet in front of my skis. My body reacts to the concept of crossing crevasses in a whiteout the same way that my dog reacts to fireworks (my legs shake, my eyes go as wide as saucers, I start panting and drooling…) but I edged closer and poked around the edges with a ski pole, trying to see how deep and how wide it was.

To my relief it was all of a foot wide where it was open, and wasn’t at all deep. On reflection I suspect it was some sort of working crack, created by the immense pressure of the slow-moving ice shelf against the land, and I was able to ski right over it. When I recall some of the colossal (and sometimes moving, creaking) pressure ridges I’ve clambered over on the Arctic Ocean, this feels barely worth mentioning, but the little scaled-down JNC chart I have with me says ‘shoreline undetermined’, so it feels good to have done a bit of proper exploration today.

Elsewhere, the visibility has been poor to non-existent, and the surface has been terrible; fresh snow that makes it feel like I’m dragging a washing machine across a ploughed field for eight hours in a day.

There was very little to photograph, so here’s me in my kitchen this evening (thank you Ross Gilmore for the customised MSR XGK stoves – they are working brilliantly!)

Some answers for you:

“1) how do you protect your face while sleeping against the cold weather?”

I’m out of the wind in my tent, and I sleep in a hat, with the hood of my sleeping bag pulled tight. I also sleep with an eye mask as it’s 24-hour daylight here, and kept getting a cold nose on my last expedition, so I’ve sewn some fleece to the bottom of the eye mask.

“2) Can I ask a few geek Qs. Why start at Berkner and not Hercules Inlet? are you actually starting at waters edge? Or is it something like where land meets sea ice, but does Hercules not qualify for this. Also why did you choose Leverett Glacier as the end point? Is this because it was Worsleys route? Is Berkner to Leverett the shortest route for a transcontinent? Also I read somewhere that there is a Polar Road up/down one of the glaciers to the Ross iceshelf will you be ‘riding’ that road? Thanks JB”

Berkner as it was Henry’s route, and it also seemed more interesting. Leverett because I’m on my own and it presents the least crevasse risk (Henry had planed to go down the Shackleton Glacier but I decided against it after the SPEAR17 team found a few holes descending it in January, with one team member falling into a crevasse. The Leverett is the route of the SPOT vehicle traverse to the South Pole, although it’s definitely not a road. Tarka and I spotted a section of it near Ross Island on my last expedition, and the tracks in the snow were harder to ski on than the surrounding terrain.

I’m undertaking this expedition to support The Endeavour Fund, a charity which works to support wounded and vulnerable servicemen and women. If you feel inspired to donate, I’d love your help. http://www.endeavourfund.co.uk

Ben Saunders (@polarben)
10/11/17
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Comments

Amanda Stewart

11/11/2017

Thanks Ben for your updates. So very interesting to read of your journey. I am in awe and routing for you every step of the way. Take care. Amanda

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Kevin Wright

10/11/2017

Hi Ben, yep please don’t take any chances out there and check every crack, hole or anything suspicious! How is it going solo, hope you don’t get too lonely. You can’t see us but we are all with you and thanks for your daily updates. Stay safe Ben, Kevin

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Ludivine

10/11/2017

Thanks for the update Ben!
How do you know if you’re about to walk over solid ground or powdery snow with a crevasse beneath it?
I’d be so paranoid about what I was walking on, especially being connected to the heavy sled you’re dragging.
I love hearing about your adventure.
Stay safe and warm!
Ludivine

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DH

10/11/2017

Stay safe – and try to remember that safety is top priority in taking any decision – no matter what happens. Our life is often about ambitious goals we set for ourselves and we get somewhat short-minded. When that happens, breathe – and let your intuition work.

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Dan Roiz de Sa

10/11/2017

Awesome progress Ben.
I forgot what it was like getting a cold nose while sleeping. Thank you for the reminder.
My boys are following your progress with the rest of their school. Inspiring a younger generation. BZ Ben!

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Staci

10/11/2017

Ben, you spoke to our group in Dallas last February and mentioned you might do something like this – amazing! I will be thinking about you while you are on your journey.

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Sheila England

10/11/2017

I’m glad I am catching this at the beginning of your journey! I only discovered info about your last trip with Tarka when you were probably more than three quarters of the way done. (Most likely from a news story about Prince harry talking about your trip.)
Good luck and fair weather. <3 & keep safe.
Sheila

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Ian Webb

10/11/2017

Thank you for providing the perfect procrastination opportunity as I sit at my work desk wishing I was somewhere else. I look forward to the daily updates. Good luck

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King’s Ely Geographers

10/11/2017

Hi Ben
We are following your journey with interest and it’s inspiring us. We are looking at previous Polar expeditions, and comparing the technology and stories then and now. Good luck!

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Gray Marq

10/11/2017

Hey Ben. Amazed by the trip so far, stay safe.

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Stephan Kesting

10/11/2017

Thank you for sharing your adventure; obviously your endurance and technical skills are off the charts but your storytelling is top notch as well!

I would love to hear more about your approach to crevasse safety while traveling solo like this. What is your self rescue plan other than to turn on your EPIRB, cross your fingers and wait?

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Christina Squire

10/11/2017

Hi Ben,

Thank you so much for your updates. Class 3 at Beer Primary have been tracking your progress daily, using blue tack on the interactive whiteboard to see how far you have traveled. We all wanted to wish you the best of luck on your journey and tell you how excited we are to be following you while learning about our Pole to Pole topic. Many thanks, Class 3 (Years 3/4)

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Whistle Norvell

10/11/2017

Thank you for the daily updates. It’s inspiring to follow your progress.

How many litres of water do you use per day, for cooking and drinking?

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Sébastien Breau

10/11/2017

Hello Ben, looking forward to following your journey!

Do you run your stove to heat your tent up or is it only used for cooking and melting water?

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Andrew B

10/11/2017

Best of luck Ben – 10 years since we first met and seems only like yesterday. Let’s chat on your return about sharing some of your war stories (and happy highlights!) with our audiences. Stay safe. A

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Jordan

10/11/2017

Good luck! Remember those that came before in that region, find inspiration in their struggles and continue to honour them in your current trek. Stay warm!

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Zane khokhar

10/11/2017

Hi Ben. What you are doing amazes me. Really makes me want to get out on an adventure, although not quite such a big one as you are. I have a question, number 2’s must be quite a task? And do they freeze 💩❄️

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Mathew Schraeder

10/11/2017

Absolutely enthralled by it all. Good luck and travel well. Looking forward to hopefully meeting one day.

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Janet Stanley

10/11/2017

Hi Ben! Think what you are doing is a brilliant thing & especially poignant when walking in the footsteps of Henry Worsley – looking forward very much to reading your blogs- please stay safe!

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