If there’s one thing Antarctica seems to abhor, it’s a rigid plan. The update just after breakfast today was that I’d potentially be flying tonight. Two hours later, I was loading my sledge on to the little Twin Otter ski plane that would take me to my drop-off point on Berkner Island.
I made a couple of rushed satellite phone calls to Vicks Nicholson, who is managing the expedition’s logistics and communications for me, and to my fiancée Pip, had a couple of Antarctic bear-hugs (down here with everyone wearing oversized down jackets, you can only get your arms halfway round) and then clambered up the red ladder into the back of the aircraft.
I shared the flight with Hannah McKeand (here on her fourteenth season in Antarctica) who is flying further north after I’m dropped to establish a small camp at a penguin colony at Gould Bay. Hannah has skied solo to the South Pole (and for several years held the outright speed record for doing so) so she understands better than most what I’m embarking on. She also has an obvious passion for Antarctica so any trepidation I felt as I sat down soon dissipated as we looked out of the windows grinning, and as Hannah started the intercom banter with the pilots that kept us giggling for most of the two-hour flight.
It was windy enough to need goggles and a face mask when we landed, and the visibility in the low cloud and blowing snow was poor; the sort of weather – and the sort of goggles-and-hood-up claustrophobia – I’d been secretly dreading, but it felt fantastic to get going. I was dropped in the afternoon, and I’ve ‘lost’ three hours as I’m choosing to live and operate on UTC rather than on Chilean time, so I skied for 45 minutes before putting the tent up.
So far, so good! It’s a fantastic feeling being back in my tent in Antarctica, and I’m looking forward to trying to share the journey ahead with you through these words and pictures, all sent back via satellite…