Heatwave

Day 21: S83° 57' 13", W052° 05' 30" Altitude: 1275m Daily distance: 12.6MI Distance to go: 802MI

Antarctica appears to be reading these blog posts and then mocking me. Yesterday I complained of no sunlight, today it gave me so much sun (and so little wind) that overheating was today’s primary concern.

It was cloudy when I woke up, and the uniform light in the tent (rather than obvious sunlight on one of its walls) didn’t fill me with hope. However when I ventured outside with the snow shovel to answer the call of nature, there was a sliver of blue around the horizon. When I started skiing at 8.30am (when I took this photo) the cloud was really starting to disperse, and the temperature began to rise.

The terrain was frustratingly rolling today, like a frozen version of some of the lower bits of the Brecon Beacons, and I gradually shed items of clothing as the day went on, skiing for two surreal hours this afternoon with no gloves, no hat, and just a thermal baselayer top, unzipped as far as it would go. All of the zips on my salopettes (even the flies) were wide open to try to cool down, and for that bit of the afternoon I think I’d have been fine in a pair of shorts and a t-shirt.

So far, so pleasant, but the upshot of the Mediterranean weather was a rotten surface, with deep, soft, sticky snow that bogged down my progress so much that at points I had to count five or ten paces before stopping to catch my breath. If I pushed too hard on my ski poles, they sank deep into the snow rather than propelling me forwards, and the runners on the sledge became useless as it sank up to its belly in what might as well have been thick mud or quicksand. There may have been one or two swear words as the sun beamed down on my slow-motion toil.

If Antarctica has the capacity to mock, it also seemingly has a knack of rewarding effort, and my prize today was a glorious last hour with a relatively solid surface and enough cloud to turn the thermostat back down to a level where sweat was no longer trickling down my back. I cranked out more than 3km in the last hour, bringing the score today up from depressing to just-about acceptable.

It’s warm in the tent this evening as I type this, and I’ve just fitted a pair of short ‘kicker’ skins to my second set of skis (Åsnes Mountain Race 48) so I’ll give those a whirl tomorrow to see if they help boost my speed a little…

Ben Saunders (@polarben)
28/11/17
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Comments

Mal Owen

29/11/2017

In answer to your questions for Ben broadcast on Feb19 2016
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0709v49
Happy Listening !

Reply

Kevin Wright

29/11/2017

Hi Ben, wow that picture really tells the story on how tuff Antarctica can be. It’s amazing how you keep going and deal with being alone. The tracker is looking good and you quickly moving towards that next step of 84 degrees. Hope tomorrow brings good ground for the skies, Kev

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Mark

28/11/2017

Hi Ben,
It is always amazing to read how you cope with whatever comes your way. Glad you got some decent conditions for your last hour. Your description reminds me of when we worked in the arctic and the temperature got up to 0 F, and we all doffed our coats for the warmth. How warm was it when you were overheating?

Some of my work mates are asking if there is any wildlife at all in that part of your journey.

Have a great tomorrow!

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Mike Hammond

28/11/2017

It sounds positively balmy, if only you’d taken a deckchair and parasol!

Seriously though, to put things into perspective, what constitutes warm down there and is there a sweet spot that works were it’s warm enough to be comfortable and make good progress but not too warm that you end up wading through slush?

Best regards
Mike

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Perran

28/11/2017

Hi Ben,
I’m enjoying your blogs and your ability to write something interesting every day – quite a challenge.
I’m glad to see you have kept the high tech stuff down to a minimum. I’d be interested to know if you have any procedures to keep the Lion battery temperature above zero C when charging as all the manufacturers seem to feel this is important ?
Good luck and keep safe.
Perran Newman

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Jason Hay

28/11/2017

Ben,
On the list of challenges I thought you might encounter in Antarctica, not being able to take off enough layers to cool down was just below surprise penguin attack. Happy you had a great finish to such a tough day.

Reply

Jack

28/11/2017

There seems to have been a constant (even daily) change in temperature and conditions (i.e. sun, cloud, wind, blizzard etc). Are these conditions similar to past expeditions of yours or even to expeditions from the Shackleton era? If not, do you believe this is the effect of climate change? (And are you therefore a scientist conducting an experiment as well as an expedition?)
Thank you and best of luck,
Jack

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Simon

28/11/2017

Hi Ben,
It has been great following your journey, it’s surreal to be getting regular updates and photos from such a remote area. In true Desert Island Disc style, for a life in Antarctica:
– which of the ‘discs’ on your iPod Shuffle would you save?
– what book would you chose on top of the Complete Works of Shakespeare and Bible?
– what would your one luxury be?
Wishing you good luck and good progress,
Simon.

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